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Restaurant review: Brasserie at the Grosvenor, Chester

Gordo falls out with the flagrant flouting of sensible pricing and declares it a CPT

Written by . Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: Brasserie at the Grosvenor, Chester

IT'S all about VFM. Value For Money. It’s not about the price.

Gordo has had a bottle of wine recently which was VFM, but cost £350 in a restaurant. Gordo paid £175 for it in Harvey Nichols in Manchester. Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, 1989; that was one of the best years of the last century and drinks spectacularly well. Now, just across the street, so to speak, over in Bordeaux you could have been drinking a Chateau Haut Brion, a first growth (the Pichon is classified as a second growth) at well over a thousand pounds. Yet the Pichon will blow its socks off. It is, ladies and gentlemen, even at £350, VFM.

The Brasserie at the Grosvenor, £24.95 for one course, is a CPT. Now, for those of you who don’t know what a CPT is, it’s a Complete Piss Take

Over in Chester there is a very fine hotel called the Grosvenor. It is spectacularly expensive: but having dined in its Michelin starred restaurant, previously known as The Arkle and now named after the remarkable chef Simon Radley, Gordo knows it to be value for money. Even at over £150 a head.

So, Gordo decided to try out their Brasserie last Sunday, somewhere he has never eaten apart from getting some great sandwiches mid afternoon once upon a time. The place hasn’t changed for a long time either, a good try at a traditional Parisian brasserie, with padded green leather banquettes, lots of mirrors and a good-looking front of house brigade dressed in black with aprons and smiles. We had the pick of the tables and chose one for privacy, which didn’t mean we were forgotten, service throughout was charming, with one mistake. More of that later.

The menu is not French brasserie; it’s a menu that is slightly confused and a bit too clever for its own good. Take, for example, the crisp onion flute (£8.95): further described as ‘with devilled lambs kidneys and air dried ham’. Gordo asked the waitress what a ‘crisp onion flute’ was. He was no further on after a couple of minutes of listening to a charming young French lady attempt an explanation. But, hey-ho, let’s have a go. What it was, was ‘whole devilled lambs kidneys on toast’. Bloody good they were too, if the sauce was a bit too glossy; it was a charming dandy, when it should have been a bit of a bad tempered pugilist.

The duck egg omelette (£11.95), further described as ‘with wild mushrooms, duck liver and shaved truffles’ came deconstructed; the omelette, round, and half an inch thick, sat with the wild mushrooms atop and atop that, a good slice of foie gras. The only thing here that had any taste was the foie gras. Seasoning had been completely forgotten in both the omelette and the mushrooms when they had been fried off. As for shaven truffles, they were as much in evidence as Gordo’s six pack.

Mains were Farmer Sharpe’s Cumbrian veal cutlet (£26) with Café de Paris butter. Great piece of meat; maybe could have been improved by a French cut as the flank was slightly high having been hung properly. Great allumette potatoes.

Gressingham duck (£19.95) finished up poor. Asked how she would like it cooked, my companion asked for it rare. When it arrived it was in fact a half duck, with the leg on. The only way to cook this is well done, unless you serve it as they do at La Tour d’Argent in Paris, where the breast is removed half way through cooking and served pink, the leg coming later, well done.

In this instance the whole piece was grey, not cooked enough for the leg and too much for the breast. Crispy, is how it should have been. Gordo isn’t at all sure why we were asked about the cooking level as it leads one to believe that one is about to get something rather different. But, blimey, what’s this? Poor seasoning again. It was a letdown.

The Yorkshire free range chicken (£16.95) with lemon, honey and pancetta was absolutely bloody gorgeous. Cooked to the point that the French are good at, the breast plump not stringy, the use of basting butter infused with lemon, the breadcrumbs dribbled with a bit of honey, this was a fantastic piece of chicken. Stunning pancetta as well. We needed the side dishes, Hand cut chips (£3.30) Potato dauphinoise (£4.95) and broccoli with toasted almonds (£4.95) to make a meal. They were lovely.

Puddings: Crème caramel (£5.95) which was made far more interesting than normal with the addition of texture via triangles of crispy toffee-ish wafers and, unusually, flecks of thyme leaves. Then a workman-like, somewhat mean portion of Treacle tart (£5.95) along with ‘Ice cream cones’ in the form of chocolate ice cream (£3.95). This was off the children’s menu and where the only mistake was made by service; the children’s menu wasn’t offered at the beginning, so we had to get my young dining companion, at six years of age, a grown chicken, listed above, for his meal.

We drank two glasses of Touraine Sauvignon, Chateau de la Presle, a Loire (£5.25) and a large glass of Chateau du Grand Pierre, 1er Cotes de Blaye, a fifth division Bordeaux (£9.25). The red was pretty good.

So, a meal of two qualities basically: five dishes good, two poor. In general, the quality of the ingredients was very high, but for a brasserie, they were too interfered with. In this case the proximity of a Michelin starred kitchen has resulted in a lot of lily gilding which in turn leads to mistakes.

Then the bill arrives.

£159.35, with the tip, £175 quid.

A ton and three quarters for a quick brasserie late Sunday lunch for two and a half people.

This was the first time in years that Gordo has been stumped for words. Rarely does he look at the prices on a menu, from walking in the place he can work out what the bill is going to be within ten quid. He was a good sixty quid out on this one.

Let’s look at these prices. Broccoli with toasted almonds, £4.25. Hard cost, 30p. Mark up, 1,400 per cent. Potato dauphinoise, £4.95. Hard cost, 17p for the potato, 20p for the cheese, etc. total, 37p. Mark up, 1337 per cent. Chips, £3.30. Hard cost, 17p. Mark up, 2005 per cent.

If you take a look at the Chicken dish above, you need carbs and a green veg with it, so let’s look at chicken, chips and broccoli. Chicken, half of, hard cost, £3 (very generous, was great quality mind you), add the chips (17p) and broccoli (30p). This gives a hard cost of £3.47. The total carte price, £24.95 for a main course, in a brasserie, of chicken and chips with one veg. This, dear reader, is pricing by a management team who are completely out of touch with reality. It’s obscene.

Now, let’s look at the wine.

Don’t forget, that £175 bill had three glasses of wine in it, not three bottles. The Chateau du Grand Pierre is listed at Gerrard Seel wine merchants at £7.15 retail. So, the maximum hard cost of my 250 ml glass, £2.39. So, I paid, for a glass, £9.25. Mark up? 387%. And that was being generous with the retail price. Let’s not talk about the Muscat at £8.50.

Now, Gordo knows a bit about costing food. In fact, he estimates that the hard costs of this meal, generously, would be about £32. At £175, that is a mark up of 546 per cent.

The management team at this hotel have lost touch with reality. The dearest brasserie food in the UK, and not the best cooked.

If Gordo was dining at Claridges this lunchtime, arguably one of the finest hotels in the world today (the food and beverage overseen by Gordon Ramsey, owner of three Michelin stars) Gordo would find his chicken, spuds and greens would be £32.50.

But, wait, dear reader, included would be ‘romanesco dusted scallops and prawns with caramelised cauliflower and mustard mango salsa’ as a starter, and ‘pear and almond tart with caramel ice cream and maple toffee sauce’ for his pud. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is VFM.

The Brasserie at the Grosvenor, £24.95 for one course, is a CPT. Now, for those of you who don’t know what a CPT is, it’s a Complete Piss Take.

Meanwhile, If you see a feller in a mask riding a white horse outside, it’s probably Gerald Grosvenor, the owner. No wonder he is one of Britain’s richest men. The rest of us have to work for a living mate. Where’s that guillotine?

Note: apologies for the poor quality photos, Gordo forgot his camera and used the iPhone. Also, don’t let this put you off Simon Radley’s restaurant in the same hotel, it is quite astonishing and VFM.

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Mary JonesJuly 30th 2009.

The prices are ok because their function is to act as a filter for the type of clientele. No one wants to be surrounded by bubble haircuts and shell suited boozers during a fine dining experience.The premium prices keep out "undesirable" elements in exactly the same way private members clubs do.If the McDonalds chompers dont like it they can keep feeding their obese faces with grease and meat poisoned with antibiotics.

EgbertJuly 30th 2009.

Mary Jones deserves to live in Chester. A town of rude philistines, high prices and not one professional theatre.

ballotboxerJuly 30th 2009.

Most folk dont know decent food anyway.The price is a status symbol.Keep away from anywhere called GRILL or BRASSERIE.It is a joke in our industry and just means a 50% markup on everything.

AnonymousJuly 30th 2009.

Chester has always been a CPT!!i lived in London for years and was shocked as to how muc mmore expensive it was when we moved here10 years ago! childcare is 90% more expensive and some of the bars here are more expansive than down south!

queeny eyeJuly 30th 2009.

I'm not sure what's preferable. Decent food at highly marked up prices or crap food at what sounds like more reasonable prices. You are still being robbed, only one is posher!

Al AcarteJuly 30th 2009.

As I said elsewhere, it is possible to eat better food in superior surroundings for less money in London. It's not because London is cheap (though obviously there is more competition) it is because provincial places put a premium on pretentiousness. E.g., someone quoted £9 for a simple g&t at Zeligs, though it's only £10 for a proper cocktail at the Dorchester, one of the world's best hotels.

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