So today I was offered a chance to try out the new “Odd plates” at Oddfellows (lower bridge street) an oft forgotten hidden gem of Chester. It has the… well… not so secret garden available, which I have visited before with friends and enjoyed the cocktails there on a summer evenings on birthdays and other special events.
Today when I arrived, it was early lunch time and not too busy and I was seated quickly and in a beautiful dining room with great views of the garden to look out onto. There are aged mirrors on the wall with growing moss which gives it an open and quirky feel that’s very much the Oddfellows style and makes you feel like you’ve been whisked away from the busy roads outside and are on holiday enjoying drinks inside a shaded garden.
Whilst dining; the room soon filled up with a great mix of different people, some taking lunch at a leisurely pace and others were clearly having a business lunch and others simply taking it all in and toasting their special day with sparkling prosecco and giant towers filled to the brim for afternoon tea with giant scones with plenty of cream and jam and delicious looking cakes as well as miniature flower pots filled to the brim with giant strawberries and cream…- I didn’t notice anything other than crumbs going back to the kitchen at the end of those!
This time the reason I went there was to sample the new Odd plates that the new chef Elliot Hill has created which are plates sized dependent due to the ingredients used which is why they are ‘odd’. He is a young enthusiastic chef with great ideas to update the dining/ small plates menu for lunch and dinner. He is using where possible locally sourced vegetables such as carrots grown in fields nearby, and lambs from Welsh farms that will make it to your dining experience here.
Whilst speaking to him and the manager Katie Bentley about the menus, it was clear they both felt strongly about creating a strong locally sourced and ethical menu. They want the food to travel less miles to reach your plate and to be as fresh as possible. The menus are expected to change bi-seasonally which means you will get what’s in season and a great variety of choice.
A great example would be of the salad (which I then ordered myself from the chat we had) he said when people order one, its often ‘’I’ll just have the salad’’ and he is keen that its classed a dish in its own right and has the same level of thought that would go into any other dish he serves. So it has flowers and leaves picked from the garden itself.
Whilst viewing the menu it was clear some difficult decisions were to be made, what to pick? The lunch time menu is just as tasty as the evening selection with such offerings as: heritage tomato with peanut dukkah, torched mackerel with apple and buttermilk and the very delicious summer salad which had edible flowers and cooked miniature courgettes with smoked lemon and Yellisons goat curd, this really is more than just a salad tipped out of a bag…
The service here is quick and yet not hurrying you through the meal, they seem happy to let you go at your own pace and came round to check how it was going a couple of times throughout and offer top ups of drinks –Which is so often a problem in some places!
The next course consisted of Chalk stream trout (from the evening menu) which came gin cured and with both grapefruit and crunchy seaweed that had a satisfying crunch to eat and pain d’epice which was sprinkled over the dish, the crispy polenta also made an appearance with huge portions of the green crispy polenta with char grilled lettuce and green vegetables alongside. Finally the dish of the day that was agreed to be (well aside from the desserts!) the favourite… And that was the aptly named Chicken supreme that included the table favourites of a Kiev and parsley sauce and tender leeks as well as a giant portion of juicy chicken with a lightly golden coating that almost just melt in your mouth… It would be hard to go back and not order that again! A portion of chips was also ordered to go alongside the meal and came out thinly sliced and clearly made fresh from a potato with the skin showing and sea salt seasoning sprinkled liberally on top.
After eating the two courses the dessert was mentioned and after seeing all the afternoon teas come out, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I needed to try something sweet to complete my lunch… Isn’t it well known you have a special dessert stomach for moments like this?
There is a small selection for the ‘Indulgent’ part of the menu that also has a cheese board for those without such a sweet tooth, but alas that’s not me, so two sweet desserts were ordered; one was the macerated strawberries with a ginger and honey crumble and baked yogurt that made it taste just like a deconstructed cheese cake… It was something that exceeded my expectations and made me glad I didn’t just pick the chocolate cremeux which arrived almost like a dark chocolate bar filled with a mousse style filling with a layer of sweet caramel and chocolate crumbs to add some crunch to the dish with a side offering of ice cream that quite honestly lasted all of 30 seconds before it was fully devoured.
All in all it was very much worth the cost of the lunchtime menu of 17.50 and 23.00 for the three courses… I think it would be a mistake not to indulge if you get the chance to visit before the menu and season changes!