The Chester blog

Our favourite Independents (part 2)

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Thanks for all submissions…

21. Alexander’s Live is one of the city’s best independent live music venues, and the place makes for a brilliant night out. In more normal times, there is a great selection of live music put on (throughout the year) with a particular personal highlight being the festivals scheduled over the summer. These are whole-day events than make excellent use of the huge beer garden and feature an amazing line up of bands, accompanied by great food and drink. Despite the terrible situation that ongoing pandemic has put our nation’s music venues in, they have still found a way to put on Covid-secure performances outside; from Fleetwood Mac and Stereophonics tributes, to original singer-songwriters and live comedy. This has been a wonderful slice of normality, and Jamie and the team work really hard to keep everybody safe. Without a doubt, Alexander’s Live is one of my favourite Chester independents, and I highly encourage anyone in the area to pop in for a drink, post-lockdown. Jon Fellowes

22. The Faulkner in Hoole is one of my favourite places to spend time. Run by Darren and Kelly and their amazing team, it’s the perfect experience from the moment you step through the door. It’s such a friendly atmosphere and the decor is fantastic and perfect for a relaxing meal or drink. And then there’s the food. You can tell great pride has been taken to put together the menus with some amazing dishes. It’s hard to pick a favourite but the Moroccan Spiced Chicken thighs are amazing and the small dishes are great value and perfect for sharing. Great prices too! If you like a Sunday Roast the it’s the best in Chester and there’s plenty of choice on the drinks front, with a good choice of wines, cask ales and some fabulous gins. My go to place if I want a relaxed meal out with the family or romantic sharing platters with Rufus. Pippa Miln

23. Joseph Benjamin .We have been supporters of ‘JBs’ since they started up in the early 2000s. In those days the main restaurant was in what is now Porta! It was cramped but cosy and intimate. The food was always first rate and the service excellent. When the expansion into the building which now houses the main restaurant we thought it was a fantastic idea. They went from strength to strength a Michelin Bib gourmand was well earned and deserved. Menus have always been well thought out and produce locally sourced where possible, there is now a wonderful Spanish theme to several of the dishes. Like all other businesses lockdown has been difficult, JBs have adapted with JBs at home! A wonderful addition, the Paella is to die for!! Well done you wonderful independent business. @mlandtr78

24. Lipss in Huntington is a real hidden gem of a Chinese takeaway, unlike any other in Chester. With a real emphasis on fresh ingredients, and full-on flavours, they’re a small independent business that is quietly getting on with doing what they do incredibly well. The usual favourites like crispy aromatic duck, chicken stir-frys and noodle dishes are all on offer, but there’s also a huge range of tasty vegetarian options to choose from. The salt and pepper fried tofu, and chill black bean aubergine are simply outstanding. The place is family run by a small team, and this means that capacity is limited. Consequently you need to book your collection slot via Facebook or on the phone, sometimes days in advance. But don’t good things come to those who wait? @littlefishyone

25. Launched at the end of 2019, Silver Chicks jewellery is owned by Christleton resident and mum-of-three Rebecca Henderson. Showcasing a varied selection of sterling silver jewellery, as well as creating bespoke pieces, the independent Silver Chicks brand offers affordable necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings and charms, all handmade by Rebecca and beautifully wrapped in eco-friendly packaging; making them an ideal gift. The current range of Christmas charm bracelets and necklaces are proving very popular, as well as the selection of children’s jewellery. What’s more, Rebecca regularly supports local good causes; whether it’s Chester Zoo, the Countess of Chester Hospital or Christleton PTA and Preschool. Sarah Garrod

26. Whitmore & White is my happy place. I always think that if they were to have a theme tune it would be one to rival “Cheers”, or if it were to be immortalised as a cartoon character it would be Mr Benn. You always walk in to the warmest of welcomes where the staff have nailed the personal customer experience – they’ve an incredible talent for remembering your name and keen to help you find your next favourite thing. The owners Joe and Jamie work tirelessly to fill the shelves with the finest drink and foodstuffs known to man. Their range of tantalising global goodies seduce all the senses and quite literally transport you to places that take you away from your regular routine. I challenge anyone not to find themselves sitting on the shores of Lake Garda while tucking into their finest olives and Valpolicella. Where’d you like to go? Amanda Bate

27. Atina Kitchen is a family run indie with heaps of personality! From the second that you step through the door, you’ll be greeted with photos, books, decorative plates and shelves of whatever booze you choose. The fun isn’t all in the aesthetic though; when else have you seen Italian and Scottish cuisine married together, birthing unique food babies in your mouth? Who knew that haggis went so well with poached eggs? On top of that, there’s a really versatile selection of veggie and vegan friendly options; shout out to the Bhaji Burger and the Vegan Wings! There’s something for everyone on the food menu. Legend has it that their 4th Generation Lasagne will be the greatest lasagne you’ve ever tried. Top all that off with the Ultimate Bloody Mary or take a Wine Flight and you’ll be leaving feeling very happy, with a dining experience second to none! @top_heavy_diva

28. Sakinah’s delivers an authentic taste of Malaysia right here in Chester! Offering three signature curry pastes, with more coming soon, each jar is packed full of flavour and fresh ingredients. Created by Chester resident and mum-of-two Sakinah earlier this year, each curry paste boasts a carefully selected combination of traditional Malay ingredients; from the versatile Gulai to the aromatic Masak Merah and the celebration curry, Rendang. All homemade by Sakinah herself, the curry pastes can be bought via http://sakinahs.com For Christmas Sakinah is offering a trio of curries gift box, as well as her new Rendang meal kit. Sarah Garrod

29.Hoole Food Market. A relatively new greengrocery business in Faulkner Street adapted well to meet customers’ needs. They increased delivery capacity for those isolating by using community centre for packing and have delivered thousands of boxes of vegetables and other foods. The staff are friendly and helpful and the shop front is always temptingly displayed. They have an amazing range of fruit and vegetables, with recipes too. Really look forward to strolling down fantastic Faulkner Street again. @ross1eOna

30.Chef’s Table Small but perfectly formed in 2014 Chefs Table’s everchanging menu has kept us coming back time and time again and never left us disappointed! Locally sourced seasonal ingredients in collaboration with other independents is a constant in every dish, by regularly refreshing the entire menu there is always something new to try (often something you will not have previously considered or perhaps even heard of!) and allows the team to diversify their dishes and deliverer an inclusive dining experience catering for dietary requirements and delivering some incredible vegan offerings. The only constant on the menu is the hot chocolate fondant which is heavenly and always justifiable! Never compromising on quality and service their current takeaway offering Siu Tang enables you to get your Chefs Table fix at home, or if you haven’t yet been offers you a taste of what you will experience in a future visit. Nicole Perks

31. Hough Green Clinic Independent beauty experts Hough Green Clinic in Hough Green get my shout out as the best in the business. Despite being forced to close for four months of lockdowns, Jane, Sam, Lynn and Karen have remained so positive, communicating with clients and selling their range of creams, lotions and potions designed to keep Chester’s women (and men) young-looking, wrinkle and hair free online. They are the longest established independent beauticians in the city and offer everything from laser hair and mole/lesion removal, waxing and tinting to relaxing facials, anti-aging fillers and general expert skin care advice. They are dedicated to their clients and offer an unrivalled, professional and personalised service that is second to none. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Liz Hull

32. Paysan and the Cavern of the Curious Gnome. This establishment has been a truly fantastic addition to the Chester scene. It is situated in the Rows at the bottom of Bridge Street. At Row level is Paysan, an eclectic wine bar, with a superb choice of wine either by the glass or bottle. Food is rotisserie chicken and frites, a veggy option and excellent an excellent cheese board. The place feels as if has been there forever. Take the staircase to the next floor and you enter the realm of the Cavern of the Curious Gnome, a Belgian style beer bar! There is cask ale, good quality Belgian/ British beers on the fonts and a huge selection of bottled beers. This is all overseen by a huge 9 foot gnome! The staff in both establishments are charming and very informed about the products they are selling. A must go to place if you are in town. @mlandtr78

Curious Gnome

33. Da Noi Bridge Street, The lovely Valentino and Fabrizzio own this small but perfect Northern Italian styled restaurant. This is as far away as you can get from a pasta and tomato sauce based Italian. They produce outstanding Italian dishes with amazing presentation. My last visit was for an indulgent lunch and to have pigeon, swordfish and a light dessert was a real pleasure. It is also the only place I know in Chester to do Barolo by the glass. There is always a warm welcome with perfect service. Tony Hill

34.Covino You may well have walked past this wonderful place next door to the Cheese Shop. Chris, the owner, not only has a passion for wine he is the most knowledgeable person on the subject I know. Whilst there is a comprehensive written wine list I would recommend you ask for the audible version from him directly. However I love it not just for the wine. His selection of small plates is truly amazing with some unusual flavour combinations which always impress. He has a downstairs private dining room and a small outside area at the rear. There are a number of local wine bars however Covino is unique in the atmosphere, food and wine. In normal times he holds supper clubs which always sell out quickly. Tony Hill

Covino’s Chris Laidler (handshake days)

35. Porta Nestled beneath Chester’s famous City Walls, just below the Northgate, is the best tapas bar in the city.  Always a relaxed atmosphere, it’s perfect for a summer evening outside with a chilled beer and some nibbles or cozying up inside on a damp November night with a portion of chorizo & lentil stew.  Eat as much as you like but definitely share just as you would in Spain.  I am coeliac and although the kitchen is small and they obviously can’t guarantee no cross-contamination the chefs always work hard to ensure my food is gluten free – the Padron peppers can be cooked ‘a la plancha’ instead of deep fried and they always have Daura Dam GF lager.  Run by brothers Joe and Ben Wright, of neighbouring Joseph Benjamin, it’s always our first choice when heading in to town for no particular reason, grabbing a bite before a show or relaxing with friends on a Friday night. Jo Henwood

36. Peak Sandwiches in Chester Market do this egg avocado and halloumi sandwich that is just out of this world. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a sandwich, thick slices of salty halloumi, melting golden egg yolk, creamy smashed avo and peppery rocket. It’s basically my dream sandwich, and it’s bloody huge. It’s always made fresh to order and carefully wrapped in brown paper. I work from home at the moment so tend to not buy my lunch out as much, but when I fancy a Friday lunchtime treat this is my first port of call. Jo Marie O’Reilly

37. Death by Tacos Mexican food in the UK tends to be a watered-down, mass-produced imitation of a food and culture we don’t really understand in England. That’s why it’s so refreshing that Death by Tacos have clearly done their research. The tortilla is an integral part of the meal, and not just a vehicle to get all the other stuff into your mouth. They make their own in-house and it makes all the difference. They’ve managed to create their little space in Chester market into an immersive dining experience that feels like a real taqueria. The menu combines classic taco combos with weekly specials catering to everyone from vegans to carnivores. A great place to begin a night out (when that’s allowed again), due to the welcoming staff who are liberal with the tequila and understand the importance of the right soundtrack! Jo Marie O’Reilly

38. Hypha blew me away when I first visited in summer, 2019. Not only was their renovation of the location stunning with wood panelling and plants dangling from every nook, but the food and drink is like nothing I’ve seen or tasted before. The attention to detail in their innovative and flavour-packed vegan dishes are incredible. You won’t find a better tasting (or better value!) vegan Sunday roast in the country. And what better way to enjoy it than with their own signature cocktails and juices, using local, seasonal produce. It’s made the Michelin Guide already, and it surely won’t be long before it gets its first star, too. Go now, before everyone is trying to! And while you’re there, check out their quirky Koji fermentation lab creations, a treat to go with the (vegan) cheese-board this Christmas! @JonnyPCasey

39. The Cheese Shop. More cheese please. A shop on Northgate, a fine selection, with helpful staff, my weekly visit always finds something new. Not just cheese, if you please, also wooden mice for animal rescue, and goodie bags, hampers, accompaniments, gift vouchers, all delivered if you like (conditions apply). More cheese please. Anon

Arc gallery

40. The Arc Gallery is a favourite spot to visit in Chester. It’s a hidden gem just off Bridge Street and a few steps along Commonhall Street, where you’ll find housed in a beautiful brick and timber warehouse the most fabulous selection of contemporary design. Everything that The Arc Gallery stocks has been hand crafted by British designers and makers, so if you’re looking to support local home grown talent then everything in this gorgeous shop ticks that box. An amazing selection of beautiful gifts from jewellery to ceramics, scarves and accessories, leather handbags and limited edition prints, sculpture and baskets and much more. You can find a lovely choice on their website http://thearcgallery.co.uk and during this lockdown they are delivering free of charge to customers in the Chester area. The Arc has been trading now for 27 years, an amazing achievement and so no surprise that they’ve won two prestigious retail awards which recognise the value of this wonderful and unique shop. Ali Munro

41. Bean & Cole: I’ve been coming to Bean & Cole to sit and work once a week for about two years now, and I grab a takeaway whenever I’m in town. The décor and the atmosphere are perfect, and the coffee is the best in Chester for my money(mines an Oat milk Cappuccino), but it’s the people that I go for. From the lovely couple who run it to the wonderful staff that greet you as soon as you arrive, these are people that – when thanking you for coming and wishing you a good day – really mean it. @Crystal_Logic_

42. Dough Dough: I’ve eaten stone baked pizza all over Italy and sampled New Yorks best by the slice, and I really believe that Dough Dough is up there with the best. Their Two for Tuesdays have become a date night tradition and the Garlic Aoli crust dip is just *chefs kiss*. I recently had a problem with a Deliveroo order getting damagaed and although the restaurant had just closed they rustled up some fresh pizzas for me to collect and even threw in some beers, top customer service. @Crystal_Logic_

43. There’s many reasons I love Picnic. The menu reminds me of Paris, where solo chefs work in tight quarters delivering brilliantly curated menus. Their excellent wine choices that remind me of sitting in Sorrento and getting leathered in the sunshine (this isn’t all high-brow…). But this is the main one: it makes me think about a Edward Hopper painting. Yes, that one. Nighthawks. When I sit in the window, as I always request, I feel like those iconic figures and wonder what was across the road from them on that US street corner? What could they see that wasn’t in the painting? Were they staring at a bookies and another pub? Who else was looking at them? Why were they there? And every time I walk past Picnic, and it isn’t me in the window, I wonder what they are looking at and talking about. And that is why I love Picnic. John Pudney

44. Brickland’s fish. I am an avid fan of fish and seafood, but I am also a stickler for quality. Brickland’s delivers variety and quality consistently – they partner with Hoole Food Market to do it literally. Brickland’s cater for a wide range of tastes from more typical options of sustainably sourced cod, haddock and salmon to more unusual options of fish, shellfish and one of my favourites, oysters. I love sushi and Bricklands keep sashimi grade options including melt in the mouth tuna. The team are incredibly knowledgeable, capable and helpful, ready to answer any questions and provide advice on what to buy, who to prepare and the best way to cook it. They even can offer recipe ideas and many ingredients to compliment your tastes from quality fish stock, cooking chorizo, sushi rice, local samphire and of course a courtesy lemon or lime. David Ross

45.Pictura Studio is what Chester city centre was missing and we didn’t even know it. Kate and Steve took on an empty unit on Eastgate Row around the same time as plant based restaurant Shrub opened next door. Whether you want to host your kids birthday party (like I did for my 6 year old), enjoy a proper coffee while keeping little ones crafting, or want to attend a painting and Prosecco evening, Pictura really does have art for all. It’s a vast space on two floors – perfect for days where we need to keep distance – and is full of inspiration for creativity and reflection. Emily Ghazarian (@ChesterBID)

..looks like it belongs in the Bronx…

46. The local indie I want to write about isn’t trendy. There’s no cute social media No distressed blackboards on undersized stools outside the door. You won’t find rows of local art, or abstract images of the city decorating the walls. The prices aren’t on brown pieces of paper, attached to the product via string and a safetly pins either. I would like to nominate MP Food News & Wine Store in Newtown. Sometimes my only human contact during the dark days of the first lockdown, a business that became part of my daily routine when everything else was starting to unravel. Very friendly and very sociable. The shop looks like it belongs in the bronx and I’m pretty sure those cakes that have been there for a while should be in the fridge but these minor details aside, the two brothers that have run it since 2019, sourced me and my family the lockdown holy grail of flour so none of us had to panic about not being able to bake as everyone was dying. I did once make the mistake of complaining that they didn’t stock frozen burgers, only for them to order a quarter of a chest freezer full. so I now feel obliged to buy a pack a couple of times a week out of guilt. It’s been about 3 months now and they’ve nearly gone. Well I say gone. Just filling up my freezer with myself £2.99 lighter for the experience every time. Dan Schott

47. Wannabees sell role play packs for children aged 5-11 years old online from their business in Chester at www.wannabees.co.uk The company is run by two mums and you can tell as the packs are perfect for keeping kids amused. As a mum and also a child minder until recently, I have bought many of their packs to amuse the kids. I like them because they encourage kids to role play rather than being stuck on electronics and the packs are really well thought through and provide everything a child needs to pretend to be the different professions. I’ve bought all 3, they have a Teacher, Doctor or a Cafe Owner pack. The packs are full of all the things that doctors, teachers, cafe owners would need like registers, reports, prescriptions, menus, order pads, stickers etc. Slightly jealous that these packs weren’t around in my day as I would have loved them. Janine Worthington


48. Chester is so lucky to have somewhere like Stile Napoletano. Owner Giacomo Guido could have had his pick of any UK city to develop his pizza empire but lucky for us he chose Chester. As one of the very first food stalls to open in the rejuvenated Chester Market back in 2017, his authentic Neapolitan pizza was already receiving international recognition months later, with a food magazine declaring the stall as serving some of the best pizza in the entire UK. Small wonder Giacomo decided to expand his empire to Chester city centre in 2020, complete with traditional Southern Italian decor and authentically unique touches. The pizza is truly one of a kind. Anon

49. Munk Sounds is an independent recording studio based in Chester offering mixing and mastering services as well as recording, production, editing and others. Owned and run by Dave Le Sange, a veteran of the music industry with over 10 years of experience in audio engineering, Munk Sounds has been in operation for over five years. As of 1st November this year, Munk Sounds launched its mobile recording service. Providing professional audio engineering services in a location to suit you and at a price to suit your budget. @FloakKing

50. Chez Jules In 1997, before Chester was the foodie destination it is today, a humble French bistro opened. What was once the fire station on Northgate street became a destination for fresh food and classic French wine that temporarily transported you to the continent. I stumbled upon a ‘help wanted’ sign in 2004 and spent years as part of the team. I used to love telling people who asked for an ice cream that it wasn’t on the menu, because there were no freezers – everything is fresh. Not much has changed in the past 23 years. The check table clothes have gone and frites are now on the menu, but the atmosphere remains warm and the food delicious. Whether you wear jeans and order a bowl of soup, or dress to impress and indulge on a 5 course gastronomic experience, you’re welcomed by long-time legendary Manager Andy and the international team. Emily Ghazarian @ChesterBID

51.Harriet and Dee One of the Christmas treats I’m missing because of this second lockdown is a trip to Harriet and Dee on Watergate Row South to buy advent calendars. I love doing this every year. The selection this special shop has is always wonderful. With three children, our tradition is to have three and the kids have devised between themselves a complicated rota for opening the doors. Harriet & Dee is a lovely shop that’s been on the Rows for a long time. I buy cards and presents there on a regular basis. The staff are friendly, and the stock is always interesting and varied. Their window display is a gorgeous highlight to the Rows frontages. To be honest, I try to find excuses to go there. I just hope lockdown ends in time to get to my favourite independent shop to find some really special Advent calendars. Sam Dixon

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