Say what you like about the Michelin lot – and plenty do – but those Bib Gourmand* things they hand out have usually been a handy barometer of where to find the good stuff on our travels without having to flog a kidney when it comes to coughing up for the bill.
Joseph Benjamin, eponymously named Chester gaff of the Wright brothers, has been Bibbed up for a few years now. At about 20 quid for 3 generous courses, the Sunday lunch offer bulls-eyes the ‘good food at reasonable prices’ brief.
Brother Joseph badgers away in the kitchen making your dinner while Brother Benjamin does the front of house stuff, shooting the breeze and being an all round good egg.
It’s an unfussy, to-the point, comfortable kinda-bistro place. Packed, on this visit.
Despite it being the Sabbath some off-roader went A La Carte, winding up with deep, porky nuggets of fibrous pig cheek; richness offset with springy pea puree. A chunk of charred gem lettuce levelled it all out. Loved ‘em.
Also battling for the title of Best Starter were some deftly handled scallops, all buttery body under the seared surface, with crisps of Serrano ham adding a bit of gamey snap.
Good work, Brother Joseph.
Gnocchi was decent but could have been pepped up with a more Carpe Diem approach with the salt.
If the A La Carters won the starters, the Sunday Roasters just about edged the mains.
The hummy calves liver – toothy slabs of the stuff in proportions that suggest the gaffer-brothers might be feeders – whacked the nourishment factor up on an inclement, monochrome-skied day.
But the roast pork gets the plaudits, as it so often will. Meltingly tender, unctuous and, taking the set menu price into account, a steal. The accompaniments were on their game, too.
Kudos to Brother Benjamin and the FOH troops who all come across as welcoming, confident and generally spiffing folk. If you’re wine-inclined, get in BB’s ear about it. He knows his stuff.
A brief mention for Joseph Benjamin’s compact little sister place next door, Porta, site of the original restaurant before they decided they needed more room to feed the masses.
Small plates of keenly-priced goodness be here.
Think crisp, custardy croquettas; chorizo and lentil stew and the much maligned but here-done-proper patatas bravas. That they bother to oil and salt the bread summoned a happy sigh.
We liked the no arsing about nature of the wine selections here. Less a list, more a directive, really: a couple each of reds and whites. As with the food, the stuff has to be good if it’s this pared back. We researched the Primitivo with gusto and concluded it was on the money.
Chuck in some of next door’s professional bonhomie and Porta’s a right little find.
*Not a Michelin star, Bib Gourmands are awarded for good quality, moderately priced fodder.