You may not know, because I’ve been incredibly cool about the fact that it’s been MY BIRTHDAY recently. Everyone knows that, with each passing year in your 20s, you have some kind of crazy cocktail of emotions about getting older. I am so weird about my birthday. Like, on the one hand I really hate to be centre of attention. But, on the other hand, I like to celebrate it and feel special and be a little self-indulgent. Just the one day a year, I swear.
B and I are fans of the UK city break, so he decided to surprise me with a night in Chester for my birthday. Chester is one of my favourite cities to visit, and I’m about to explain why. Fair warning, most of this is about stuff I ate that day. What’s new, really?
Travel & Accommodation
Chester is, of course, accessible by train and public transport if you live further away, but we decided to drive. Cue the torrential downpour that made me fear for my life, as well as my freshly straightened hair.
We stayed at the Chester Grosvenor and ohmygodsoposh! What an absolutely beautiful hotel.
We parked in the multi-story behind the hotel and arrived at reception via a mysterious gold elevator, where we were greeted, seated, and checked in. The staff are so incredibly attentive and polite. Our room wasn’t available at the time, so they took our bags and B’s phone number and rang him when the room was ready.
We were escorted up to our room; I used everything I know about small talk on the way, and found our stuff had been delivered ahead of us.
The room was really clean and comfortable, and contained everything you’d expect from a hotel room. Though, they obligingly brought us an iron because neither of us know how to use a trouser press.
There were also complementary Elemis toiletries in the bathroom.
The best thing about the room, though, was the bed. It was so downy and soft, not to mention being absolutely massive. It could easily have accommodated 4 adults. The first thing I did was throw myself into the middle of it and, honestly, it was like lying on some kind of warm, heavy cloud.
Other things to note about the Grosvenor are the little shop windows in the lower corridors, gilted picture frames lining the walls, the huge chandelier hanging through the centre of the main staircase into the lobby; the likes of which I’ve only previously seen on luxury cruise liners. And, of course, the perpetually pleasant chap opening the front door for you, and wishing you a good morning.
What we did
I don’t know what touristy things there are in Chester, really. I’m usually there to shop and drink. And that’s pretty much what I did this time, too. However, as a birthday treat, we spent the afternoon in the spa.
Often, certain spa facilities are included in the price of the room, but use of the Grosvenor spa Thermal Suite was charged at £35 per room. Treatments are obviously extra. We wandered down, filled in our quick health questionnaires, and were shown to a shared changing room, with lockers (you don’t need money to operate these) and shower facilities.
It’s worth noting that they don’t allow ‘mobile devices’ in the spa, hence I have no pictures of it. But I actually quite liked the tech-free zone.
The Thermal Suite includes a sauna, steam room, salt grotto, foot baths, and shower. They provide Elemis salt scrubs (frangipani was my favourite), shower gel, moisturiser, towels, and bottled water. I’ve linked the spa website here for further info.
We left feeling super relaxed, happy, and suitably indulged.
The next day, we walked along the city walls, past the cathedral, which was OK but not as picturesque as I hoped. It was a lovely bright day, though, which made for a nice walk. I do love the centre of Chester, with its mock Tudor buildings, and there’s something a bit Diagon Alley about it. I love the shopping on two levels, with the mixture of smaller independent shops and more recognisable retailers.
Of course, we trekked around Cheshire Oaks as well, because there’s a Carluccio’s AND a Vans shop there. I would like to say I started my Christmas shopping, but I can’t.
Breakfast was in La Brasserie within the hotel which, again, was a very decadent-looking room with black seating and booths, soft lighting, and mirrored ceilings. Continental breakfast was included, and there were also cooked breakfast options available at an additional charge. The vegetarian one actually sounded really nice!
We went for brunch at Hanky Panky Pancakes, which is a total gem. Everything inside is kitschy and bright and happy, and it’s just a really cute place to go and eat. There are any number of sweet and savoury combinations, but we went for fairly classic breakfast-y choices of eggs, maple & bacon for B, and fruit, yoghurt & honey for me. The pancakes themselves are light, fluffy, delicious, and perfectly portioned. The service in there is super friendly, too, and everyone seemed to really care whether you enjoyed your food, which is always nice. I’d definitely go there again.
Also, yes I’m wearing a t-shirt that says Oh Crepe. Yes, I did it in purpose. Yes, I’m incredibly square.
Now then, to my birthday dinner. I almost don’t want to tell you about this restaurant because I want it all to myself. Every time we visit Chester, we eat at The Yard.
For starters, B had black pudding which they make themselves with ham hock (which he assures me is by far the best he’s had), served with an egg and some rich tomato sauce. I had a beautifully presented ball of mozzarella accompanied by rocket pesto. I actually hate rocket, so it’s testament to how unbelievably good it was that I ate every single bit. The mozzarella itself was perfectly soft, not stringy, and was served with crispy, salty, crostini. The combination was so good it made me emotional; I think I was actually speechless. I wanted to eat this forever, and I was a little bit sad when I finished it.
Main course was spicy salsiccia pasta for B, which is a dish absolutely made for him, tbh. I had delicate pillows of fresh ravioli, filled with the smoothest, most delicious autumnal pumpkin filling, and decorated with tiny cubes of pumpkin and pea shoots. It was served in a sage butter, which I promptly spilled on my shirt and had to resist the urge to lick.
The service is so polite and friendly, which is probably why I’m so comfortable there. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, but you wouldn’t feel out of place if you were a little more dressed up, either.
We were seated in a cosy corner next to the window, so we could watch the rainy world outside. Inside, the décor is contemporary and cheerful, with soft, flattering lighting.
The food made me happy. Giddy, even. A lot of the time you go out to eat, and the food isn’t that important. However, eating at The Yard added to the experience for us, and made my birthday much more enjoyable. Although I had lovely company, I don’t think the overall atmosphere would’ve been as good had we gone somewhere else.
There’s also the Boardroom bar downstairs, where we sat for a few hours while the lovely barman made us delicious cocktails (my 1 Bramble to B’s 4 espresso martinis), plus I got a free peach Bellini because it was my birthday!
The aforementioned lovely barman described the food at The Yard as, not traditional Italian, but as modern with a British twist. I’d agree with that description, but I’d add that it’s unbelievably fucking delicious.
Have you ever been to Chester? If so, what are your favourite places to go? Where do you like to visit in the UK?