Our readers’ favourite new restaurant in the UK is a tiny farm-to-table spot in a surprising English city

Written by Travel Adventures

It’s a shivery evening in March outside, but inside twenty eight there’s an expansive hug of feelgood Friday tunes on the playlist – Bowie, a little Johnny Cash, a tablespoon of Abba – and an orange-blossom Old Fashioned being stirred. Then the plates start landing, one by one as they’re prepared, bringing warm colour to the table: a squad of anchovies doused in a nutty red salsa macha; a trio of mushroom croquettes, topped in a snow drift of parmesan, to be dipped in walnut ketchup; a cushion of sourdough crumpet, its nduja and ale rarebit blistered under the grill. We order the Kentucky fried artichokes for the name alone, which turn out to be nuggets of Jerusalem artichoke, batter-crisped, salty and moreish, thankfully not served in a bucket.

BBQ Ox Heart Chimichurri Hash Brown and Smoked Enoki Mushrooms

BBQ Ox Heart, Chimichurri, Hash Brown and Smoked Enoki MushroomsCaitlin Sullivan

Growing up 40 miles away in south Manchester, Chester meant childhood visits to Chester Zoo and the Roman amphitheatre, and skipping along the covered medieval shopping walkways known as the Rows. Maybe it was famous for its garum during Roman times, but I don’t remember its food ever being mentioned – but then again, the same could be said for most towns in 1980s England. “Chester’s always drawn in lots of people, for the races and the historic sights, so traditional venues like pubs and classic fine dining have always done well,” Jay Tanner, the young chef at twenty eight, tells me. Arkle – named after a once-famous steeplechaser owned by the late Duchess of Westminster – is a long-standing Michelin Guide fixture at the Chester Grosvenor, and Jay points to Da Noi and Sticky Walnut as having “pushed Chester’s boundaries” – Sticky Walnut being the debut restaurant of local hero Gary Usher, formerly of Chez Bruce. (When it opened in 2011, The Guardian’s critic du jour, the redoubtable Marina O’Loughlin, reckoned that “If I could clone Sticky Walnut, I would. I’d plonk its like the length of the land, replacing every Frankie & Benny’s and La Tasca and Café bloody Rouge.”)

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