A much-loved suburb of Chester, Notting-Hoole is crammed with unique boutiques, bars and restaurants. This guide will help you shop, eat and drink like a Hooligan…
Clack, clack, clack. Sounds of a walking stick fade into the distance, leaving only the hypnotic whir of a nearby extractor fan and the hum of a solitary passing car. On this first glance of Faulkner Street on a sunny Saturday afternoon, there’s not a lot of activity. It could be any small town, with a Boots the Chemist and a darkened sandwich shop that’s closed on weekends. It’s not immediately obvious why this road in Hoole should be awarded ‘Best Local Centre’ at the 2016 Great British High Street Awards.
But, wandering a few steps in, an alluring aroma of freshly baked pastry drifts out from under a green awning, luring my attention. A vibrant bloom of flowers catches my eye, drawing me closer, and I notice the neighbouring charity shop is heaving with rummagers. Behind the doors of this seemingly quiet pavement, there’s a busy hive of life.
For a small suburb of the city, Hoole is packed with independent businesses, waiting to be discovered by us amblers seeking the best of Chester. The compelling melange of shops, bars and restaurants provide almost everything, without the need to set foot into the strip lighting of Sainsbury’s. There’s something enchanting about it. Something that draws people in, enticing them to want to move there and call it their home.
Throughout my little expedition, I find myself smiling my way around greengrocers, gift shops and cafes in a whirl of retail joy. An attractive young couple stride by; faces beaming, arms filled with woolly jumpers, shirts and old DVDs after a successful forage at Claire House. We all seem to be in the same happy place.
Maybe it’s the friendly people, that talk enthusiastically about their wares. Maybe it’s simply the delight of discovering new stuff. Either way, I can’t help but come away thinking that this place is special.
The actual guide:
This is by no means a definitive list of the businesses of the area. It’s simply what had chance to explore so far. All should be at the top of any amblers’ must-see Hoole bucket-list.
Olivia & Smith
This petite gift shop is filled with unique ideas. Most notably, they champion local artists, and are currently displaying a range of coasters, cushions and cards by Jo Gough. A great go-to for something a little different at Christmas time.
Upmarket boutique shop, featuring a colourful range of women’s clothes, shoes, scarves jewellery and gifts. Includes trendy, contemporary designers, such as ChloBlo. The pretty items on offer come with quite a price tag, but if you’re on a budget it’s worth looking out for the sale, which offers excellent value. Knowledgeable staff here can help put together a stylish look, and there’s a comfy sofa for partners waiting by the dressing room!
The Gift Box
A little Santa’s grotto of gifts awaits upstairs, while the downstairs is dedicated to cards. Lots and lots of cards for any and every occasion. You can get something a little different to the high street here. We particularly like the handmade bunting.
11 Faulkner Street | Tel: 01244 329222 | Open 09:00 to 17:00 Mon-Sat
As the name suggests, the blooms on offer at this pretty boutique florist are glowing with youth. Offering a be-spoke service for weddings and gifts, the front door is also adorned with a lovely range of bulbs and plants for your garden. Worth stopping by on a Saturday morning to select a pot of pansies for your slick brown paper bag.
Boasting possibly the finest name in the history of Greengrocers, Mr Fruity is a treasure-trove for vitamin-seekers. Well-stocked with all the usual greens, plus exotic veg, herbs and a tasty range of local apple juice from Ollies Orchard. This is the type of local gem, that will still have a shelf of strawberries available on Wimbledon finals weekend. Winner!
23 Faulkner Street | Tel: 01244 319997 | Open 09:00 to 17:30 Mon-Fri; 09:00 to 17:00 Sat
Award-winning deli with a scrumptious selection of goodies. Stand-outs for us are the curious pork pie flavours and the outstanding vegetarian sausage rolls. Staff are friendly and helpful if you can’t decide what to pick! On a hot summer’s day, there’s a couple of welcoming tables out front that allow you to pretend you’re on holiday while you munch your panini. In our experience, the freshly baked goods aren’t likely to be ready much before 11 on a weekend. But, they’re worth waiting for.
Chester Beer and Wine
Does what it says on the tin, and does it really well. Make sure you have lots of time to browse their liver-quaking collection of booze from around the world when you pop by. Worth noting is a great-value weekend offer for take home draught beer, plus a rolling list of events such as beginners wine courses; or gin, beer, brandy and whiskey tasting (although not all at the same time).
(Pub, Bar & Restaurant)
A cosy and inviting feel warms the spirits at this trendy gastro-pub in the middle of Hoole. Who wouldn’t smile with a bowl of sweets at the centre of your table while you slurp a beer. Mains start at £11.95, but they also serve a good selection of lunch specials and mid-week treats for those on a budget. If you fancy a food challenge, keep an eye out for their generous tasting menus. The vegetarian choices here are limited, but decent. Reservations are recommended.
A celebrity in Hoole, the Sticky Walnut is the one everyone has heard of. If you haven’t yet had the ‘have you been to Sticky Walnut?’ conversation, you soon will. This intimate venue serves award-winning fancy food at a price. The menu isn’t as exciting for vegetarians, but it’s still a must-visit on any Hoole bucket-list. Reservations in advance are essential. You can check out our dedicated review here.
From the outside, this café looks somewhat dark and uninviting; but step inside and you’ll find a lovely, comfy arrangement of seating and a relaxing vibe. The menu includes big breakfasts, baguettes, baked potatoes and an intriguing vegetarian black pudding. Equally perfect for a hangover brunch, or a relaxed afternoon with a coffee and the paper. They offer Wi-Fi and free delivery within a four-mile radius.
Hoole Fish Bar
In the age-old argument of where to buy the best chips in Hoole, this busy fish bar wins every time for me. The sweet-waft of hot fat lures you in as soon as you step onto Ermine Street, and the diet swoops gracefully out the window. Offers a number of meal deals, plus kebabs and Chinese takeaway too. Don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of a queue.
4 Ermine Road | 11:30-14:00 and 16:00 to 23:00 Mon-Fri; 11:30 to 13:30 and 16:00 to 23:00 Sat
This fashionable hangout is easily spotted by its stand out black and white spray-painted exterior. Yes, it’s super-trendy looking, but it’s also genuinely friendly with attentive staff and attracts a good mix of clientele. The cocktails are ideal for a sweet tooth, and the bar are happy to make any favourite cocktails not on the menu. The inclusion of gluten free beer is a nice touch, or opt for a Big Big Stein if you’ve got nothing on the next day. Your evening may start relaxed with some retro tunes on the wireless, but don’t be surprised if the volume increases later as the lights are dimmed.
This pub gets an extra mention for drinking, due to its excellent gin menu. We particularly recommend trying a Bombay Sapphire, garnished with strawberry and mint. Usually filled with a mix of people in their finery, combined with relaxed-looking locals, it’s a great spot for an after-work Friday tipple.
The noisy neighbour that you can’t help but have an affection for; the Bromfield Arms is a lively, traditional boozer. A perfect place to watch the football and enjoy a local ale and a burger. It’s not uncommon to see a live band playing here on a weekend too.