Very little gets me up before 9:00am on a Saturday morning. But I eagerly leapt from bed at 7:30am recently and skipped my way to Lower Bridge Street.
At 8:45am, myself and a few fellow amblers meet Gareth (of Chester Running Tours) at Jaunty Goat, to test out his new venture – a range of carefully curated walking food tours, designed to show off the very best of independent Chester. We’re tremendously eager guinea pigs, sipping our cappuccino’s as Gareth fills us in on the numerous, tastebud-tantalising stops.
Jaunty (likely to be the meeting point for at least one of the tours) is always going to be a smart start – consistently whipping out one of the best coffees in Chester. It’s my favourite place to pick up a takeaway cup, before a leisurely stroll along the River Dee. Tour guests will have the choice of a generous range of drinks (caffeinated and non), receive a little well-placed local trivia and find themselves fully briefed on the hours ahead.
From there, it’s only a short walk to Hanky Panky on Commonhall Street, where we sit down to indulge in Something Fruity – scotch pancakes with blueberries and banana, drizzled in honey. I have a quiet word with my stomach to make sure it’s prepared for the journey to come, and tuck in. Funnily enough this was my brunch choice the weekend just gone, so I know to expect great things. HP staff are excited for us as Gareth lists off the next few stops and we bound back out into surprisingly sunny Chester.
Next up – Pierogi. I’m so glad Gareth has included one of the Brook Street gems, drawing attention to the area. We pass Moss Coffee and Chai Station (Indian) before entering the small but charming space of destination number three. Emma is delighted to get stuck in, invited to step behind the scenes and attempt to make her own Pierogi (it certainly looks professional).
Voytek takes us through the ingredients and process leading to the plump little parcels, which are quickly steamed and served with sour cream and fried onion. We go to town on the serving – pork belly, spinach, potato, cottage and ricotta cheese, and follow it up with a sweet variety which tastes like warm apple pie – cinnamon and all. We also sample the two soup offerings, including borsch (Dave is particularly found of these and it’s hard to convince him to leave).
We’re able to stretch our legs en-route to Meltdown in Handbridge, cutting through Grosvenor Park, where small dogs madly chase squirrels and spring feels very much in bloom. We’re all so giddy, sugared up, greedy still for more, enjoying the easy conversation, and eating our way around our city.
I don’t know what we’re more excited about, the toasties, or spending some time with the hilarious owner, Laura (our twitter crush). You can guarantee a warm, lively welcome and top notch cheesy grub. Laura is on form as always, and regales us with the story of how Meltdown came to be, as we chow down on a range of perfectly formed mini toasties (tuna with red onion, bacon, brie and cranberry and ham and cheese).
We take a scenic route back to Northgate Street, walking the walls past the racecourse and around to 9 Elephants for some Thai Food, taking us firmly into lunch. We feast on a selection of vegetarian, meat and fish starters, whilst taking in the kooky decoration and catching up with staff (we’re always in here). It’s all about prawn toast, deep-friend aubergine and duck spring rolls to name but a few. Suffice to say, conversation dies down as we gorge.
Soon we’re popping into The Cheese Shop, where I have to battle to stay away from my ultimate addiction – their stilton and walnut pâté. They set us up with a big chunk of 1845 Cheshire (made using an original recipe from 1845 and matured for up to 6 months) to nibble on.
The owner, Carol, treats us to a few spine-tingling ghost stories from her time running The Blue Bell (one of the most haunted buildings in Chester). Her passion for all things local, independent and plastic free is infectious and commendable and I make a mental note to interview her as soon as possible (maybe when I awake from my inevitable food coma).
Then we amble (I know, I know) along to the market to check out Stile Napoletano, and share a tomato, basil and mozzarella pizza fresh from the oven. It’s oozy, authentic and completely delicious. How we’ve still got room in our bellies I don’t know, but we’re managing it with aplomb. I eye up Crustum and The Bath Bakery and know where I’ll be checking out in the week. There are so many new additions to the market and it smells incredible in here.
I should point out that all vendors are more than happy for us to just drink tap water, but you’re welcome to purchase any of the drinks at additional cost. I’m all about the food, and don’t want anything distracting me from the main event.
Gareth has pencilled 2nd June for the first official tour date, by which time full details on menu, pricing and vendors will be available online, and likely to be roughly based on our experience (which if it isn’t already obvious – was completely wonderful). Alongside leaving us with happy bellies, we’re smiling and high on Chester. Everywhere we’ve visited has colour and character, and was delighted to be part of the tour, able to show off what they do best.
We’ll drip feed you the juicy details as we get them, and make sure you’re the first to know when booking is available. Whether you’re born and bred here, a visiting tourist, or have friends and family to impress, this has to be on your Chester bucket list. Come hungry and curious and you won’t be disappointed.
For the chance to win two tickets to one of these mouth-watering tours, head to our Facebook page and get yourself in the running here. The winner will be announced at the end of April.