Please note: Like all good things come to an end, The Sandy Box sadly was no more as of late 2017. It will be missed!
Can a menu featuring spam really win our anti-spam palates over, or is the Tiki-inspired Sandy Box nothing more than just a load of ol’ rum punch? I donned my most colourful Hawaiian shirt (don’t worry, I didn’t really), and forced my friend to celebrate his birthday there to find out.
The Sandy Box has been on my hit list for a while, since I spotted it hiding on Tripadvisor amongst Chester’s best restaurants, coming in at a surprising 29 of 389 places to eat. Surprising because of the many recommendations thrown at me since moving here just over a year ago, it’s never once appeared. Even the reviews are littered with words like, ‘hidden’ and ‘secret.’ Perhaps due to its small size and position (tucked into the left side of Moules a Go Go on Cuppin Street), it’s gone relatively unnoticed since opening in September 2016.
But delightful, independent, and often overlooked places are why Amble was born, and this is exactly the kind of thing we want to be shouting about. Why?
Well, let’s start with the food. The menu was small with a heavy focus on scrumptious sounding burgers, but it was still a challenge to choose. There were two choices for buns – pretzel or waffle. We all mutually agreed on one thing – we had to hit the spam wontons for the experience alone. Most things are better deep fried and spam is no exception. For the price the portion sizes were bang on – the food was fast and fresh and served with a side of humour (the fries were packed into spam tins).
The drinks menu is the main event at The Sandy Box, stretching on and on like a much loved novel. Rum is firmly centre stage but it’s made clear that it can be replaced in any cocktail by the spirit of your choice (great news for a gin fiend such as myself).
The decor transports you to a Hawaiian Tiki bar, just off the beach, and you instantly relax. Unlike some of the busier restaurants in the centre, we weren’t given a time to vacate the table. There’s nothing formal here, it’s laid back all the way.
Our waitress managed to achieve the perfect balance of attentive and absent – swinging by at just the right moment to check in, clear plates and replenish drinks. We were sat in a out-of-the-way booth near the front, which provided a VIP vibe (you can’t see any of the other tables). The glass windows were blissfully thrown open until the burning sun went down and pulled in when we grew chilly.
Even when stuffed, we still wanted to take a look at the dessert menu – therein lies the only disappointment of the night – they don’t do puddings. A little research suggests that they used to do a brownie sandwich. Perhaps it was axed due to the majority of visitors hitting the bar hard and missing out on the food.
Our waitress was happy to recommend a few places we could try instead – and we found ourselves at Kuckoo drinking their ‘Ten Dollar Shake’ with accompanying donut. I’m confident a brownie sandwich would’ve been a better end to the night.
Top Tip – if you’re heart’s set on visiting for dinner, book a table; it’s a small place and we’re convinced that as the word continues to spread you’ll be fighting off fellow Cestrians if you just drop in.