Last Friday, it was date night. So Bradley and I popped on our best frocks (ok, he was wearing trou’) and off we went to dine in our County’s capital, CHESTER. We dressed up a little more than usual, as we knew it was the weekend of Chester Races, so we didn’t want to appear out of place.
Luke’s Eating House is located on 10 St John St, Chester, opposite the Roman Amphitheatre and just down the road from nightclub Cruise. Head chef is Luke Thomas, a young, ambitious and and successful chef who I believe is only in his early 20’s. Luke is Britain’s youngest head chef, and he and a team of talented young individuals aim to “cook rustic, honest, elegant food that takes your senses from classic, old school and nostalgic flavours to reinvented modern dishes”. Having read this on his website and having drooled over the food photography on the site, I couldn’t wait to try some of his food for myself.
On arrival to the Eating House, the downstairs bar was in full swing (our reservation was for 8:30pm on a Friday evening). Downstairs is Gin Rickey’s – a specialist gin and cocktail bar who serve all the drinks for Luke’s Eating House. We were guided upstairs by the host via a lift to the first floor, and there we arrived at the mezzanine floor restaurant.
We were seated in a lovely half-moon booth, with a great view of the kitchen, which is open for diners to see. We first of all took a look at the drinks & cocktail menu which was impressive in it’s choice, descriptions and well-taken photos of the drinks. You really would find it difficult to make a bad choice from this cocktail menu, as the key flavours, ingredients and key flavours are all cleverly mapped out for you.
Bradley opted for the Dark Passion Punch – Kraken Spiced Rum, fresh raspberries and strawberries, sugar syrup, lime juice, apple juice and ginger ale. He said it was one of the best cocktails he’s ever tasted, I had a taste to confirm and it really was delicious. The balance of flavours was so well thought-out, you could still taste the alcohol and the fresh fruit was plentiful and just delicious.
I went for the Ron Zacapa Cuzco – Ron Zacapa Rum, Aperol, lemon juice, grapefruit juice and simple syrup. Again this had a great balance between alcohol and fruit juice, and the same for tangy vs. sweet flavours. It was beautifully served and went really well as a palate cleanser between bites of my delicious starter!
It was tricky to choose a starter from this menu. And I say this, in all honesty, because I would have happily have ordered any one of them. There are about 8 to choose from, plus an option to go for ‘Sliders,’ which was either Smoked Beef or Seared Tuna served on grilled brioche buns with some amazing-sounding accompaniments.
After a little umming and ahhing, I went for the Pan roast scallops served with Katsu curry, mango, coriander & toasted almonds. I’d never heard of scallops served this way before, with Katsu curry (something I love) so I simply had to try it. Bradley opted for the Salt & pepper fried squid with wasabi aioli.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our starters. My scallops were tender, juicy and the Katsu curry was a light and delicate purée beneath them. It wasn’t until I’d finished the dish I realised it was spicy. That gentle, warming kind of spice that builds up to the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Bradley’s squid was a delight too: hot, crispy and perfectly cooked. Presentation was also lovely for both dishes, Brad’s was served with chopsticks and on a piece of brown paper (which reminded me of the street-food element behind this dish) and mine was served on the most elegant plate topped with baby coriander leaves, which was lovely as it kept the coriander flavour at-bay as to not overpower the dish.
Onto the mains, and as we had also finished our cocktails it was time to order more drinks. Bradley opted for the same again (he liked it that much), and as I was having lamb for my main I opted for a glass of red. From memory I chose a Cabernet Sauvignon – which came served in a beautiful huge glass, and was poured at the table even though I only order it by the glass. I thought this was a really nice touch.
For the main course, Bradley went for the Satay – twice cooked chicken, peanut & honey, satay sauce, golden raisin and tender stem broccoli. I opted for the Welsh Lamb – a 250g Harissa infused rump, grilled fennel, olive oil mashed potato, tapenade and piquillo pepper ketchup. Both dishes were presented beautifully, the satay chicken piled atop the smooth satay sauce with the vegetables neatly placed on the side. Mine was more a work of art, the mash in the middle with the lamb placed around the edges. The plate elaborately decorated with the bright colours of the vibrant red piquillo pepper ketchup, tapenade, fennel and some greenery.
The Welsh lamb was pink all the way through, and it tasted amazing. It literally melted in my mouth. I honestly don’t think I have tasted lamb rump so flavoursome and tender. The Harissa infusion was delicate but more prominent on the edges of the meat, it was mouth-wateringly good. The tapenade was sharp and rich, and the ketchup was sweet with a hint of spice. The olive oil mash was dreamy, so smooth and rich but it carried the other big flavours really well. Overall, one of the best main course dishes I have had recently.
Brad’s chicken was tender and juicy and the satay sauce was really delicious. The raisins added an extra element of sweetness to the dish, which we were not sure it needed (as it already contained honey), so he didn’t eat all of the raisins to avoid this. Another slight downfall to this dish was that is was also served with a large helping of blanched ribbons of cucumber. This was not in the description of the dish on the menu, so came as a surprise. The steamed tenderstem broccoli was delicious however, so more of this would have been welcomed! Overall though, the chicken and satay parts of the dish were fantastic.
To accompany our meals we also had some side orders ‘For the Table’ (as the menu encourages): Lobster Mac & Cheese and Hand Cut Chips with Truffle & Parmesan.
The Mac & Cheese was delicious, it was a hearty serving size and we couldn’t finish it – which shows it would be substantial enough to serve more than 2 as a side. The pasta was well cooked and the lobster pieces were bigger than I had expected, so overall we were impressed. The dish did contain a lot of mushrooms – which I loved because, I love mushrooms. Mushrooms were not mentioned as part of this dish on the menu, but they did form a substantial element to the dish.
The chips were lovely too, crispy, soft in the middle and seasoned really well. Not sure the Truffle Oil and Parmesan was worth the extra £1 (taking the total cost of this portion of chips up to £4.50!) but they really did taste delicious.
Our final course of the evening… Desserts. After all this decadent food we feeling pretty full, but there’s always room for pudding (especially when they sound this good,) so we were not about to let that stop us! I ordered the Apple Panna Cotta, served with spiced brioche, salted caramel and stem ginger ice cream. It was amazing. Every bite of it. I couldn’t finish the whole thing, because the portion size was so generous, but in hindsight we should have shared this pudding between us and asked for 2 spoons. The ginger stem ice cream was light and not too sweet, the bites of brioche were really sweet and a little chewy which went with the ice cream well. The panna cotta itself was creamy and very indulgent, but the apple flavour was lovely with everything else going on. The popcorn garnish was fab too, this was a really good pud.
Brad opted for the Lemon Meringue which was Posset & Curd, Italian meringue, smashed raspberries and candied lemon. Overall, he found this dessert overly sweet to the point where is was a little sickly. However, the meringue pieces were deliciously chewy which gave the dish some texture. Next time, one pudding – two spoons, for sure!
Overall, we really enjoyed our meals and date night at Luke’s / Gin Rickey’s and it is certainly a food-destination I would recommend and return to in the future. Luke’s menu is vibrant, fresh and full of bold flavours and the setting is trendy and relaxed. The staff were also really friendly and tentative, so overall a great location for friends, family, dates or even colleagues if you work in Chester.
Luke’s / Gin Rickey’s, 10 ST JOHN ST, CHESTER, CH1 1DA
*I was invited to review Luke’s Eating House and did not pay for my meal. However, my opinions are my own and I have been as honest as possible throughout this review.