Last summer, the GCSE Exam question was entitled, “The Best and Worst Meal you have ever eaten.” I mark that particular GCSE Exam paper. Steak, it transpires, is your average 16 year old’s favourite meal. I must have read close to 200 descriptions of the perfectly cooked steak. By the end of the marking time, I was an expert on what a good steak should be like.
So when Tim booked a steak restaurant for our date this weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder, would the steak live up to those descriptions?
He needn’t have worried (I don’t think he was particularly concerned). For the first time since he was born, Ben had a night away. He went to stay with his Auntie Suzie, Uncle Matt and their children, who kept him entertained every moment. We took advantage of a hotel deal and stayed in Chester.
We’ve had a few date nights since Ben was born, but often we’ve rushed to fit everything (meal and dinner) in, and be back at a reasonable hour for our babysitters. With Ben at a sleepover, we were able to stay out late! Both of us were able to have an alcoholic drink! And (best of all) both of us could have a lie-in the following morning! Amazing.
The restaurant Tim chose was Upstairs at the Grill in Chester. From the outside, it looks small and cosy, and that’s fairly true. But it has a real sense of decadence about it, as a good steak house should. We arrived at 9pm, with a reservation for 9.30pm, and went upstairs to the cocktail bar, which should probably be described as intimate. However, the cocktail menu was extensive, and the cocktail waiter was slick and entertaining, as a good cocktail waiter should be. The cocktails we sampled were excellent, and our bar-side stools gave us a good view.
Halfway through our cocktails, we were invited to watch a ‘Steak Presentation.’ For a good five minutes, a waitress held a board with different cuts of beef on it, and went through the different types of steak on offer at the restaurant. She was keen to emphasise the feeding of the cattle – most were grass-fed on the Welsh hills. There was also steak (grain-fed) from Texas and Australia on offer. Perhaps most usefully for me, was her recommendation that the more marbled cuts of steak (e.g. rib-eye) are best cooked medium rather than rare. Since having Ben, and avoiding rare meat during pregnancy, I cannot eat very rare meat without getting ill. So this was excellent news for me, a former rare-steak lover.
According to her recommendation, both Tim and I had the rib-eye steak, with accompaniments of triple-cooked chips, onion rings and sugar snap peas. All was excellent. The steak was beautiful. The wine (the house Merlot) was delicious. The chipotle-spiced bread and bone-marrow flavoured butter was a nice touch.
Perhaps because we were dining late, Tim and I were seated at a 4-person size table. I don’t think we’ve put on that many pounds over Christmas! However, this made the meal much more comfortable, and I wonder if it would be a bit too cosy with four around a table that size. The waiters were attentive but not overbearing, and the price was reasonable for such a good meal in Chester.
It is a rare day that I turn down dessert, but I really couldn’t have managed dessert after that steak and its accompaniments. So I can’t review the desserts, I’m afraid. However, for the cocktails, wine and steak, I can definitely recommend Upstairs at the Grill.
All photos in this post were taken by Tim. As you can tell, the restaurant was dark!