Date night: Opera Grill, Chester
On those rare occasions you find yourself blessed with an overnight babysitter for your toddler, it is of course the perfect opportunity as a newly married couple to go out for dinner.
Date nights have, for the past decade at least, seen a resurgence with the hashtag #datenight frequenting the social media streams of many of those desperately seeking a chance to rekindle flames or just enjoy dinner without it being thrown all over you!
For our #datenight my husband and I ventured to the Opera Grill on the newly-rejuvenated Pepper Street Dining District – of which I for one, am a huge fan.
Right across the street from the revived Grosvenor Shopping Centre – the best place to shop in the city by my reckoning – the row of eclectic restaurants is the perfect antidote for both the #datenight, a family lunch, a celebration or even a sensible prelude to going #outout (those of you who use this hashtag will know what I mean!).
We were greeted at the door by an immaculately dressed host – who ‘could well have been a model’ I commented to my husband (it’s important this wasn’t the other way round!!) – who sat us at the circular bar, right in view of the theatre-style kitchen, which had all manner of food on display.
Rare cuts of steak, fresh whole fish, vegetables akin to those I’ve seen in Barcelona’s Boqueria and hot coal open grills…it is evident why they called this place Opera Grill.
We ascended a back staircase with our host holding our perfectly chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio (of which we had enjoyed a glass at the bar)
and we were seated on the covered terraced area, in a colourful orange booth which has panoramic views of the roads leading down to the River Dee.
The setting is a huge selling point for Opera and you can certainly tell that a huge amount of love, money and attention has been given to the decor, the tableware, lighting – gosh, even the toilets were beautiful!
The menus passed the design test too – slabs of dark wood, transparent sectioning paper and thick luxe pages which presented the decadent food and wine lists perfectly.
As huge seafood fans, the two of us were definitely overawed by the offer on display – but our favourite scallops, heralding from the Isle of Man this time, were a must, as were tempura prawns.
Both are a good test of a chef’s skill with seafood – get an overcooked scallop and you may as well be eating rubber – but with the tang of garlic and smattering of fresh herbs we both agreed they were the best we had tasted – and that is certainly saying something.
The tempura prawns had the right amount of crunch to the batter and were nice and soft and seasoned on the inside, although the soy dipping sauce was a little lacklustre for our liking.
We took a bit of time between the starter and main at our request to sit back and soak up the atmosphere.
This was a Sunday night before Christmas and there wasn’t a Christmas party in sight.
Instead, couples, groups of friends and older families chatted at a really nice level, just so you could hear the ambient music and still hear each other talking. We were in adults-only bliss.
The Opera Grill, I have since discovered, has become quite famous for its atmosphere among the city’s foodies and revellers.
Each week on a Sunday afternoon, a gospel choir takes the the second floor stage and while the restaurant carries on with service, they too serve up a slice of goodness for the soul.
We had missed all the action by that point, but we were fine with that and agreed we would return with our dance-fanatic 16-month-old daughter one Sunday soon.
As a pescatarian and someone who gave up meat nearly 15 years ago, I am so pleased when I hear meat set for consumption has been carefully and kindly reared.
All of the meat and seafood at Opera Grill is very carefully selected, our waitress tells us.
There is no better example of this than wagyu beef which is reportedly massaged and fed beer, helping intermuscular fat which produces its famous marbled look, full taste and hefty price tag.
Like many restaurants of this calibre, Opera Grill offers meat and asks customers to pay extra for their sides.
Luckily, our helpful and very sweet waitress told us that chips came as standard with the wagyu rump, which my partner commented cut like butter and tasted “incredible”, but could be changed for mash, no problem.
My yellowfin tuna steak was fresh, zesty and accompanied with my additional choice of heirloom tomato salad.
As the waitress asked us if we had finished both of our half-eaten plates, we sat back, stuffed to the brim with a satisfied look on our faces.
With no room for dessert we finished off our meal with discussions about our next holiday, plans for saving in 2017 and what new bedding we would buy in the sales.
Even if conversation wasn’t exactly the most glamourous, in our chic setting we certainly felt content with our #datenight.