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Convivio, Chester

One of my hobbies, when I’m not stuffing my face full of food is running. I enjoy it, it keeps me fairly fit and with the amount of food I eat, it’s a good job! I’d entered two half marathons over consecutive weekends, with my first being in Chester. The need to carb up the day before is really important, what a great excuse for a hungry eater like myself! Now I didn’t do my usual planning and research beforehand, so when we arrived it was on spec that I starting looking for somewhere to get a tasty bowl of pasta.

My first choice La Fattoria, supposedly the best Italian in the city centre, as reviews on the internet go anyway, was fully booked, even at our desired time of 6pm!

So where else would we go? As we drove to our hotel near the racecourse, we passed an Italian called Convivio, a table was available so we turned up at 6pm, choosing to eat outside as it was a beautiful evening!

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A nice refreshing, crispy dry white was ordered, decent it was too and just what was needed on a warm evening.

With a menu full of typical Italian dishes I knew I was going to choose something carb heavy, simple and straight forward so a Garlic pizza bread with tomato and basil, then Tagliatelle al Ragu was my choice. Whereas the other half opted for Cod goujons as a starter on the specials menu, then really fancied a steak and settled for the Fillet in peppercorn sauce. He was a little disappointed as he prefers steak to come without sauce, but hey, as long as it was a good piece of meat cooked well, he’s usually quite happy. 

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Service was friendly and brisk from the start, meaning our order was swiftly taken. As we were both starving seeing the starters arrive within ten minutes also made us both very happy. So far so good, but what was the food like?

Wish any dish I find it odd if a salad or additional components take up more of the dish than the main ingredient itself. This is what happened with the Cod goujon starter, where salad and tartare sauce took up at least half of the bowl. The goujons also looked a little anaemic in my opinion, but on taste the other half said they had a lovely, light, crisp batter and were cooked well. The tartare sauce was well received, but I thought it looked a little sparse on the caper and gherkin front.

Cod goujons
Cod goujons

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My first course of garlic bread was a bit of a cop out really, but I just wanted tonnes of carbs and garlic bread is an easy way of getting some. Topped with tomato sauce and basil it had good flavours, the dough was a smidgen thicker than I would have liked, but it was tasty on the whole.

Pane all’Aglio - Garlic bread with tomato and basil
Pane all’Aglio – Garlic bread with tomato and basil

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We’d noticed that the place was quite quiet, a little surprising since it was a gorgeous Saturday, and with an outside dining area I would’ve expected more people to be eating here. Maybe they were all in La Fattoria?

Our starters had given us a taster of what was on offer, not perfect though so I was in anticipation of some good main courses to make up for this.

The other half’s steak was up first, served in a peppercorn sauce, he’d asked for it medium rare, which it was. Flavour wise it was full of meaty goodness. Yes, maybe not like a rib-eye or a rump, but tasteful all the same. The peppercorn sauce, as I said earlier is not normally an accompaniment that he would have chosen, preferring his steak to be served without sauce. He did try some but it just reinforced why he prefers his steak naked, finding it too peppery and it’s consistency a little gloopy, so this was remedied by scraping off as much as he could before tucking in.

Filetto al Pepe - Fillet steak with a peppercorn sauce
Filetto al Pepe – Fillet steak with a peppercorn sauce

The sautéed potatoes were good, cut quite big and a decent portion too. Lovely and fluffy in the middle whilst their exterior were well coloured and crisp. The hit of rosemary with potato always does the job so was an excellent choice.

Sauteed potatoes
Sauteed potatoes

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Maybe I watch too many cookery programmes on TV, but don’t they always say that the pasta and it’s sauce should be incorporated together before serving. In addition there should be just the right amount of sauce to cover the pasta, but there shouldn’t be excess. This unfortunately wasn’t as it was just ladled on top. The last bowl of pasta with a ragu (bolognese) was my carb loading meal before The Yorkshire Marathon last October, that was very much a different affair and was a truly delicious bowl of pasta. Done simply but with bags of flavour.
Fast forward six months and it was like déjà view but not! The flavours were nice, such an awful word to use when describing food! The tagliatelle was al dente and even though the ragu had flavour and coated the pasta sufficiently once mixed, it was a little watery.

Tagliatelle al Ragu - Traditional Bolognese
Tagliatelle al Ragu – Traditional Bolognese

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The cost of our meal for two people was £72.80 (2 starters, 2 main courses and a bottle of wine).

Food: A large menu full of classic dishes and a few specials. Dishes on the whole are more expensive than you would expect. An in comparison with La Fattoria (my first choice) it was quite a bit more expensive. Quite tasty, but definitely room for improvement in my opinion.

Service: The staff were friendly and efficient. 

Atmosphere: For a warm Saturday evening it lacked the atmosphere that I was expecting, indoors it could have been different but I’m unable to comment on that.

Even though it was a pleasant meal on the whole, I don’t know if I would go back again, especially with the knowledge that there’s arguably a more superior restaurant nearby.

I would recommend it, but only if you don’t have any better offers. 

Convivio

29 Grosvenor St
Chester
Cheshire
CH1 2DD
01244 400029
http://www.conviviochester.co.uk

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