I love Opera Grill.
I love the luxurious interior and the super-sexy crowd, the indulgent food and decadent vibe – but as with most Chester venues, I love the staff the most.
The very best thing about my job is that I get to know the venues I work with from the inside out. I get to know their culture, their real personality and best of all, how they tick. My great friend Sam Dhaliwal has been the constant first lady at Opera Grill since the very beginning. One of my Chester heroines – she makes it all look effortless, and this year has been far from that. Well done Sam!
There is a real buzz around the city about Chester Food and Drink Week. This is the first collaborative Food and Drink initiative undertaken by the city of Chester, and I am honoured to be facilitating it this time round.
These things are incredibly difficult to put together – but when you have people around you who really care and share the same vision, then life gets much easier and much more enjoyable. Sam and the fabulous team at Opera are some of those people.
So Sam had asked me to pop in earlier this week to help choose their special cocktail to serve exclusively during Chester Food and Drink Week. Little did I know the huge effort that the team had made … to say I was blown away is an understatement.
This was a proper, in-house Cocktail Competition exclusively for Chester Food and Drink Week – and the standard was extremely high.
Lets meet the Opera bartenders contending to get their drink listed for this very special celebratory week. Harry, Conner, Lewis and Danny were pumped and ready to go – and General Manager Nick had also entered himself into the competition (more about that later). Some of these guys were in on their day off – and you could cut the competitive tension with a bar blade!
First up was Harry with his Smokey OPERAtion – inspired by their theatre charcoal grill and wood burning ovens. This was a heady, smoky mix of Mezcal, Velvet Falernum, lime juice, gomme syrup and egg white to give it a super-creamy and luxurious texture, and Aperol for that signature Opera colour.
My verdict – I loved it! It was elegant, tasted amazing (the smokiness really came through) and the colour was stunning.
Next was cool-as-a-cucumber Conner with his ‘Miami Nicce’. Conner’s inspiration was the unique way in which Opera takes a classic and gives it a seriously sexy pimping! His hybrid cocktail (a cross between a Miami Vice and a Strawberry Daquiri – an upgrade for all those Pornstar lovers out there) was made up of two parts. Strawberry puree, Trois Rivieres rum and lime juice, topped with a delicious boozy cream made up of Plantation rum, Koko Kanu, coconut syrup and double cream garnished with frozen raspberries.
My verdict – beautiful! I love rum and I especially love coconut – and this was indeed one of the prettiest drinks I ever did see! It was like the best tipply-trifle ever.
Lewis the man was up next. This guys vibe is so on point! The mullet, the open shirt and the dark smouldering disposition all work a treat for me! Lewis presented his epic ‘La Boheme’ inspired by one of the most famous operas in the world … and it didn’t disappoint. Grey Goose vodka (it is French you see) with pink grapefruit, Kwai Feh lychee liqueur, lime juice, Peychaud bitters (created in 1830 by Antoine Amédée Peychaud, a Creole apothecary from the French colony of Saint-Domingue, now Haiti) and gomme syrup.
But that was not all .. not only did Lewis serve a couple of ‘palette cleansers’ (or bribes for short) – but he also woo’d me by presenting his gorgeous drink on a board with ‘We Love Good Times’ written in chocolate along with a couple of delicious mini cup cakes. WOW!
My verdict – a really beautiful drink with a great show and personalised (and very unexpected) presentation. What’s not to love?
Last but certainly not least was Danny with his ‘A Day at The Opera’ – and Danny opened up his presentation with a fact I didn’t know; a Monestary once stood on the site where Opera Grill stands now (and that’s a good bit of research to do on a rainy day!). The link to his cocktail was his use of Yellow Chartreuse, made by the Carthusian Monks since 1737. Danny mixed this with lime juice and gomme plus Aperol again for that fabulous Opera signature colour, and the fact that it matched his pocket hankerchief and sleeve garters was not wasted on me!
My verdict – absolutely loved the mix of local history with the brief, and the co-ordinated drink and accessory colour matching. The drink was lovely too and the herbs in the Yellow Chartreuse made it taste like it was really good for me!
Now, at this point, I have to give a special mention to new Opera General Manager Nick, who decided to support his boys last minute with his own entry. My advice would be – stick to being an awesome GM Nick – great sport but a pretty bad drink!
.. and so to the winner.
I know it’s a cliché – but this was a really difficult decision. These guys smashed it right out of the park on so many levels. But most of all, for really caring about Opera, about Chester – and about Chester Food and Drink Week, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
Congratulations to Lewis with his delicious La Boheme drink which was sublime – and will be available to order throughout Chester Food and Drink Week, complete with cupcakes!
A massive thank you to Sam, Nick and the team – you surprised me in the best possible way – and this is what Chester’s fabulous food and drink sector is all about.