Stunning Spanish tapas in a historical Chester location
I love tapas – and I really love the amazing history of Chester, so coming across them both in the same beautiful building steeped in history and fabulous tales of old is a rare find indeed.
Introducing my new dining obsession, The Blue Bell 1494.
So lets start with a bit of history. The oldest surviving example of a genuine medieval inn, there is a little bit of debate about how far this property actually dates back. Some say it’s the 15th century, and others say it goes back much further to the 11th. What isn’t in doubt is that this was one of the city’s very first inns and it was licensed as early as 1494 (if not earlier). The ‘bell’ may refer to the building’s bell yard where a bell was rung every evening to warn strangers to leave the city before the gates were closed at 8pm.
Henrietta, the resident ghost has a particularly sad story. After waving her Cavalier lover goodbye from the upstairs window when he was ordered to fight the roundheads in 1645, stricken with grief she committed suicide after he never returned at the promised time of 10pm. To this day, her ghost climbs the cellar steps and walks through the upstairs restaurant and stands to the left of the front window where she had waited for her love to return.
Let’s cheer ourselves up by talking about the food. This is Spanish tapas done really well. The menu includes classic, authentic tapas dishes cooked with a whole lotta love. Chef is proud of her kitchen, and she mixes local produce with authentic Spanish ingredients, and the results are pretty special. Although the menu is varied, it’s not overwhelming and her paella has a loyal Chester following all of its own.
Owners Mick and Rachel certainly know something about hospitality. Mick ran a number of very successful dining pubs in London and won many awards for his food, and you can tell. This restaurant and bar is sophisticated, elegant and certainly has a strong vibe of experience mixed with a real passion and understanding of the industry.
There are a few smaller dining spaces, perfect for a group who would prefer to dine just with their own household at this moment in time. Plus a gorgeous garden at the back, a little oasis in the heart of the city perfect for an Alfresco lunch or dinner when the sun shines.
And I need to mention the staff – what a delightful bunch! They clearly love Mick and Rachel and they seem just as passionate about the fabulous food as their service is just as good as everything else.
And you never know, Henrietta may just be sitting at your table or waving you goodbye from the upstairs front window.