WLGT Dining Reviews – Picnic Bar and Restaurant, Chester

Picnic is a great quality, independent bar and restaurant which we should, as a city, be very proud of. It’s everything we look for in an independent. Understated, elegant, consistent and very good value for money.

Owners Matthew and Justin and Chef Danny are always there – this is a very tight knit team who completely understand the art of great food and authentic hospitality – there is nothing forced here.

Phil and I were invited to review at the beginning of June, and even though its taken me a couple of weeks to get this review written up, I can still remember every mouthful perfectly – it was so good. This is a restaurant I would choose if I fancied something really tasty and fresh – and not over-facing. The menu is quite small to match their little kitchen, keeping the quality of each dish consistently high. They just seem to have found a way of delivering everything with a light touch, it all seems effortless. There is definitely a Mediterranean vibe to this menu, and all the ingredients are local and full of flavour.

To start I had the Lamb rillette with pickles, salsa verde and crostini which was so tasty – the texture of the rillette was just right and the crunchy pickles were the perfect contrast so the softness of that lamb. Phil opted for the torched mackerel with fennel roulade and chorizo emulsion, which was also excellent. It was the elegance of these dishes which really stood out, not complicated at all. I love the way they get around having a small kitchen by over-delivering on texture and flavour.

Main courses were just as good. I had the Chalk valley trout with chorizo, gnocchi and spinach which I ordered because I love these ingredients! It was really clean, fresh cooking and the gnocchi had just the right amount of bite. The trout was so soft and flaky and I especially loved that super-crunchy crust. Phil had the Lamb burger with feta, harissa ketchup, bruschetta tomatoes, focaccia bun and fennel roulade – and this was insanely good. The lamb burger was so juicy and the rest of those ingredients made it taste of Summer time, its was fantastic! (Matthew had mentioned it was a favourite menu item this season). He also ordered a side of parmesan truffle fries – if you book in, order them. You’ll thank me later.

So on to the sweet stuff. I am a massive fan of cardamon. As far as I’m concerned, it is a flavour sent from the gods – so when I see it on a menu, its a complete no brainer for me. The Israeli Mille Feuille with cardamon cream was just as good as I had hoped, if not better, and the raspberries really made it pop. Phil went for the Dulche de leche panacotta, which was also sublime. He loves caramel and the texture of the panacotta was perfect.

Phil had drawn the short straw and was driving, so I got to enjoy two glasses of the L’eglise Merlot Grenache, great value at £4.80 for a 175ml, and we finished off with a good old large espresso each.

The bill came to just over £70 for two of us, three courses including coffee and wine – excellent value for such a lovely dining experience.

If you haven’t yet discovered Picnic then now is the time to book in. The summer menu is spot on and the service discreetly wonderful – these guys don’t need to shout about what they’re doing as it all speaks for itself. Watch out for acoustic Fridays and their ‘Menu of the Day’ is such good value at 2 / 3 courses, a glass of wine or beer for £15 / £18 – available all day and night Wednesday & Thursday, Fridays until 6:30, Saturday lunch 12-3:30.

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