“ Address: Wrexham Road / Pulford / Chester / CH4 9DG „
If given the option, I would always choose a nice, relaxed pub lunch over the formal atmosphere of a sophisticated restaurant. It is for this reason that, when asked by my monster-in-law...oops sorry - my mother-in-law - to recommend somewhere that we could go and have a celebratory lunch for her 80th birthday, I suggested the bar situated within the Grosvenor Arms Pulford Hotel, as I had eaten there before and both the food and atmosphere had been lovely.
So, the big day arrived and our little party of six arrived at the hotel just prior to 12 noon, which is the time our table was booked for. We had starved ourselves all morning and were looking forward to some tasty lunch.
We booked in at the bar, only to be met with a quizzical look and a shake of the head from the bar manager which had a distinct whiff of "nope, we have no table booked for you". With that, he disappeared to do a little detective work and it came to light that mumsy-in-law had booked the wrong eatery - apparently, we were booked in at Ciro's Brasserie for a Sunday carvery. Just as well I had gone for the 'posh' look! My initial concern was whether they would have anything suitable for Matthew, who is only four. He usually prefers his roast dinner to chicken nuggets and chips, so I hoped everything would be ok, but I would never intentionally take a young child into such a formal dining setting.
As we entered the Brasserie via the bar (which is where we had expected to be eating) I could see that it was very pleasant on the eye, and light and airy. And then we were met by, who I assume, was the restaurant manageress, who gave us a slight hint of a smile and said in no uncertain terms "we need the table back by 1.45 ok?" OK???? Now, I am not usually one to pick fault for the sake of picking fault, but I did not feel that this was an appropriate way to speak to paying customers. I must admit that, if this had been my party and I was greeted in that manner, I would have told her to cancel the booking and would have walked out there and then. Unfortunately, it wasn't my decision so we followed her through to our table and were basically left to choose from the fairly limited menu.
Eventually, a young waitress came to take our drinks order, but as it took her about ten minutes to deliver the drinks to us, we could only hope that the rest of the service was a little quicker - at this rate, the delightful Mrs Manageress would not be getting her table back for her next booking.
Despite the curt reception we received on arrival, I must say that the ambience of the brasserie was very pleasant. It reminded me of sitting in a large conservatory with plenty of light coming in and ample space between the tables. Ciro's Brasserie is allegedly based on a Mediterranean theme, but pleasant as it was, I am at a loss to see where the Mediterranean approach comes in.
As I mentioned earlier, the serving of the drinks was quite slow. Things were only to get worse! We were left a further 10 minutes after the drinks were delivered before anyone approached us to see if we were ready to order our starters. Before ordering, we asked the young lady if there were any children's alternatives, only to be met with a blank look and a vacant shake of the head. "No, only the carvery..." were the only words that she could mutter. Ah well, onwards and upwards! We ordered our starters, none of which were overly complicated, but which took nearly 20 minutes to arrive. That 1.45 slot was getting nearer and nearer, and things weren't looking too good as to whether we would be able to give the table back in time.
After we had finished our starters, it seemed to be touch and go whether anyone would come and clear our plates, so we wandered over to the carvery to choose our main meal, by which time someone had finally come to clear our table. Queuing at the carvery serving area was fairly uneventful, and this particular section did seem well organised. The food was piping hot, but the plates were cold so this cooled the food off slightly. I suppose this could have been a safety aspect, where customers would not have to walk around carrying hot plates.
After we had eaten our main course, it was time for my favourite part - pudding! Of course, when eating in Ciro's Brasserie, we need to refer to is as 'dessert'. As could now be expected, service was fairly slow, but pu... sorry, dessert arrived a little quicker than the other courses as the staff had obviously realised how close to 1.45 we were getting.
In normal circumstances, it is at this point where the waitress will come over to see if anyone wanted coffee to finish off the meal. We did not receive any such service, and while we were finishing eating our desserts, the waiting-on staff were rushing around us moving tables together, obviously in readiness for the party that was due in - at 1.45!
By this point, we had had enough, were not really bothered about hanging around for coffee, and started to get coats on etc. As we stood up, the nice lady who 'greeted' us when we arrived was just rushing over to see if we had finished - once she saw us preparing to leave, she rushed off in the opposite direction and stood by the cash desk. Yes, this was our cue to pay up and leave.
Despite the fairly poor service, I would say the food was rather nice, but could certainly not be described as 'out of this world'.
Two of our party had cream of tomato soup which did look rather appetizing and was served with a crusty bread roll. We did not order a starter for Matthew, but the remaining three, including myself, ordered pate and toast which was pleasant, though a little bland. Matthew decided to help himself to some of the toast, but there really wasn't anything else on the menu that would be suitable for a four year old child. The only other choice on the menu as far as starters were concerned was melon, so all in all, a fairly limited choice.
The main course comprised a choice of three different meats: roast beef, pork or turkey with all the trimmings, which I thought was an unusual choice for the end of January. Surely everyone was sick to death of turkey by now? I chose the roast beef which was divine, and was accompanied by a huge Yorkshire Pudding, roast potatoes served in garlic and rosemary (admittedly, rosemary is usually served with lamb, but there was no lamb on the Sunday menu). Other vegetables on offer were mash potatoes, peas, cauliflower, and suede & carrot. There was a huge jug of real gravy too, not the 'quick gravy' which many places tend to use. The advantage of choosing food from the carvery was the fact that we could choose a smaller portion for Matthew, but needless to say, we still had to pay full price. Fortunately though, the roast turkey and chipolatas went down extremely well!
Dessert was also a fairly limited choice, including vanilla Crème Brule, chocolate cake, ice-cream or cheese and biscuits.
As I mentioned earlier, coffee was not offered to us, but it was included on the menu.
For our party of six, we ordered:
1 large red wine
1 large white wine spritzer
2 bottles of beer
2 soft drinks
6 roast dinners from the carvery
6 desserts (3 of which were a simple serving of vanilla ice-cream)
The total bill came to £110.00. I rarely eat in these kind of establishments so cannot say whether this is good value for money compared to similar places, but personally, I think for the service we received and the poor choice of food, this was a little overpriced. It would have been a more acceptable price had we received first class service with first class food. In addition, I was not very impressed by the fact that we were expected to pay full price for a four year old who obviously did not eat the same amount of food as the adults.
The Sunday carvery lunch is served between 12.00 pm and 3.00 pm, and there is a further serving in the evening between the hours of 6.00 pm and 9.00 pm.
In addition to the carvery, Ciro's Brasserie also serves an a la carte menu during the week, with two settings on Mondays to Thursdays between the hours of 12.00 pm and 2.00 pm and 6.00pm and 9.00 pm, Fridays between the hours of 12.00 pm and 2.00 pm and 6.00 pm to 10.00 pm. There is only one sitting on a Saturday, and that is between the hours of 6.00 pm to 10.30 pm.
Grosvenor Pulford Hotel
Nr Chester CH4 9DG
Reservations Tel. No. 01244 570560
~~~MY FINAL THOUGHTS~~~
Ciro's Brasserie itself is a very attractive looking restaurant with a vibrant, yet relaxing atmosphere (with the exception of the staff!) There is always the possibility that the poor attitude of the manageress was simply down to her having a bad day, she was not in the mood for working on a Sunday, or maybe she even had a hangover from the night before, but whatever the reason, there is never any need to greet paying customers in the manner that we were greeted. The food was enjoyable, though fairly limited in choice which may be quite common with Sunday carvery menus. I also thought the price was a little high for the service we received. Therefore, based solely on my experience here a couple of weeks ago, I would not recommend Ciro's Brasserie to anyone looking for a pleasant Sunday lunch treat.
My personal preference would be to visit Nelson's Bar which is situated within the same hotel, and which will be the subject of my next review.
Thank you for reading.
(Also on Ciao - matthewsmum)
Mediterranean style restaurant located in the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel & Spa,