The premises of the newest bar in Chester were somewhat derelict for some time until now, sitting behind the Precinct, forgotten.
Then we heard the good news. Instead of buying a plot of land and building a potential eyesore, someone had the good sense to utilise what was already there and before we knew it, great big signposts were covering the old church declaring it a work in progress for Chester’s newest bar-restaurant serving real ale amongst other things.
Now, when ever a new bar boasts to serve real ale we get a little suspicious. Far too often you see the same claim in places where the most exciting tipple on their tap is John Smith. However, far be it from us to have our preconceptions stop us from exploring avenues new, and so we headed to the Church on a beautifully sunny Thursday evening.
Outside, it doesn’t look too different than before. The pathway has been cleared up and there is a distinctive lack of boarding and workmen. Otherwise, it just looks like same old church that hid away behind the Precinct before. That is a good thing! The church had a beautiful character to it and we were pleased to see that utilised.
When you enter to the premises, you go through the foyer where the walls are covered in modern wallpaper. Apart from what we suspect is a part of the original furniture, there’s very little left of the native characteristics of the old Church. At this point I was a little disheartened, but Tom encouraged me to venture further. Onwards we went, and what awaited us in the main area of the bar was truly magnificent.
The first thing you see is the bar and behind it, the original organ with the newly polished pipes and all (no, you don’t get to play it. We asked.). Around the bar there are sophisticated seating areas, and quite a few patrons were there enjoying themselves.
In front of the bar there are stairs taking you to the higher level where the kitchen is located as well as more refined seating areas, and some full body armours to guard them. What is truly remarkable about the place is that they have held true to the medieval-like original features of the old building, they still have the beautiful stained class windows and old wooden beams on the ceiling, and all the newer additions are gently added to the existing décor.
The terrace area is quite magnificent as well. A large area which seems to be a bit of a suntrap, catching all those last rays of sunshine on a warm summers evening.
Excitedly, we hurried to the bar to check if our worst fear were true or whether they did actually have real ale on tap. To our delight, from afar we spotted four handpulls on the bar, however a closer inspection left us a little flat. The Church offers two regulars and two guest ales on their taps, from what we could gather you can always find Cheshire Cat (Weetwood) and the Reverend (Brains) on tap, and the other two guest ales vary. This time they offered their thirsty patrons Cheshire Gold (Coach House Brewing Company) and Snowdonia (Purple Moose). Nothing too exciting, but at least it’s local.
Whereas we can’t recommend the Church for the more refined ale enthusiasts, the beer they do have is very well looked after. It might not be anything to write home about, but it’s local and it clearly has some professionalism behind how it’s handled.
Having said that, you don’t go to the Church to push the boundaries of your beer knowledge, you go there to enjoy the magnificent surroundings, the atmosphere and the beautiful workmanship that has gone to the place.
After our visit I read a few articles about the place, and have to say I was a little disappointed in the interviews I found on a local newspaper. It seems that the Church is aiming to attract what they call “a higher class” clientele rather than your average Cestrian, and whereas some establishments in larger cities than Chester might be able to pick and choose their punters, we’re not convinced it’s the right way to go about things in Chester. Us beer folk, well us two at least would definitely not describe ourselves as “higher class customers” but our pounds are worth as much as the next guys, so we would be very crestfallen to find that ours wouldn’t be welcome in here. Whereas every establishment has the right to idealise their clientele they should not alienate others.
Regardless, we would deem the Church a place to visit, not so much for the beer but for the experience. It is a beautifully restored historical building, and if nothing else, there’s a few ale houses within walking distance.