“ Address: 85 Watergate Street / Chester CH1 2LF „
This pub is a personal favourite of mine, although I don't live that close to Chester anymore, when I did a few years ago it was a regular haunt of mine. I still visit occasionally, when I'm eating with friends, and my last visit here was in April for a friend's birthday. I have also visited a couple of the other branches, and was pleased to see that the dishes I usually have in Chester were slightly different there, so they are very much freshly prepared and each chef interprets the dishes slightly differently.
The Fat Cat is a chain, which has pub/restaurants in Chester, Stoke, Northampton, Nottingham, Bangor, Cardiff, Wrexham, Derby, Leicester, Llandudno, and London (Bow).
It's difficult to categorise this establishment really, because it's a pub and a restaurant in equal measures. On a week night, it's mainly people eating, but at the weekend it's quite vibrant and is a mixture of people eating and people standing in the bar area with their drinks. When Chester races are on, I would probably avoid it completely, as it gets so full you can barely move. This is because it's one of the closest pubs in walking distance from the racecourse. This makes it slightly out of the main centre of Chester, but not too far to walk if you got off a bus the other end of town.
The ambience in this pub is really nice. It's quite dimly lit which makes it cosy and intimate. It has a selection of different size tables including a couple which are in a little alcove, making them private. There is an area by the bar which has a sofa and some high stools and tables, with a bit of room in the middle for people to stand, and then the eating area is up a couple of steps. I've never booked a table here unless it's been for a big group of people, and getting a table has never been an issue. You can book online if you want to eat at a certain time, or there is a large group of you.
One thing I would suggest for anyone who needs disabled access, is to check with the establishment before visiting. Access to the pub is down some steps, which would be very difficult for anyone in a wheelchair or with mobility problems. They may have a back or side street exit but I would recommend checking this out before visiting. There are also steps inside the venue, making it a bit tricky to get around except on foot.
Usually, when eating here, I tend to take advantage of the special offer they have from Sunday through to Thursday which is two courses for £11.95. Rather than choosing from a separate menu, these are dishes from the normal menu which are marked with the offer symbol. Otherwise, the food can be a little on the expensive side for what it is. They also have a Ladies Night (which has varied over the years, it used to be Monday but is currently Thursday) which is good value as you get two courses and a cocktail for £11.95. It's worth keeping an eye on their website (http://www.fatcatcafebars.co.uk/) as they often have special offers such as 50% off on a Sunday or students get 2 for 1 in the daytime.
The menu is reasonably extensive, and I have to say I don't think I've ever had anything that has disappointed. They offer breakfasts which are served all day. The Full English isn't bad value at £6.95 but I find £3.95 for beans on toast a bit excessive. The rest of the menu is pretty varied and offers pasta dishes, meats such as lamb, steak, and fajitas, salads and starters including potato wedges with chilli beef (highly recommended), nachos and fish cakes. They have some fish dishes including fish and chips, seafood linguine, and king prawn risotto. They also have sharing platters which are very sociable for large groups of people.
As someone who has eaten here a lot, I can recommend several dishes including the marinated chicken, king prawn risotto, Fat Cat noodles and the best bangers and mash you could ask for. They have a dessert menu but I rarely have room (or cash) for pudding these days. If you can squeeze one in though, they have things like cheesecake, chocolate fudge cake and pancakes. The portions have been scaled down recently but the food is still top quality, and the choice means that there should be something for everyone, including vegetarians. They have a special lunch menu, and a specials board which broadens the choice even further.
You can typically expect to pay between £8 to £12 for a main course, which is why the offer of two courses for £11.95 is such good value.
There is a Fat Cat loyalty card which you can use each time you eat there, and by adding points to your card you can benefit from free meals or drinks. Unfortunately, I lost my card during a night out and never got round to replacing it! But from the usage I had from it, it's fairly easy to build up enough points quite quickly, to be able to benefit from a free coffee or adding side dishes to your meals with your points.
I have been to this pub many many times over the years, and have always found the food and service to be excellent. Some of the food is a little overpriced, but they often have offers on which are well worth taking advantage of. I would say the food is restaurant rather than pub standard, and the portions are generous. I have noticed recently that the portions of some of my favourite dishes have been slightly smaller than they used to, which makes it not quite as good value as it used to be. That said, it's a lovely restaurant which has never let me down, and it must be doing something right for me to continue returning there year after year.
(This review also appears on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)