Restaurant review: Hypha, Chester

PUBLISHED: 12:08 03 September 2020

Amuse Bouche created using food fermentation techniques
Photo: Lottie Williams

Amuse Bouche created using food fermentation techniques Photo: Lottie Williams

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Hypha, the award-winning, Michelin Guide-listed vegan restaurant in Chester, has taken lockdown as an opportunity to evolve their offering and now present a seven-course tasting menu to enjoy

Hypha's Minestrone Disguised as Ramen
Photo: Lottie WilliamsHypha's Minestrone Disguised as Ramen Photo: Lottie Williams

If you are vegan, vegetarian or even just a bit curious to learn more about plant-based eating, then can I recommend Hypha as a place to start. High-end dining always sets the bar at a level where you know that ingredients can be made to sing, giving us the impetus to be more demanding of food eaten out or cooked at home.

Hypha was established in February 2019 and was Chester’s first plant-based dining establishment. The baby of Nicholas Friar, who wanted to focus diners’ attention on the power of quality produce, executed with a sense of theatre, while working to develop a sustainable food system, even to the point of not only achieving zero waste in his own kitchen, but taking in waste product from other producers, such as fruit pulp from a local juicing business. Within months it was added to the pages of the Michelin Guide, which is no mean feat, and has since won OpenTable’s 2020 Diners’ Choice Award.

Open just 12 months when lockdown commenced, Nicholas decided to use the enforced break to review his offering and develop his vision for the evolution of his restaurant. He has spent his time developing new menus – moving away from the small plates approach and devising an a la carte and tasting menu – and searching out more hyper-local growers with whom to work.

So, what does a vegan tasting menu look like? We went along to try it out.

Mycelium Al Ajillo, Hypha Chester
Photo: BKLMycelium Al Ajillo, Hypha Chester Photo: BKL

The experience starts with three tiny amuse bouche, served on wooden spoons and reflecting Nicholas’s recent focus on introducing his own fermentation space to the restaurant, which he has named Koji. The three morsels each delivered a powerful hit of flavour and were a strong hint of things to come.

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Unusually, the second course was bread – usually very much a side-dish. This was Hypha’s own sourdough, baked using a started Nicholas started himself during lockdown, and which will only get better with age. The bread came with miso ‘butter’, actually made using a potato starch whipped and whipped to create a soft, butter-like texture absolutely packed with flavour – I almost licked it off the plate it was so good.

Our next course was Mycelium Al Ajillo, or mushroom with pom pom moss (!) and garlic oil. The tastes and textures in this dish were a delight. From the almost meaty texture and weight of the oyster mushroom to the light crunch of the crispy fried moss (and who knew you could eat this?!) it was a discovery I am very willing to repeat.

My favourite experience of the evening came next, however: Minestrone Disguised as Ramen. Taking the five-ingredient concept of ramen and applying it to northern European ingredients, Nicholas presented us with fermented tomatoes (probably last eaten in Chester by the Romans, who loved a fermented foodstuff), orzo pasta and heritage carrots in an intense ‘eternal broth’ drizzled with a superb virgin olive oil. Oh my – how much flavour can one scoop of consommé-like broth deliver! Beaautiful.

Our savoury dishes were completed with “Autumn” 2020, Beetroot On Canvas – an ode to beetroot, and very delicious is was too.

Delicate petit fours, one made with ‘red waste’ fruit pulp, one with mushroom gelée and one with cucumber, were followed by a rather yummy plum frangipane tart, which was devoured with gusto.

Hypha is a destination dining option where science and storytelling, passion and precision, taste and texture form the bedrock of what will be an inspiring experience.

Visit hypha.restaurant to book your table.

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