Inaugurated in 2019, the new building Hotel Indigo Chester, celebrates the city’s long history. Artwork on the walls connects a contemporary hotel to Chester’s long history that dates back almost two millennia to Roman occupation. The hotel also focuses on the city’s heritage as a racing venue.
For the Romans, Chester was a fortress on the northwest fringe of the known world. The Deva site, as it was then known, suggests there may have been plans to make the city the capital of a Britain that would include Scotland and Ireland.
Many remains of this great Roman city, including an amphitheater, are within walking distance of this 75-room boutique hotel in Chester city center.
Arriving early, we grab a spot in the Pepper Street multi-storey car park and walk to the hotel asking reception to store our luggage. Upon check-out, the hotel validated our parking ticket, which gave us a huge discount on the 24-hour parking rate.
Returning from a walk through the black and white half-timbered houses of Chester, we find that our suitcase has already been delivered to our room.
On the fourth floor, our large room, racecourse green and cream, has a balcony overlooking the red sandstone of the Saint-Jean church. A silver stirrup as a knocker on the bedroom door sets a horsey tone.
With a stable-style door leading into the walk-in closet and leather saddle straps on the headboard, there’s a distinct equestrian theme to the decor colors and textures. Horse artwork and winner’s rosettes connect to Chester Racecourse established in 1539, making it the world’s oldest racecourse still in use. Yet in medieval times these acres were under water when Chester was a major seaport.
A king-size Hypnos bed, looking out to a 46-inch TV with built-in Chromecast, dominates the room. An oatmeal chaise lounge awaits at the foot of the bed. Alongside a desk, surmounted by a mirror, multitasking also as a dressing table.
There is an extremely well designed large shower where you can adjust the temperature before stepping out in the rain. Hang your towel on the towel rack in the shower and it stays dry.
Shower design isn’t rocket science, but few hotels pull it off. Even Zenology’s toiletries are the right height.
The Forge Restaurant is run by Mike Robinson who multi-tasks as a chef, restaurateur, hunter-gatherer, conservationist and food writer.
There’s an air of gourmet theater in an open kitchen where chefs cook wild and locally-raised meats, all aged on site, over wood and charcoal.
Customers choose steaks from refrigerated cabinets. A venison scotch egg appetizer epitomizes Robinson’s farm-to-fork philosophy. The venison, in a crispy breadcrumb shell, comes from his Bathurst estate while the runny orange yolk comes from free-range hens from local farmers.
A five-minute walk takes guests to a wall that encircles the heart of the city with a two-mile historic walk. Initially, earthen walls were built by the Romans to keep the barbarian hordes at bay, later they were reinforced with red sandstone for defenses against the Vikings.
For centuries Chester was the frontier town of the English Wild West, constantly threatened by raids across the border. Again, during the English Civil War, Chester’s men stood behind the walls to resist attacks from Roundhead. Fortunately, in the 18th century, when many English towns and cities were tearing down their defences, Chester decided to cover its walls with cobblestones for a fashionable promenade.
After touring the unique two floors of shops that make up The Rows, climb the 216 steps to the top of Chester Cathedral Tower to see one city, two countries and five counties. For families, Chester offers entertainment at the zoo, boat trips on the River Dee and tons of Roman history. Take a tour, departing from the tourist office, with a Roman soldier to experience the raw realities of life away from his warm Italian home. After dark, tours tell of the spooky tails of Chester’s ghosts and ghouls.
Other little touches
Low lighting in the bathroom guides guests safely into the room once the lights are turned off. Soft drinks and beer in the fridge are free. They stand next to a bottle of fresh milk.
Nicky, elegant in a little black dress, rolls a cocktail cart to every table in The Forge. Some spirits are distilled from the produce of Robinson’s farm, although champagne comes from further afield.
On the last Sunday afternoon of the month there is live soft-rock music at the bar.
Our balcony room starts at £194. Breakfast costs £20 per person.
The best piece
The interior design mixes old and new. Dark wood flooring represents the traditional, as do the retro telephones in the bedrooms. Even if the lighting, satin brass and matte black table lamps, is resolutely modern. Furnishing fabrics, sometimes equine, add warm touches. Contemporary art brings a sense of Chester’s traditions.
There are hippodrome scenes, depictions of the cathedral’s stained glass windows, as well as Chester’s famous black and white architecture.
The final verdict
Close to the city centre, the luxurious Hotel Indigo Chester is well placed to explore over two millennia of the city’s tumultuous history. Although only a little over a year old, The Forge is already recognized as one of the best and most eco-friendly restaurants in town.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Hotel Indigo Chester.