Exciting times at Joseph Benjamin we announce plans to refurbish the premises next door as an informal tapas and wine bar called Porta.

So far we’re in the grey area between idea and reality. We’ve got a plan, a strong idea of the kind of place we want to create and as usual our family (extremely ‘handy’ builder-electrician-plumber-dad and kitchen-designer-mum!) and brilliant staff are helping us make it happen.

Our aim at Porta is to keep things really simple. A relaxed, totally informal environment inspired by the tiniest independent cafés, bars and tapas bars of Barcelona, Paris and London.

Cured meats and cheeses form the backbone of a menu that is a collection of plates to be enjoyed singularly with a glass of wine or combined to create something more substantial. Call it tapas, call it bar snacks, call it dinner – no rules, just tasty food to accompany good beer, wine and conversation.

Seating is informal – lots of bar stools and casual tables. No need to book, just come along and grab a space.

Porta is located under Chester’s Northgate Bridge on the city walls – the site of the original Roman fortress and its north gate ‘Porta Decumana’.

This unit is where we originally opened our little restaurant in 2006 before we moved in to larger premises next door and as such is a bit of an emotional return to the beginning. This is true in ethos as much as location.

While Joseph Benjamin restaurant goes from strength to strength and continues to absorb our blood, sweat and tears, Porta is probably where you’ll find us recovering!

Simply put, it’s the kind of place we want to relax in when we’re not working – unpretentious and comfortable with good music, beer, wine and food.

The food itself is broadly European with a lean toward the Iberian – tapas, without being a Spanish theme restaurant. Classics like jamon, croquetas and padron peppers sit alongside dishes sourced or inspired by other European cuisines (including our own!).

The bar offering is simple too. Six wines – 2 white, 2 red, a rosé and a sparkling – will change regularly. We’ve used all of our wine-tasting/buying skills to find great value and interesting wines – these are likely to be less mainstream, made from more unusual and un-heard-of grape varieties, but offer exceptional quality and value if you know where to look. Portugal, Spain and Italy are our starting points…

A cold ‘half’ of quality lager is not to be knocked either (Estrella Damm in this case) and a small selection of bottled beers – local and European, with the odd American craft beer thrown in for good measure gives plenty of options.

Simple as that. All we need to do now is do it!

We’ll be updating this site as we go along through to opening in (hopefully) September….or October 2012.

You can also keep up to date by follow me on twitter @joseph_benjamin

Thanks. Ben & Joe

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