Dining Out at Covino: Chester’s Gem from Wine Bar to Culinary Destination

covino outside view

Covino has been a Chester hot spot since opening as a wine bar in 2016 before evolving into a restaurant in 2018. Owner Chris Laidler tells Absolutely how they did it.

A Conversation with Owner Chris Laidler

Since its inception as a wine bar in 2016, Covino has captivated Chester’s locals and visitors alike, evolving into a beloved restaurant in 2018. Owner Chris Laidler shares the journey with Absolutely and the passion that made it all possible.

chris laidler covino owner

The Inspiration that Brought Covino to Life

What was the original inspiration behind opening Covino in 2016? Chris Laidler reflects on his motivation, centring more on passion than paychecks. With a degree in winemaking and extensive experience in London’s wine distribution to high-end venues, his European escapades sparked the idea of creating a similar wine haven in his hometown.

The Early Days as a Wine Bar and Shop

You were a wine bar and shop then – what exactly did you offer? Covino started with a curated selection of over 100 wines, paired thoughtfully with high-quality cheeses and charcuterie, earning its reputation as a destination for those seeking expertly sourced wines.

What food did you offer? The food choice was concise yet impactful. Cheeses from La Fromagerie in London and various charcuterie sliced to order ensured a perfect accompaniment to the wine selection.

inside covino

Choosing Chester as a Home Base

Why was Chester the perfect spot for you to launch Covino? Chris’s decision to return home coincided with Chester’s need for an establishment like Covino. Its success filled a niche the city didn’t know it was missing.

How soon did you realise you were onto something? Despite initial scepticism about its location, Covino quickly became a local hub, with some patrons investing in Chris’s latest restaurant venture, Climat.

Expansion and Evolution into a Restaurant

When you moved to Northgate Street in 2018, were you looking for a new location for long? The proliferation of vacant properties in Chester then made site selection a process of patient discernment, culminating in the perfect spot previously occupied by a beloved chocolate shop.

When you opened the new site, how different was Covino as a business? The transformation into a restaurant allowed for a more nuanced pairing of food and wine. An expanded wine list, a private dining room, and a terrace enhanced the Covino experience.

Culinary Philosophy and Menu Creation

How do you approach the menus? Chef George Prole’s commitment to seasonal and local produce defines Covino’s menu offerings, with the supper club menus uniquely crafted around select wines.

Why did you go down the small plates approach? While initially divisive, the small plates concept has since become a celebrated format in Chester, embraced for the variety it allows in a single dining experience.

Sourcing Ethically and Locally

Where do you tend to source your produce from? Covino prides itself on its local suppliers for kitchen produce, while its wine selection is a testament to the varied specialisation of its 10 regular importers.

Could you pick out 2-3 dishes on the current menu that you really love right now and why? Chris highlights Covino’s approach to simple yet impactful dishes, like the queen butter beans with high-quality olive oil and lemon, cured chalk stream trout with rhubarb and ponzu, and a unique take on beef tartare.

Looking Ahead: Spring Menus and Special Events

What are the plans for the spring menu? With spring approaching, Covino anticipates incorporating wild garlic and seasonal produce from local farms. It eagerly awaits a new lamb selection from Jane Oglesby’s Cheshire farm.

What special events do you also host? Covino continues celebrating its wine roots with wine-buying fairs and coveted quarterly supper clubs, which provide a special platform for George to showcase exquisite wine-centred menus.

Chester as a Culinary Powerhouse

What do you make of Chester as a foodie hotspot? Chris, a Chester native, recognises the city’s remarkable growth as a gastronomic destination, offering some of the finest pizza, tapas, and comfort cuisine in the North.

Discover Covino’s full story and offerings at covino.co.uk.

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