Chimes is a restaurant in the Victoria/Pimlico area of central London that specialises in English food and cider. It has the perfect atmosphere for a night out - busy enough for a buzz without being heaving, classy enough to attract good quality custom but not so up-market that it's overrun with 'beautiful people'.
The main business of Chimes is to serve excellent food. This can be eaten either in the bar or in the restaurant section at the back.
The mainstay of the menu are the most fabulous gourmet pies. Fillings include such delights as pheasant, orange and walnut, or gammon with slices of apple. All are very chunky; there is no over-reliance on sauce, just big chunks of meat and vegetables. Each pie comes in its own little pottery bowl, with a pastry lid. Getting the pastry off the top is an art in itself, and usually results in pastry crumbs being scattered everywhere.
There is also a set menu each day. This would typically include smoked mackerel paté followed by chicken in a wine and tarragon sauce with a fruity-creamy dessert.
Prices are reasonable, especially for central London. Pies typically cost (at the time of writing) between £6 and £10. The set meal is available as two courses for £8 or three for £12.00
Some of you may think that cider is just the beverage of choice for 14-year-olds hanging out in the park; this is not so. Chimes serves a variety of ciders from both cask and bottle which are unlike commercially produced ciders such as Strongbow or Woodpecker that you may be used to.
The first major difference you'll notice is the strength. The ciders available in Chimes start at about 5% ABV and go up to 11% ABV. That's the same strength of many wines. The next major difference you'll notice is the taste. The ciders offered in the restaurant vary from the medium 'Stowford Press' which is most like commonly available supermarket/pub cider, to 'Biddenden's Extra Dry' which evaporates off your tongue and never reaches you stomach, to 'Old Rosie' which is more like a scrumpy and leaves you needing to pick the bits of apple out of your teeth afterwards.
With prices starting from £5 for a two-pint jug this represents an economical and enjoyable way to spend an evening. Particularly if you're part of a large social crowd because it certainly represents a cheap round.
Chimes can also mix a range of cider cocktails. The most popular of these is the Haymaker. To make this you put two wine glasses (250ml) of ginger wine into a two pint jug and top with the driest cider you can find (in Chimes that is Biddenden's).
Chimes does not serve any beer or spirits, but you will find a wide selection of wine, made from grapes and other, traditional English fruits such as elderberries or damsons. There are also soft drinks such as elderflower cordial or dandelion and burdock.
Warning! - Effects of Cider
Cider is a deceptive drink. It goes to your legs rather than your head. This is exacerbated when you are drinking it out of wine glasses filled from a jug. It is easy to lose track of just how much you have consumed. You will only find out when you get up, either to leave or to go to the toilets and discover that you are unable to walk. Cider is also renowned for producing some rather awful hangovers, but fortunately there are a number of trusted hangover cures.