Discovering new places to eat, drink and relax in Chester is always fun, especially when you can explore new taste sensations and soak up the atmosphere of a different culture.
Luckily for everyone wandering Watergate Street Row South, they can do both at Pars Kahve, a kitchen and bazaar that offers the authentic taste of Turkey and exotic shopping.
Adem and Holly are the husband-and-wife team behind the business venture. They, along with a team that includes Holly’s mum, Jo, have made it their mission to bring a sense of Turkish community to the very heart of Chester city centre.
Originally from Istanbul, Adem has settled in Chester with his wife Holly, who is from just across the border, in Wrexham. He arrived in summer 2019 with plans to set up in business in another city.
“Our original plan was to go to Manchester because my wife thought it would be better to go into a bigger city,” says Adem.
“We came to Chester on a sunny August day in 2019 and I really loved it! We came to visit Holly’s aunty, and I said instead of Manchester we should definitely live here. It’s great!
“There are lots of independents here – there are so many little shops and cafes – I love it here.”
The couple found a house in the city and Adem worked in a small restaurant before they set out on their own journey and a business of their own.
“We want to offer people more than just eating and drinking. A bit of fun shopping as well,” says Adem.
“While you’re drinking your coffee you can look at something , you can get lost in the bazaar – it’s quite magical.”
Pars Kahve is very much a family business: Holly’s mum, Jo, is the venture’s regular cake baker and Holly’s cousin created the distinctive signage that features a leopard in a fez. Unsurprisingly, the name Pars Kahve is Turkish: Pars meaning Leopard and Kahve a place of community – the Turkish equivalent to our local pub.
Before you even step inside, your eyes will be drawn to the sumptuous, brightly-coloured cushions and the low copper-coloured tables that line the row opposite the main entrance. It’s an exotic but friendly place with staff that go the extra mile to make you feel relaxed and welcome.
Pars Kahve is a feast for the senses and is authentically Turkish, giving you a full Turkish experience: from the music to the drink and the food. One thing you won’t find on the menu is chips – or, for that matter, a greasy kebab.
“It makes me laugh every time when people ask for chips,” says Adem. “We never offer chips here and we will never offer chips here. We have potato salad made the Turkish way. We don’t offer kebabs either.”
What they do offer is hummus and halloumi alongside dishes that include courgette fritters with a minted yoghurt dip, vine leaves filled with rice and herbs and marinated olives. And while there are a few meat dishes, almost everything on the menu is vegetarian and there are vegan and gluten-free options, too.
“We make the magic happen in the kitchen,” says Adem. “We are going to have a new menu soon, after our first year anniversary party. “
So even if you’ve been before, go again, because the menu is going to change at the start of September.
“There is always something new. We never offer the same thing,” adds Adem. “As hosts we explain what is coming to the table. Our front of house team eats everything on the menu so they know how the food tastes, what it looks like. So they can explain the food to the customers,” he adds.
“A lot of our customers say: oh, we were in Turkey two weeks ago and this took us back to exactly where we were. The music is Turkish, the ambience is Turkish, the food is authentic Turkish food. They love it.”
Adem loves that Pars Kahve is often discovered by accident, by people walking up on the rows.
“We love walk-ins. People don’t have to book but if there are more than four people we recommend that they do because we only have 10 tables,” he adds.
Everything in the bazaar comes from Turkey, too. The cushion covers made from recycled kilim rugs are best-sellers and there are brightly-coloured stools and strands of Turkish jewellery. There are also bags of Turkish Delight, large chunks of green, orange and rose-coloured sugary treats with dates, hazelnuts and chopped pistachios.
Outside, the brightly-coloured and oversized cushions draw the eye as well as being a magnet for the customers. The floor seats are a new and very welcome addition to Pars Kahve and were funded in part by money from the Chester BID alfresco grant.
“Getting the BID alfesco grant was really amazing,” says Adem. “We wanted to have outdoor seating from the beginning. It was a bit hard with our budget, but when the alfresco grant came in, we added some more money and we made it happen.
“It will stay like this and we’ll keep the floor seating. Everyone else has tables and chairs in Chester and we want to be the place where we can offer people something totally different.”
The covered terrace is the perfect spot to hid from the sun – or rain – and is great for people watching. It’s part and parcel of somewhere different that encourages people to enjoy a new experience.
“It’s a home-from-home for customers to enjoy and have a relaxing time,” says Adem.
“Our team is also really friendly. They don’t see a customer, they see a friend – it’s like meeting a family member.”
Adem is more than happy he and Holly decided to set up in Chester and often reflects on his good luck at being here.
“In lockdown, every single day I walked by the river, in the meadows and in the city and every day I said: I’m so lucky to live in this city. How did I deserve this? It’s amazing to live here.”
As Pars Kahve is dog-friendly and family-orientated, both four-legged friends and children are welcome. Adem says the sense of family in the UK reminds him of Turkey – he had noticed that people make strong family connections in both the UK and in Turkey, which surprises and delights him.
He also appreciates the people who live and work here.
“Our business neighbours are amazing. We offer neighbour discounts and sometimes bags of Turkish Delight to take to their colleagues,” he adds.
Where they can, Pars Kahve loves to collaborate. They host a yoga feast night where people can enjoy an hour of yoga followed by a vegan mezze dinner.
“We like offering different things here – that’s the whole point. It’s a community space. You come to meet people and enjoy your time together,” says Adem.
- Pars Kahve is at 5-7 Watergate St South, Chester CH1 2LE
- Follow them on Facebook and Instagram @parskahve