Liberty Tavern – Woolton, Liverpool

“A touch of real Americana in Woolton Rimmer!”

Twinkling exterior
Twinkling exterior

Like ‘Padstein’, it would seem Woolton has fallen under the spell of a celebrity chef. I have waxed with credit regarding my audit of The Elephant Bakehouse (see here) but noticed at the time that there was another emporium lurking round the back. It turns out Liberty Tavern is also linked with brunching, LFC supporter Simon Rimmer.

Interior
Interior

Despite the tight parking, (Sainsbury’s had locked off their bit!) it was a pleasing sight as myself and The Flame ran gleefully towards the twinkling lights that greet the hungry hordes. The arching, eagle logo leaving one in no doubt as to the fayre on offer. This is pure American diner. Not that The Flame noticed! She quickly turned into a rather forlorn soul on realising that pretty much everything on offer was deep fried! She normally goes for the healthier end of a menu leaving The Cooktwit to plunder the dirtier side of things!

The menu
The menu

It’s a smart place though. Deceptively capacious, it’s full to the brim with lavish banquettes and large, rustic tables. After being greeted in the heaving bar area our maître led us through the back via a myriad of offshoot rooms. We were eventually settled on a tidy twosome table high up on a mezzanine at the back. It offered a splendid view of proceedings though being early evening we were a little off the pace compared to some of the more thriving parts of the scheme. That’s not to say it was quiet. A booming PA ensured we were kept up to speed with US diner tunes. A natty Bad Company track had me tapping though.

Our waiter Chris kept us topped up with Founders IPA and tap water before presenting us with the huge menu. It’s a bold document is this. Black on white, the cooktwit peeps had no trouble reading even the small print. Mind you it still takes some reading as there are dishes splashed all over the place coupled with a variety of fonts. Burgers and kids to the right, sharers and starts roughly to the left. As stated earlier, the deep fried element of the offer had seriously impaired The Flame’s enthusiasm. I managed to convince her to go for the lobster and steak as the main event with a couple of tacos sliders to start.

The menu
The menu

The three sliders arrived in good time. One king prawn, one fried chicken and one chilli. In fairness they were very good (£8.50). All featured a pickled bit for tang. The winner though was the chilli. Assuming this was a sample of the Texas chilli that you can have as a main, I can heartily recommend for next time.

The sliders and cheesecake
The sliders and cheesecake

Then Chris asked us to make room on our ample table. We dutifully pushed aside the ecutriments that we had slowly built up during our short time of pleasant chat. Then it arrived. A giant metal pan swallowed our top. It contained an impressive list of ingredients, to wit, 1 x one and half pound lobster, halved, with claws removed, 1 x 10oz New York strip steak, rare, 2 x metallic tins of beautifully cooked, skin on chips, I x boat of béarnaise sauce, 1 x boat of peppercorn sauce, 1 x skillet of ‘mac and cheese (with grated parmesan) and a set of stout tooling. The tooling was used to crush said claws and extricate more goodness, All in all a fine offer, though it was £25 each! (£50 in total)

The main event, lobster and steak
The main event, lobster and steak

As much as I love lobster, I rarely have it. I have to say it was a right pain to eat. The Flame looked on as I grappled with the instruments of torture to extract a couple of spoons of seafood. Have to say mixed in with the buttery béarnaise it was pretty lovely. The chips were a revelation and the steak (a bit too rare for me) was decent enough. The mac and cheese was an unexpected star. We hadn’t knowingly ordered it, but nonetheless it went down as a worthy accompaniment. Mixed in with spring onion, topped with grilled parmesan it really was good.

I completed the deal with a very acceptable baked cheesecake, complete with lemon curd dollop, coulis and kiddies whipped ice cream. Sorted.

Coffees to finish, we then parted £74 lighter with a hairy trek down the M62 to come. It was thoroughly enjoyed. The food, ambience and the staff all first rate. I’m not sure it’s a cosy twosome kinda place. Definitely recommend it for a big party of mates or for bringing the family early doors. He knows what he’s doing young Simon. All his gaffs are decent. This one fits in nicely……..if you like things deep fried……what’s not to like?

Liberty Tavern
1 Woolton Street,
Liverpool,
Merseyside L25 5NH

Phone:0151 909 4909

http://www.libertytavern.co.uk/

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The Farmers Arms – Great Eccleston (Nr Preston)

“That’s two out of two so far for The Seafoodpub Company”

Spring has started to bring some rather natty days of late. It prompted a rash offer to The Flame. “How about a meal at The Farmers Arms in Eccleston?”, “yes ok, I’ll drive while it’s only fifteen minutes away”. Result, I thought and so I booked a spot for seven o clock on a fine Saturday eve. With the clock ticking past six, whilst slipping on some of my finest threads I happened to test the route for PR3 0YE. “Ye gods it’s over an hour away, it’s near Blackpool” I shrieked. Cue the “well I’m not driving there”. A quick call of explanation confirmed that our evening feed was being held in ‘Great Eccleston’ and that our table would be held. Off we set on our trek to the Fylde heartland. A pleasant scoot to be fair. Great Eccleston sits towards the end of some curvy, pot holed tarmac in the midst of some super terrain.

Welcoming!
Welcoming!

Dusk had settled in by the time we arrived. The Farmers, gently lit, looked warm and inviting from the now freezing car park. Our very warm welcome was amplified even further as we were invited to take our delightful table for two by the roaring wood burner. The Flame was well chuffed. The room, one of several dotted about the place, including an upstairs bit, was tastefully decked out. Interesting lighting set over rustic tables, bathed in Farrow and Ball. It’s fairly standard stuff in the world of upmarket ‘gastropubs’, which is where I pitch The Farmers and its stable mate The Assheton Arms (Previously reviewed here). No doubt the remaining four offer similar surroundings?

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A half (half?! – Ed) of the ubiquitous Thwaites Wainwright was set up to quench the thirst. We surveyed the card and imaged the ‘black boarded’ specials. It’s a storming menu. Shoals of fish dominate, but that’s fine by me!

That said The Flame picked out the southern fried chicken to start (£5.95). It came with a restrained garnish (a spring onion and a radish) and a creamy dip. I can vouch that the super, spicy coat encased a tender moist hunk of beautifully cooked hen. Good start. I had the devilled crab, salmon and brown shrimp (£6.50). It came in the good old ‘kilner’ jar with a mini ‘hovis’ and some salad. The devilled tanginess combined with the pleasing texture ensured a perfect start. Top stuff.

Southern fried chicken, devilled crab,
Southern fried chicken, devilled crab,

Mains next. The Flame opting for her favourite fish pie (£12.50). A good effort. A little short of her all-time favourite as served up at The Church Green, but very good all the same. It seemed a little dry to me, but chocked full of fish, including the odd scallop. I went for a special ‘Swordfish with creamed wild garlic on a potato rosti’. If I was being churlish I could argue it was a little steep at £19.50 but it was worth it. Wouldn’t normally have swordfish but this came beautifully cooked with a touch of ‘blush’ in the middle, just as a like it. The rosti was plentiful and mopped the mild garlic cream sauce up to a tee.

Swordfish and fish pie
Swordfish and fish pie

I love meringue, so it was an easy choice for afters. The trio of Pavlovas caught the eye (£6.50). As soon as lemon curd got mentioned as well it was a done deal. Though ginger cheesecake had me intrigued. The cheeky little ‘pavs’ looked a bit sparse on the huge oval plate but they went down a treat. The Flame went safe and had the very decent cheese board (£6.50). A Lancashire bomb piece being of particular note.

Pavlovas and cheese
Pavlovas and cheese

Coffees to finish, we then parted £74 lighter with a hairy trek to the M6 to come. It was thoroughly enjoyed. The food, ambience and the staff all first rate. We’ll be back on a Sunday afternoon I reckon. Some lovely walks close by. Like the Newmoon Co pubs and the Ribble Valley Inns I reckon The Seafood Pub Company have got it about right. Great food in smart surroundings without the ‘chain’, ‘boil in a bag’ feel. Check them out.

The Farmers Arms,
Halsalls Square,
Great Eccleston,
Lancashire PR3 0YE

Phone: 01995 672 018
Email: info@greatecclestonpub.co.uk

http://seafoodpubcompany.com/farmers-arms/

 

NRB 2015 – Manchester Central

“It’s better than the normal trade fairs I go to!”

Not being in ‘the industry’ I managed to bag a ticket for the National Restaurant and Bar Show as an out and out blagger/hanger on. It seemed to work, I was let in and left free to roam around the architectural hangar of Manchester’s great central building without anyone seeming to mind. Within minutes I was slurping a half of JW Lees Manchester Pale Ale, and it was free! I could get used to this.

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The NRB was held across two days March. It was a smorgasbord, a collection, a veritable phalanx of professional outfits looking to win more business in our wonderful world of restaurants and bars. If you’ve ever wondered who it is who supplies those comedy salt cellars, or the gaudy menus, or the neat waitress uniforms, then this is the place you needed to be. It was all there.

The Beer bit
The Beer bit

As well as some of the more abstract items and paraphernalia that’s required to get a restaurant up and running there was of course plenty of other tasters. Lots of food and drink producers were on hand to let you sample the wares. As you might expect the beer section of the scheme seemed to attract a good deal of interest. Craft beers from Liverpool, the aforementioned MPA section, Greene King and a few others all had the pumps set up for testing. The Prosecco stand seemed to be doing well too!

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Purveyors of machinery were on hand to demonstrate how effectively food can be transformed from the raw ingredient to an object of pure joy. I encountered no finer example than at the INKA grill stand. A beautifully seasoned chump of rib eye left the charcoal fed lair with a charred coat and a blood red centre, the baying crowd hoovered up the result as soon as it hit the board. I was there ‘obvs’ 🙂

Inka Grill, meat & beer
Inka Grill, meat & beer

Another of the main attractions for me was the ‘chef live’ area. As the title suggests this was where Chefs cooked something ‘live’. I happened upon up and coming sensation Michael O Hare, or the @hairmetalchef. Young, director and chief of The Man behind the Curtain currently being raved about from its home above Flannels in Leeds. He quipped that he made is mark serving fine food in a rock bar. He looked the part. I reckon with a bit more glitter and make up he could have drummed for The Sweet*, with his long hair and black outfit. He cooked a pork dish with smoked toast, eggs and a few other bits and served it on a slashed canvas with beetroot juice! It looked Like a Tracy Emin art installation, but then again so does most of his stuff. The packed theatre shot up at the end to image and quaff the result. Lots of other chefs were on hand throughout the two days. I was hoping to catch our very own Beef and Pudding chap Dave Mooney but sadly missed it.

Michael O Hare, The Man Behind The Curtain
Michael O Hare, The Man Behind The Curtain

Other smaller areas had demonstrations on fish and butchery as well a large seminar/debate section. Sadly I didn’t get to hear any of these as I had snook out of work on my lunch break. I had hoped to have a good few hours at it but work commitments took over. Maybe next year!

Fish demo
Fish demo

All in all a great event. A true reminder to us hangers on about just what a great industry it is that we all enjoy. To all the restaurateurs out there, keep on cooking!

Veg and menus!
Veg and menus!

*a glam rock group from the 70’s. Google ‘Blockbuster’!

The Grill On The Alley – Manchester

“Has the old favourite still got what it takes to take on the new boys?”

Bear with me here a touch of preamble before getting to the food. I’ve worked in Manchester for two years now. The recent rapid fire expansion of the Manchester food scene is well documented. Before this explosion, living in the sticks, I was used to having my steak on a white porcelain disc (do you mean plate? – Ed) And get this you used to get the chips on the same disc!! However, The Grill On The Alley offered a sumptuous new way of doing things. Steak was delivered on a plank, the chips in their own steel net alongside. This was sophistication; this was where you came for a posh, slap up feed. It was a firm favourite for years. And so it was recently that The Flame was in town and suggested we give it another go. We settled for a six thirty rendezvous.

Interior shots
Interior shots

The old place hadn’t changed. You sweep down the long narrow room to the exposed kitchen and servery, via some neat light oak tables, some brown booths and some neatly arranged wall hung pictures. No scaffolding and neon signs here. It’s totally ‘trad’.  We settled into the menu, while William, our highly efficient, aproned waiter, enlightened us, most informatively about the wines and higher bracket steaks on offer.

The menu
The menu

The old favourites are all still there. In fact, I reckon it is the same menu. I don’t think it’s changed in years? Heavily bent on steaks, burgers and grills (as you would expect) it didn’t take long to pick out some winners. I must admit I had some difficulty understanding the difference between the basic, bog standard steaks at £14-22 plus sauces and the premium steaks on a separate menu at £30+ and the ‘wagyu’ steaks at £50+. Surely they’ll all high quality? It would be interesting to compare, but sadly a test I can ill afford and didn’t do on this occasion.

Soup, mussels, fajitas
Soup, mussels, fajitas

Starters for me curried mussels (£8) with coconut and wilted spinach draped over. Plump mussels in a tasty, light spiced broth. Good stuff. The Flame had asparagus soup (£5) which again was very good and presented as well as you can for soup! For mains I had a burger with bacon and cheese (£11 + £2). The chips were great, the burger was pink in the middle as ordered, but a little dry round the edges. It wasn’t as good as some of the ‘experts’ I’ve tried, Byron, SoLita, Gorilla and Almost Famous. The Flame had chicken fajitas (£12) which she thoroughly enjoyed.

The burger, the Black Forest trifle
The burger, the Black Forest trifle

I finished with a superb Black Forest cherry trifle (£6) with lashings of fattening cream set in the obligatory clamp top jar. I noted looking with some envy to a neighbouring table demolishing a superb looking fish and chips. Still maybe another time!

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It all came in at a fairly whopping £62, which for a quick standard burger tea with no wine is right up there. I think therein lies the problem for me. The food was good, not the best ever, the ambiance is good, but just a bit uninspiring for the fairly top end pricing. I just feel that with the myriad of alternatives in Manchester there are places doing this for better value. To name but a few you have Beef and Pudding, Fazenda, and now with Hawskmoor coming on stream I think it will be some time before I’ll be giving The Grill another go. I reckon I could have eaten for less at Mr Coopers which I feel is way above the standard here.

To be fair, the vibrant, avant garde, mismatched furnishings of the new boys is not to everyone’s liking. If you like your food and surroundings no nonsense, straight down the middle, The Grill Is for you but I think I prefer a little more choice and excitement now.

THE GRILL ON THE ALLEY
5 Ridgefield
Manchester
M2 6EG
0161 833 3465

http://blackhouse.uk.com/grill-on-the-alley