Tag Archives: liverpool

Wreckfish Bistro – A Masterclass – Liverpool

Wreckfish…..(great name for a bistro) is the fourth in a natty little run of openings by Gary Usher, the infamous, crowdfunding, twitter speak chef. Having raptured through Sticky, Burnt and Hispi (reviewed previously). it was time to get ‘wrecked’ in Liverpool. This time to luxuriate in an all day masterclass with the maestro himself. The winnings for stumping up a few bob to help this wonderful Seel Street edifice spring to life.

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Its set in what seems to be quite a hip neighbourhood, smart urban boutiques and bars abound. That said Wreckfish itself leaps out. Its smart two-tone grey exterior with understated branding cuts a serious dash.

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Table and kitchen ready, preparing, torching and crowning a pigeon

I’m early, but i’m made more than welcome by FOH Pete. He sees me right with a brew and a danish in the well-appointed bar area. The street level floor is flooded with natural light and has already been converted into a multi chef workspace. Long tables are set with folded aprons, towels, squirty bottles and sharp knives. The flash, stainless kitchen is bristling at the far end. Gradually the other fourteen contestants slip in. We’re all a bit nervous until Gazza steps in with the itinerary.

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Preparing the vodka cream, gossamer thin, golden pasta, lentils and pork at the ready

The demos are fronted by Gary. We all listen and laugh at the right places. He’s good, he’s got the obligatory rock star tats, he’s charismatic, he articulates with his hands as well as explain the tricks with his confident Cheshire brogue…..And he can cook……but not only that, so can his team that have stepped in to help today. Rich, Luke and Ryan are on hand to correct him and sell their improvements and help our little pairings pull off the steps. It’s important we do a decent job as most of the gear will be sold in the restaurant later, as well as becoming our afternoon lunch! No pressure then!

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Rich shows us how to pipe ricotta, pasta making and serve with parmesan and squash puree

We start by making pasta. Given I often make my own I’m thinking this is going to be straightforward. But no, I hadn’t bargained on the passion and attention to detail that they all exude. It’s only egg yolks used here, no salt….Oh and don’t forget to add the saffron reduction for that spectacular golden hue. Its kneaded forever before being cling filmed for posterity. Suitably rested the whole team support Gazza in rolling out the longest piece of gossamer thin, golden plastic. We ‘squodge’ the ricotta to one side along its length and then communally fold and tease into tortellini ready for our starter later.

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Salmon time! blow torching, set with pickled cucumber and our vodka cream

Next it’s the salmon. This is our next course. A huge slab is presented to our teams of two. Again, easy this, just carve up into sections. But no, first up slice along the base 3 mm above the skin to cut out the bloodline! Slice in two and take out more of the fat. Cure in sugar and salt for fifteen minutes, ready for cooking in the water bath and being finally blowtorched for presentation and flavour. I was nearly right!

Vodka cream next. A chefs palate test. Who gets the vodka, sugar, salt content right? They all do I reckon.

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Paul ties up ‘our’ pork belly. Served with lentils and salsa verde

We then stuff a glorious slab of well hung pork belly with a mix of bread, prunes and sautéed onion. Its rolled then we all learn to do the butchers knot and tie up this wondrous dish. It’s all in the double twist of the hand and the pulley system. We learn this is normally cooked for over ten hours after an initial blast to get the crackling going. One or two get the chance to prepare some pigeons.

We then take turns in the kitchen finishing off the dishes and getting to work the pass and shouting “service”. I totally loved it. I was buzzing.

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Action shots!

I was on boiling pasta duty with partner for the day Paul, whilst others got to dribble beurre noisette, blowtorch salmon, roast pigeons and plate up pork. We then had the enviable task of eating it all washed down with plenty of white wine. We even slurped a champagne toast during an impromptu Q&A.

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Rich’s Madeleines – sublime

Sadly, after a sumptuous four course meal, it all came to an end, though not before a flourish with a trio of Rich’s glorious madeleines. Then it was hand shakes all round and we all ventured off. A magical day and further confirmation that the latest venture Wreckfish is up there with the best.

Armed with Gary’s infectious drive and his uncanny knack of building empowered teams, each with the freedom to develop the brand, maintaining consistency and quality along the way, it seems inconceivable that Wreckfish is the last. Surely its just the start? I reckon this story will run and run. Cant wait to get back to Wreckfish……and another masterclass.

Wreckfish Bistro
60 Seel Street
Liverpool
L1 4BE
0151 7071960
http://www.wreckfish.co

Lunya – Catalan Deli & Restaurant – Manchester

“Utterly fabulous Catalan Tapas and Deli opened on Manchester’s Deansgate……..Quality”

Having been to Barcelona a couple of times recently, eating small plates of food has taken on a new relish. Even The Flame has come round a bit to the idea. So it was with a jaunty air that we trained back into Manchester mid-afternoon to conduct a bit of pre-Christmas reconnaissance followed by a slap up binge at the newly formed Lunya. Its parent has been around in Liverpool to much acclaim for a small while already.

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The place has four entrances, two from the main drag on Deansgate, two from the back from the rather grand Barton Arcade. Two entrances take you into the Deli section. Here you can buy the incredible produce yourself and take it home. The other two take you into the bar area, where you can have a drink and casually sample the fayre on high stools and poseur tables. A staircase takes you up to the more formal sit down arrangement of a standard restaurant.

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Upper deck, bar area

The upper floors offer fine views over Deansgate or equally fine views of the upper decks of the arcade. It was the latter section that the Flame and I eventually settled. Being sixish it was pretty much full systems go in the bar area whereas our seating upstairs was only just starting up.

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We started our review of the extensive red and yellow menu. A bottle of Moritz, a Barcelona brew, was used to quench the initial thirst. Our table was a little isolated and given the air con setting a little cool. A nearby representative adjusted things so that we could remove our coats! Once settled we made our choice of three tapas each.

Croquetas (£6.50) croquettes of the day. This time made with crab and leek. Five, hot balls of crunchy goodness with a crabbie inside. Delish. One of my choices.

Costillas Ibericás (£7.75) slow roasted ribs from the giant Ibericó pigs, falling off the bone, in a special Catalan BBQ sauce with tamarind, orange and fennel seed. Pic of the dishes. Arguably the finest ribs I’ve ever eaten. The sauce with the fennel was simply ‘historic’.

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Iberico ribs, croquettes, hotpot

Catalan Hotpot (£6.95) a signature dish blending Catalunya with the North West of England, made with chorizo and morcilla. Reminded me of Nigel Haworths lamb version, but not quite as good. That’s no slight though, still thoroughly enjoyable. A bit more Morcilla would have helped for me.

Chickens strips wrapped in broken potato crisps (£6.95). Inspired by a good friend, Albert Adriá. Served with a stunning pimentón infused allioli. The flame loves chicken so this was hers. Decent enough, the allioli was stunning. We used it for dipping throughout the meal, superb.

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Sticky chicken, grilled aubergine, chickpeas

Escalavida (£5.95) chargrilled peppers, aubergines, onions, courgettes on toasted sourdough with a romesco sauce. Probably our least favourite dish. No particular reason, just not as good as the rest. Wouldn’t have this one again.

Garbanzos (£6.55) middle eastern spice infused chick peas with butternut squash, almonds and apricots. Picked by the flame, she loves chick peas. To be fair these were great too. Decent bowl full, these went a long way. Cumin was in there along with the nutty crunch. Very good veggie dish.

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Cheese and cheesecake

As I hope you have come to expect, I ventured to the end with a sweet dessert. White chocolate cheesecake with a quince jelly topping (£5.95). Absolutely superb. Love white chocolate, love cheesecake. Perfect for me. The flame went for a two cheese platter (£9.45). A bit steep for the money. Came on a plank with a fig chutney and quince.

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The deli section

I have to say all the dishes were delivered hot and fresh. Bill came to £66 for the two of us. Sam our new, spanish, waitress was bubbly, efficient and helpful. I’ll definitely be back. There are too many wonderful dishes on the menu that have to be tried yet. I reckon a casual slide in the bar next. Pull up a pew, a glass of Rioja, those ribs again and then start hitting the fish dishes. It looks like I’ll be back many times yet. Highly recommended. Oh and they do paella… forgot about that, so yes got to go back.

Lunya Manchester
Barton Arcade,
Deansgate,
Manchester,
M3 2BB
Tel: 0161 413 3317
http://www.lunya.co.uk

The Old Blind School – Liverpool

“It’s was only A bit of brunch but it was still a good feed”

It’s 9.30am Sunday morning, the flame and I have awoken from a slumber caused by a Saturday night Kylie Minogue gig! What to do for breakfast? I rather hopefully suggested a date at ‘The Old Blind School’ in Liverpool. Surprisingly, the flame considered this a good idea despite Liverpool being a forty minute train journey! We were on! Just after eleven we sauntered in to the latest and grandest addition to the NewMoon Company portfolio. We are big fans of Manchester’s ‘Beef and Pudding’ and so ever since the Twitter hype started ‘TOBS’ has been high on the list.

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It cuts a fine dash on Hardman Street; it’s a hop, skip and a jump from The Philharmonic. It’s a fine old grade two listed building. It’s actually difficult to believe that this is a restaurant. It is huge. Once in, we settled stage right on the ground floor. We were a little surprised at the lack of eating height tables, but we had little to fear. Dave Mooney (one of the owners) was on hand to supply a quick tour of the place, proudly revealing a further couple of floors. Upwards, via a magnificent staircase a further three rooms provide a veritable platoon of quality settings.

Some fittings
Some fittings

The walls are scattered with artworks reflecting the ‘Scouse’ heritage. ‘Lennon’ prints and nods to the original blind school usage make it more like an art gallery than a high end ‘gastro pub’. Not that that’s a bad thing. Greys, blues and yellows combine with wood, leather and daring chandeliers. It makes for a truly sumptuous experience.

More fittings
More fittings

As it was Sunday morning it was a heavily truncated menu. Its weekend brunch time. One of my favourite meals. It’s a cracking little booklet. Some slight variations to the normal suspects as well.

The brunch menu
The brunch menu

The Flame went for the 3 egg omelette or ‘Arnold Bennet’ as its called. It comes filled with naturally smoked haddock, cheddar cheese and double cream (£7.50). It was a fair old plate full, piping hot and chock full of flavour. The Flame really enjoyed it, but felt it needed a bit of something else, maybe some tomatoes for a change of texture and taste, but we are splitting hairs here. I went for the eggs benedict (£5.95) which were terrific; the ham was off the bone stuff, no pressed, boiled ham here. The hollandaise adding a luscious edge to the perfectly poached eggs. I washed this down with some French toast, served with strawberries and raspberries (£5.95) and lashings of hot coffee. The toast, super sticky and sweet. Good stuff.

French toast, haddock omelette, eggs benedict
French toast, haddock omelette, eggs benedict

It was only a quick impromptu visit and the ‘TOBS’ team were psyching themselves up for the father’s Day onslaught (the place was booked up twice over before five!). We’ll definitely be back for a stab at the super looking main menu which as with all the NewMoonCo outfits use quality raw materials.

The main menu
The main menu

And judging by this little visit, it would seem there’s someone who knows how to cook behind that newly transformed galley? A well marshalled fleet of smiling service staff, (Emily and Beefy’s Ashley were on hand this time) should ensure continued progress and success. Liverpool seems to be following hard on the heels of Manchester’s foodie explosion. TOBS is here ready and waiting! Bring it on!

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The Old Blind School
24 Hardman Street
Liverpool
L1 9AX
0151 709 8002

http://www.oldblindschool.co.uk

Albina – Crosby, Liverpool

“I’ve never had a Sunday roast to the strains of The Divine Comedy before!”

As Alex, our muscular front of house scouser says “we have an eclectic jukebox here, we run competitions to guess the tune”. I didn’t do too bad. Anyone remember ‘It’s my Life’ by Talk Talk? Anyway it made for some entertaining banter between The Flame, Granddaughter Jess and myself as we enjoyed a rather splendid luncheon at Albina in Crosby. Crosby is a smidgen north of Liverpool on the old dock road.

Gormleys nudes, the outside
Gormleys nudes, the outside

Albina itself nestles amidst a fairly mundane set of shopping emporiums just off a main trunk through Crosby. It’s a smart enough frontage, rustically emblazoned with its previous moniker ‘Albion….’. Sadly the poor chaps were forced to change the name after some bizarre disapproval by a London based outfit.

It’s a leisurely stroll through some leafy bits from the beach which sports the now famous ‘Gormleys Another Place’. These are a series of metallic, naked gentlemen which stand alone in an attempt to hold up the raging seas. As this was a cold, windy May afternoon they needed to make a good fist of it.

The reduced menu, some organic improvements
The reduced menu, some organic improvements

As with many of my gastronomic sojourns they germinate from a mere quip on Twitter. This time it was a ‘sarky’ prompt that dozens of love struck couples were swarming hand in hand towards Albina for another slap up feed. This was a wet Tuesday night! It would seem that despite the accolades (an AA rosette has been bagged already) Albina would heartily welcome a bit more trade. I hope it gets it because it’s good, very good.

We stepped through the open door on a Sunday at 12.30. The young relative was heading south at 4.30 hence the early timing. We were the only ones in. It was pretty bleak at first but the aforementioned Marcus soon had us at ease. It’s a growing space. A space that is developing organically. Alex is slowly adding it’s personality by scouring eBay. It’s coming together. There’s some nice simple touches. Simple furniture, simple walls, simple paint scheme. Despite the lack of punters, it was easy to imagine that full it could be a very special place.

Chicken faggot, mackerel, coffee filler images
Chicken faggot, mackerel, coffee filler images

We picked from the basic Sunday menu. Two courses for £15 or three for £18. The youngster picked all my choices. Jess started with the braised chicken faggot on a sage and onion cake. It came with the finest mushroom and bacon cream sauce I’ve ever tasted. Yes, I did get to taste it. Part of the deal of picking my choice was that we swap half way! I had a legacy from the previous night special, mackerel on a warm beetroot and potato salad. Both dishes presented beautifully and simply on a plain dish. Both dishes sublime.

For mains the youngster went for plain fish and chips. I say plain, for it was a fine hunk of soft white hake encased in a soft, seasoned batter. My fork full was superb. Young Jess didn’t quite share the enthusiasm she had for the fish with the skin on wedges. But they were great for me. The Flame went for fish pie with Mrs Kirkhams smoked cheese topping. Bit of an expert on fish pie. Thumbs were mainly up. Liked the fact it was all white fish, but missed the egg that The Church Green put in! I went for the roast beef. As with all the dishes, simply presented, hot and beautifully cooked. It was a good roast with a boat of real meat juices to slaver over if things got too dry. Top stuff.

Simple British Sunday fayre
Simple British Sunday fayre

We all went for puddings. I went old school, Jam roly poly with custard. Proper suet job this, and blimey what a portion! The Flame went for sticky toffee pudding complete with all the dates and butterscotch sauce. Jess had what turned out to be the star of the show. Chef Dave’s homemade salted caramel ice cream. Three truly sumptuous boules of creamy goodness. Thankfully she was full at this point so I was able to sweep to the rescue and scoop up a fairly decent sample.

Ice cream, toffee pud, roly poly
Ice cream, toffee pud, roly poly

The only disappointment for me was the lack of choice. The full menu (available at all other times barring Sunday) really is a treat. Historical British recipes using fresh, local, british produce. It’s a striking offer.

The standard menu.
The standard menu.

Despite being an hours run out, we will be back to go through a bit more of the card. If you really appreciate simple British food cooked and presented well, it is hard to beat. Make a day of it. Stroll through the Gormleys on the beach then up the road to Albina. Learn some Cerys Matthews tunes though, theres bound to be one on and you will get asked to name that tune!

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Albina Crosby
55 Coronation Road,
Crosby,
L23 5RE
0151 932 9460
http://www.albina.co.uk

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/

Moose Coffee – Manchester

“An American and Canadian diner in an office block in Manchester! It works”

I fancied a treat, normally The Cook Twit is scheduled for a light, healthy snack. Trooping round the back streets of Manchester on a cold, winters lunch time I happened upon relative newcomer Moose Coffee. It’s an American style diner that started life in Liverpool of all places and by all accounts to much acclaim. I decided to give it a quick go. Twice!

Outside looking in
Outside looking in

It doesn’t exactly scream “come in” at you from the outside. The overriding colour is brown. Set into the grey concrete of an office block you could miss it if you glanced the wrong way at the crucial moment.  Once inside the ‘Brown and Moosey’ theme continues. Beige, brown with a hint of mint echoing the rather clever ‘coffee bean with antlers’  branding on the menus, cups and operatives attire.

Brown, functional interior
Brown, functional interior

If a little dull it’s really all rather calming if I’m honest. Its lifted a little by the witty, ‘moosey’ appendages which adorn the walls at various points. I settled easily and comfortably at my central table for one.

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Then it’s the menu. And blimey what a menu. Extensive and filled with a myriad of stuff you would struggle to get elsewhere. Whilst breakfast dominates the left hand side of the card, it is thankfully served pretty much all day. And given the variety and quality of combos on offer there is something for everyone including veggies.

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I went for the ‘New Jersey Moose’. Two free range poached eggs on a potato hash, griddled with garlic, onion and mustard, then set on a toasted bagel and smothered in their hollandaise sauce. It arrived in good time and presented simply on a white plate. If I’m allowed to quibble it was a little under seasoned for me (Oooh get you, who do think you are Gregg Wallace – Ed) but, as with most establishments of this ilk, small, table top, containers are provided which allow the client to enhance the sodium content accordingly (do you mean they had a salt-cellar? – Ed). That said it was delish. Washed down with a rather fine black coffee the overall impression was that I’d had a rather scrumptious lunchette.

Clever branding, eggs, Heuvos Rancheros
Clever branding, eggs, Heuvos Rancheros

And then blow me down and smash me across the face with a wet haddock I deliberately went again a couple of days later! I had agonised whether to have the ‘Manolito’ the first time. The classic ‘Heuvos Rancheros’, two warm tortillas, smothered with re-fried beans, two over easy eggs, salsa, grated cheddar and sour cream. I had mine topped with griddled chicken for an extra ten bob. It might look a bit of a mess in the pictures but my lord it was good. I’m sure there was the odd jalapeno in there for extra piquancy. I washed it down with a snickers milkshake for good measure. What a treat!

Snickers milkshake, Moose coffee to go, Homemade cakes for after
Snickers milkshake, Moose coffee to go, Homemade cakes for after

Settling the bills sobered things up slightly, £9.10 for the eggs and coffee, £10.50 for the Heuvos Rancheros and milkshake. They are not figures I can weigh in with everyday. But there is no doubt I’ll be back to try more of the ‘brunchy’ goodies on offer. Theres at least a dozen more things to go at.

Moose appendages
Moose appendages

Moose Coffee give it a try, (if you can get in) it’s one to watch.

Moose Coffee
20 York Street
Manchester
M2 3BB

There are three in Liverpool as well

http://www.moosecoffee.co.uk

The Elephant – Woolton, Liverpool

“Another quality food and drink emporium from the Simon Rimmer stable”

It was a rather subdued young relative that The Flame and I picked up from her newly acquired abode on the outskirts of Liverpool. Another session of student life beckons. However, the poor girl was minus her usual ‘bonhomie’ on account of her having her wheels half inched within hours of arrival by the local hub cap collection service. We figured an honest feed would win over the day. A quick plug into the ‘smartish’ phone revealed that Simon Rimmer’s new gaff ‘The Elephant’ was a mere five miles away. We pointed the steed towards leafy Woolton.

Always had a good meal at a Simon Rimmer place. He likes his fresh local produce, and that is what’s promised at The Elephant. Earle in Hale is good and his veggie haunt ‘Greens’ in Didsbury (reviewed here) is always good for a decent feed, so I reckoned we were in for a treat.

Very smart from the outside
Very smart from the outside

We slowly entered the sunlit village. The Elephant homed into view. And what a splendid sight. Dappled in bright sunshine punctuated with copious amounts of brightly coloured foliage. It really did look the part.  A smart outdoor area was being heavily utilised, we doubted we would get in.

Nice outdoor bit, nice branding!
Nice outdoor bit, nice branding!

However, the three of us were quickly ‘ooshed’ to a bright wooden booth complete with scatter cushions. Water based restoratives were quickly provided by the bright, smartly uniformed young chaps and lassies. All was well. As it was a Sunday the menu was a simple affair reflecting the British tradition of a hearty Sunday roast.

The logo. Simple menu
The logo. Simple menu

First impressions of the newly opened unit were entirely favourable. Farrow and Ball and the branding lads have done well here. The duck egg blue paintwork looked smart and contemporary. Any doubts that you were in The Elephant are quickly dashed as there are elephants everywhere, be it pictures or sculptures. There is a bit of a logo fest going on. Even the cutlery tins are branded! Still, it all looks rather agreeable. You could bring your mum here no trouble.

Elephants are everywhere
Elephants are everywhere

And what about the grub? Well as I said its simple Sunday fayre, but by hokey its good. The Flame kicked off with the healthy option. roasted salmon on a feta salad (£9.95). She concluded all was well, particularly liking the feta which gave the whole ensemble an acidic lift.

The roast, salmon salad, fish and chips
The roast, salmon salad, fish and chips

 

The aforementioned, hurting young relative was suitably perked to crash through a sensational Fish, Chip and minted mushy pea fest (£10.95). I’m a great lover of the traditional chippy tea and this was as good as any I’ve seen. I think you’ll agree from the image. Our ordinarily difficult to please student was well chuffed. I managed a quick forkful and concur that quality is the ‘mot juste’.

I continued my unofficial quest for the best Sunday Roast beef. At £9.95 this was well up there with the best. The beef was rare, tender and very tasty, just as I like it. All the veg wonderfully cooked and all piping hot.  The only issue for me was that I wasnt able to indulge in the vast array of craft beers that were on offer. Such was the choice that a beautifully presented (and branded) booklet was on hand to help. A previous nights excessive binge on the ‘hop’ had led The Flame to suggest I should refrain on this quaint afternoon occasion.

a bit more fish & roast, brownie and cheesecake
a bit more fish & roast, brownie and cheesecake

For research purposes the baked cheesecake with raspberry sauce (£4.95) was tested. And it was proper. No moussey mess here, proper baked job, lovely.  The vexed student commiserated with a chocolatey brownie and caramel ice cream (£4.95), again voted in with a considerable majority. No re-election needed here.

Branded tins, craft ale, branded tab slate
Branded tins, craft ale, branded tab slate

All in all a cracking afternoon. The bill came to £46.95 for the three of us and not a bad course. The service was superb, swarmed as we were with young, pleasant enthusiastic waiters. We reckon we’ve found another favourite and if you fancy something really different tagged round the back is ‘The Liberty Tavern‘ an American diner full of lobster and pancakes. We’ll be trying that one as well soon.

The Elephant, 1 Woolton St, Woolton, L25 5NH

0151 909 3909

http://www.theelephantwoolton.co.uk

 

Bacaro – Liverpool

“The more sophisticated member of the Salt House family. Lovely”

Occasionally the Cooktwit ventures west. A Manchester United supporter will sometimes allow a jaunty surjourn into the lofty, port side metrop of Liverpool. In fairness the sea frontage is a thing of beauty. In this instance the cooktwit. with a nod to his arty side was nipping into the Tate to view a couple of blocky, coloured pics by a long departed French cove called Piet Mondrian. Apparently he got quite famous for painting coloured squares and had some digs in London in the early 1900’s specifically for the cause. Naturally the jaunt had to include some decent grub and a beer.

The understated outside. Smart inside.
The understated outside. Smart inside.

The selected establishment this time was Italian Tapas experts Bacaro. Bacaro is the sister of its noisier neighbour Salthouse Tapas that I reviewed only a few weeks back. I was impressed that time and had heard that this was even better. It took some finding. I actually fired google maps up to discover we were across the road. It doesn’t exactly shout out from the street, subtlety being the word here. But hey once inside things start to look up. A dark, classical decor harks to a more sophisticated atmosphere than its sister. Quieter, higher quality fittings. You could turn up with your tinsel and tiara here or your jeans and fit in quite nicely.

the lunch menu, smart interior
the lunch menu, smart interior

The flame and I settled on a table for two in the centre. A schooner of ‘Meantime’ London Pale Ale had the cook twit settled in a thrice. Things were looking good. And then we got the menus. No readers meant the grey on brown menu was hard to decipher. The lunch menu much easier to digest, £12.50 for three courses. As we were on a mission we quickly decided this was for us. A choice of twelve delicious sounding dishes. As with most tapas restaurants the dishes simply rock up when chef gets them ready. This can lead to a pile up at certain points.

The amazing a la carte menu
The amazing a la carte menu

Things started at a pleasing rate, charcuterie platter and some lovely rosemary faccacia bread with oil. We each munched along with a joyous smile. Then entering side right, the pan fried sea bass with cannellini beans, feta and tomato. We decided to split in half. The beans were a bit cold but the sea bass was wonderful, tight crisp skin over succulent white flesh, very nice. For me The Flame wasted one of her dishes by having the house salad, it was pleasant enough, but salad! My chicken and aubergine pizzette turned up. Nicely mounted on its own board complete with its own chrome pizza cutter, nice touch. It tasted good as well. Again we split two ways.

pizzette, sliders, sea bass, pork belly
pizzette, sliders, sea bass, pork belly

While I wasn’t looking in popped another of my choices. Chicken Caesar sliders. These were a revelation. As we got two, it was an easy share. Basically it was a mini schnitzel on a brioche bun with salad and mayo. Top dish. The plates were flying in by this time. Belly pork with butternut squash sage and chilli was next. What can I say? soft fatty, luscious pork with a shield of crispy crackling down one side. I managed to cut, roughly in half. Some might say my half was biggest but who’s counting? Set on a very tasty mash of butternut squash, it was another cracking little dish.

charcuterie, foccacia, coffee, cheesecake
charcuterie, foccacia, coffee, cheesecake

For research purpose I had to try the cheesecake which had apple and caramel popcorn on it. To be fair this was pretty standard ‘moussey’ stuff and at £4.95 I could have missed it. We then finished with a decent coffee. All in all a very pleasant luncheon. It set us back £44, not bad with the drinks and the extras. I would have to say this was better than Salt House Tapas for me. A bit more grown up, nicer atmosphere. I would definitely come again and try something from the sensational looking full menu. The Flame has it on her radar for when she comes shopping with her mates. So there we have it another one to try in Liverpool. It’s looking good.

more smart interior shots
more smart interior shots

Bacaro

47 Castle St,

Central,

Liverpool L2 9UB

0151 665 0047

http://www.salthousebacaro.co.uk

Salthouse Tapas – Liverpool

Yet another northern torrential downpour threatened to dampen the hungry spirit as The Cooktwit and The Flame headed East on one of Northern Rails, 1980’s, heritage trolley carts, such is the downtrodden quality of 21st century transport when heading to the Liverbased metrop of Liverpool. We were heading to highly recommended gastrogaff ‘Salthouse Tapas’. The place is sited close to the mega retail emporium ‘Liverpool One’, a sort of posh, newer version of Manchester’s Arndale. In truth The Flame is not a great fan of the small plate, informal dining experience known as ‘tapas’. So given that this was my choice, it was with some slight trepidation that we ventured along the rain soaked streets. To be fair a late burst of evening sun had lightened the mood. We even skipped the last few yards!

The curved frontage
The curved frontage

From the outside things are promising. A lofty, Victorian structure, complete with curved frontage and contemporary, bold font signage. A roped off alfresco area sits out front. The afternoon’s inclemency meant that only a few random smokers were braving it when we arrived. We stepped up into the fray to be confronted by a riotous din. The bar hits first, a table of eight drinkers were seemingly well into the final throws of stupor as they shrieked their conversations. It wasn’t the best start. To be fair within seconds a lean, bearded chap had ushered us to our table for two. The noise seemed to continue and reverberate throughout the set. We quickly realised this is how it is. Thankfully having asked the flame for her hand in marriage thirty years ago, I knew I wouldn’t be required to go down on one knee and whisper sweet nothing’s tonight. I spared a thought for any hapless young buck who did have it in mind though. I doubt his future betrothed would have heard a word he was saying! Still mustn’t quibble, Anna (our initial waitress) had us settled and a Mango Margerita and a Campari were soon winging across. Flipping lovely they were too.

The interior
The interior

As is the norm nowadays a quick survey of the decor confirmed that we were indeed in a trendy place. The obligatory old school chairs were strewn around the place. The place settings doubling up as your menu (a la Beef and Pudding, Solita, to name but a few). I must say I quite like this idea. Keeps everything simple and as a bonus I could read it without me specs. We were downstairs in the main room which was filling up nicely. A mezzanine above seemed full as well. The atmosphere was building.

The menu
The menu

 

Quirky loo sign
Quirky loo sign

We ordered a bottle of Malbec (£16.95) and a shared platter of charcuterie to start (Monroyo Serrano ham, loin, chorizo, salchichon, bead and olive oil £9.95). We had developed a bit of a habit of ordering this in Sicily recently and this brought it back. If I’m honest this was better. Delivered on a table tennis bat it looked and tasted wonderful.

Wine, charcuterie, mango Margerita
Wine, charcuterie, mango Margerita

The reason(s) the flame has reservations on tapas is several fold 1) she doesn’t want me dipping in, sharing her food across the table (as if – Ed) and 2) she doesn’t like having food on her own as tapas doesn’t always arrive together as in a normal three course dinner. We ordered two dishes each after the ham platter. Bang on cue, within a few minutes the two dishes ordered by the flame turned up. In fairness though they were both very good. First up The roast hake fillet with Serrano ham, fennel and sherry jus (£6.50). The picture doesn’t do it justice, a soap bar sized slab of pure white beautifully cooked fish bathed in a sweet sauce with fennel julienne layered on top. I managed a morsel and it was delightful. The flame loved it and declared dish of the day. The second dish was the hot smoked salmon with a Bloody Mary salad (£5.50). Not my cup of tea to be honest but bang on for the flame. Despite not being ‘hot’ as such she declared it a winner.

Salmon, hake and lamb
Salmon, hake and lamb

Then came my first choice ‘Roasted lamb rump with broad beans, olives and red peppers’ (£7.50). This was superb. The lamb perhaps a shade more well done than I would have preferred, but nonetheless the combination of colours, the sweet, slightly crisp lamb (on the outside) and the olive oil dressing made for a stunning dish. It wouldn’t have looked out of place at Mr Coopers. My second dish was the ‘Galician Octopus with sautéed new potatoes, lemon and paprika’ (£5.50). Lots of smokey, paprika flavours. I would have liked a few tentacles on there to give it a bit more drama and look a bit more like octopus, but a lovely dish. I did notice quite a lot of ‘Malaga Fried Fish with lemon and aioli’ coming out. Looked like you got a decent portion and looked great on its plank.

Octopus, chicken chorizo sliders
Octopus, chicken chorizo sliders

After a few minutes rest and deliberation we decided to plumb for another quick savoury dish. We noticed the special of ‘chicken and chorizo sliders’ (£5.50) were flying out as well. As there was two per portion we had one each. Miniature brioche bun with mini chicken schnitzel, chorizo sausage and cheese skewered together in a neat little package. Hot, well cooked and very tasty. A lovely final tapas. As ever I ventured into the desert section and wolfed down a ‘Roasted Rhubarb Pavlova with Chantilly cream and passion fruit syrup’ (£4.95). Oh boy, I like my ‘meringuey’ deserts and so this hit the spot no problem, sweet, sticky and tangy. A lovely end. A decent brew mopped up and left us to pay the £75 all in.

Pavlova and coffee. A lovely end
Pavlova and coffee. A lovely end

I love El Rincon in Manchester. You can’t beat the Spanish atmosphere, but I’d have to say the presentation and quality of food at the Salthouse was better, and for similar money. There’s still plenty on the menu to try so I reckon we’ll be back.

A romantic stroll afterwards
A romantic stroll afterwards

We went for a romantic evening stroll down the Liverpool front afterwards. What better way to help get the digestive juices flowing? We had a great night. We will defiantly be giving Liverpool another go. I wonder where to next? Salt House Charcuterie and Tapas 1 Hanover Street Liverpool 0151 706 0092 http://www.salthousetapas.co.uk

Camp and Furnace – Liverpool

It’s term time again. For our sins, The flame and I are blessed with two, southern, grand daughters. Fresh up from the big smoke we decide to treat them and take them out for a big feed. Their city of learning is Liverpool. I decided there’s only one place to take the learned couplet – Camp and Furnace. 
‘Camp’ in this instance refers to camping and outdoor pursuits, ‘furnace’ refers to the errr…… Furnace that’s set at one end of the big room inside. 
This is a feeding hole like no other. Set in an old industrial unit in the ‘Baltic Triangle’, a good fifteen minute walk from the main metrop, this is a place that has to be seen to be believed.
The surroundings could be described as urban chic. First time round you could be forgiven for turning back, turning your map upside down or binning your google maps. Branding must be uncool round here. An old, rusty, stencilled oil drum, the only marker to suggest you have hit the spot. If you venture further into the lair the swish of an electric portal sweeps you into the spatial grounds within.

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The industrial scheme continues inside. The bar area hits first, the bar itself to the left is built of marine ply and lit with trendy metal pendants. To the right a glorious, roaring contemporary fire. Beyond the bar area you enter the grand arena, or brick warehouse whichever you prefer! It’s here where the magic begins. To the right down in the depths of a huge vault, a raging inferno fuelled by cages of logs light up the ‘furnace’, its four orange eyes providing a glowing backdrop as punters pose for snaps. Ancient, rusted ‘craneage’ and girders hide in the rafters beneath a vintage glazed roof. Lines of up cycled, trestle tables and benches, each thoughtfully lit with wine bottle candles create a truly unique and welcoming atmosphere. Our little crew have a table for four to ourselves. There are numerous parties going on, each occupying their own sub sections of the plank like dining suites.

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As it was a Sunday, the Camp sets it’s stall on providing a top notch Sunday Roast (between 1pm and 6pm). The main course is either 28-day dry-aged Lancashire Sirloin (£12.50), whole roast corn-fed chickens (£11.50 from the heart of rural Britanny) or heritage Herdwick lamb (£11.50). These all come served on wooden platters with locally sourced, seasonal vegetables. A mushroom Wellington is added for the veggies. 
It is advised to order the main event before you turn up. We went for the beef and the lamb. The chicken comes whole and looked superb, but is recommended for three. I think a hungry twosome could have down quaffed it at a push! 
There is the option for a starter as well as a desert. We decided to plough straight on for the mains but the starters sounded good, potato soup (£4) poached salmon salad (£6) or confit of lamb shoulder (£6). 
The excitement racked up as the team of raffish young waiters and waitresses marched into the arena with board after board of meat, bowls of perfect roast spuds and more bowls of buttery veg. The rather wonderful, Irish lilted, Emma kept our table fed and watered and oversaw the delivery of our splendid feed. Four thick slabs of pink sirloin and four of (less pink) lamb kept the protein intake in check, great yorkshires, great spuds, roasted carrots, buttery cabbage and crispy kale provided the carbs and greens. Considering the quantities being put out the quality was very good. A minor quibble for the flame was that the veg and meat by the time it had made its way down the room was less than hot, but for me this was remedied by the thumping great jug of hot gravy that was gifted out like steins at a beer festival.

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After the feast we opted for the two deserts. Essex girl No 1 Jess, went for the peanut butter cheesecake (£6) while Essex girl No 2 Nancy went with the flame and I for the four portion sticky toffee pudding (£12). The Cooktwit, for research purposes, was allowed a brief morsel of the cheesecake. It was very ‘peanutbuttery’ and a bit grainy in texture, but set on a great biscuit base. The toffee pudding came set in its own 12″, low slung bowl with a mug of piping hot, toffee sauce and a bowl of vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t ‘Cartmel’ sticky toffee pudding by any means, but once the hot jus had soaked in and the ice cream melted alongside it was heavenly. A great, comforting, hearty finish to a very enjoyable trough out.

As a minor aside, it is worth mentioning that it was uncomfortably cold at times. We had an industrial blast heater to keep us up to temp but as more came in we had to share and it did start to get a little uncomfortable. In winter this is not a place to take your granny for a cosy chomp! I would advise wrapping up a bit. But that is part of the fun. You can’t have an outdoor theme in industrial England and expect to lounge around in your ‘Y’ fronts!
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In summary this is a truly magical place to come with the family and friends. The Camp has some great events throughout the year. The beer festival in June looks like a date! We will definitely be back on another day to try out the normal menu. All indications suggest that will be a triumph as well. Get yourself down here, it is truly a special and has to be sampled to be believed.

Camp and Furnace
67 Greenland Street
Liverpool L1 0BY
enquiries@campandfurnace.com
(0151) 708 2890