David Adamson visits the former Everyman restaurant, which is now like a seasoned foodie
I made a few rounds of Hope Street before entering the pencil factory.
I don’t burn my last lunch before the evening meal or to look again at the space-age monolith that is Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.
I just walked past it. And with its recessed and unassuming front door to the basement bistro, this is easy to do.
There really should be a neon sign on the side of the building inviting diners down. But there is clearly no need. The word is gone.
The presence of so many strong personalities shouldn’t work, but actually creates something wonderful, like ABBA or an Irish funeral
Once the Everyman Bistro, the kind of necessary but uninspired offering that theaters once ran like an annual panto, it has spent the last decade learning its lines and now, off the book, is like a seasoned thesp.
My Thursday visit coincided with one of the bistro’s regular jazz and chess nights, and the simple sax and double bass backing band mirrored what you’d find on the menu; a few ingredients at full volume.
I sat at a table – one of those raised stools with a high table parallel to the bar. In other places, this might be the worst seat in the house, close to a visible canal, but with a mix of casual dining and post-work buzzing glasses of wine, it’s an ideal vantage point for the inquisitive reporter.
I started with a Brooklyn Gin and tonic (£6.60 including tonic) to whet my appetite while I perused the menu. It’s a short list of dishes, and Brooklyn Gin is up there with the best in my book, so this really didn’t take long.
After a month of abundant, heavy party food (with a birthday on a good scale), I was positively longing for something lighter and preferably in the form of fish. Whitebait with saffron aioli and parsley salt. They must have seen me a mile away.
The whitebait (£9) was lightly battered rather than plaster cast as can often be the case, and the parsley salt gave them all they needed to be enjoyed on their own. But why not reach for the saffron aioli right away? For something once so precious, they didn’t skimp on the saffron, and it gave the warming, garlicky aioli a sunflower tinge and an even brighter flavor. Perfect with a cold glass of white wine.
Ah yes, wine. Here at s Towers, we firmly believe that restaurants should be able to enjoy wine by the carafe, a 500ml option that allows for more than one glass, but not so much that you’ll be found four days later shouting at seagulls and confused tourists. sleet.
It might just be me, but I feel like I don’t see Albariño on wine lists that often. The big boys of the New World (sun-bleached and too dry) and the remote elders of the French regions (borrow your apartment back from the glass) still populate the menu. Albariño always surprises me in one way or another, which is why I like to order it whenever I get the chance. This one, Castelo Do Mar (£23.50), was subtly sweet, engaging and dangerously pleasant. I heard the squawking of distant seagulls.
Next up was sea bass with fennel and olive breadcrumbs, citrus medley, roasted artichoke and salsa verde (£23). Although perhaps not the most attractive color palette – moss green, brown and a beige-and-white forest floor – this was a Royal Rumble of astringent flavors that battled beautifully on the plate. The presence of so many strong personalities shouldn’t work, but actually creates something wonderful, like ABBA or an Irish funeral.
They weren’t shy about the fennel, nor the salsa verde, giving the aniseed a lift to the white fish, which was addictively astringent. It hurt me so little, but I kept coming back (the judge said to the lady). While it might not be to everyone’s taste, if it’s yours, you’ll love it.
Dessert could have gone so many ways – cherry cake? cheese board? Sticky toffee pudding m’lud? Again, the previous month’s festive indulgence left me craving something smaller and simpler. It’s then home made vanilla ice cream (£2). It stuck to the spoon just as it should, and was the ideal closing statement to a concise menu with a clear manifesto.
Hope Street has a lot to see. There are great pit stops in the area of cultural institutions, such as the Philharmonic Dining Rooms. Many of the buildings make themselves known, but don’t forget to look down. A bistro with an atmospheric smoke and a menu to come back from is just below the stairs. Don’t miss it.
The Pen Factory, 13 Hope St, Liverpool L1 9BQ
Whitebait 8.5, Seabass 8.5, ice cream 8.5
The busy staff takes care of the room well, creating a relaxed atmosphere
Even without jazz in the air, the environment is relaxed and unhurried