Mark Waddington savours a light lunch at Matou
WHEN I returned to Liverpool around six years ago, the Pier Head was a wasteland. Just visible over the top of the hoardings and through the wire fences marked ‘keep out’ was the sludgy, muddy mire that ran right up to the grey-brown river.
The old Shanghai Palace restaurant, in the process of being torn down, cast a sorry shadow over the grime, its neon long since having lost its glow, its windows jaggedly broken or missing completely.
It was hard, at the time, to ever imagine this depressing scene looking any different. The Liver Building and the river looked destined to be separated by this dull no man’s land for good.
But no. To look at the Pier Head is to see one of Liverpool’s best open spaces, a big expanse of turf and stone, that (when it’s not being skated by the biting winds), is a great place to spend a summer’s day.
Unfortunately, earlier this week when I made my way down there for my lunch appointment, the weather was icy cold and the wind was relentless. But even if it was fish and chip weather, I was heading for food a little more exotic.
Matou, which sits on the top floor of the ferry terminal building, is well disguised from ground level (no garish illuminated Chinese symbols to be found here).
At first you don’t realise just how high above the ground the restaurant is. My advice (even to the relatively spritely, let alone my elder dining companion) has to be to take the lift as there are at least four flights of stairs to go at.
But once you finally get there and you see the views on both sides, the trek is well worth it.
Out of one set of windows is the roof terrace. To sit there on a hot summer’s day and see the Mersey sparkling blue is like being in Mediterranean climes (albeit with the Liver Building in front of you).
But on the other side of the floorspace, huge sloping windows give an uninterrupted view out over the Mersey.
So, it was on the grey side the day we visited, but the food is far from drab.
We opted for the set menu, and while there is not a massive amount of choice, neither is there a massive amount of cash required.