Alistair Houghton enjoys a visit to the Lemon Tree Bistro in Crosby
YOU DON’T get that many Lemon Trees on the banks of the Mersey, which to my mind is a real pity. That’s true of the fruit tree – which is perhaps why this week’s restaurant has a plastic lemon tree in one corner.
But there’s also a shortage of restaurants like the Lemon Tree Bistro itself.
It’s a substance-over-style place that has won lots of recommendations, and curious visitors from afar, because it’s got a reputation for good food.
And thankfully – it was a cold night and I’d left the house without my scarf – that reputation seems deserved.
I’d phoned on Friday night to see if they had any space left on Saturday night. The friendly person at the other end of the phone took a couple of minutes before deciding that yes, they could squeeze us in.
This bistro is tucked away in an unpretentious backstreet in Crosby, without even a menu in the window. Actually, I realised on Saturday night’s visit, I’d walked past it before without even a second glance.
It’s an unfussy open room with few frills, plastic foliage excepted, but with a warm welcome. Our servers were chatty and happy to talk through the food and take our orders. And I’m sure that wasn’t just because they needed our table back by 7.30pm.
Some restaurants give you an a la carte menu and then a separate “special offer” platter. The Lemon Tree rather nicely combines the two, as our friendly server pointed out.
The courses marked with a dot, she said, are two courses for £12.50. So I joined the dots and stayed within the offer, while M decided to splash out beyond it.
I opened with a deliciously rich creamy leek and bacon risotto. The leek added just a bit of a sharp bite to the risotto, in which each fluffy grain of rice held its own, while the dish was studded with pink pieces of bacon that melted in the mouth.
I’d have been delighted with it as a main course, and could have eaten twice as much– but then it wouldn’t have been a starter, would it? M, meanwhile, had opted for the walnut-crusted goats’ cheese. She praised the way the crunch of the walnuts balanced the richness of the cheese, while the beetroot and thyme salad on top added a sweetness that cut through the creaminess.