Michelle Fiddler finds fine dining and real ale at the Liverpool One Bridewell
WHEN you pay a visit to a restaurant you have a certain degree of expectation. While atmosphere, location, service and price plays its part, a good restaurant lives or dies by the quality of the food that it produces.
Pubs on the other hand aren’t quite as easy to categorise.
By their very nature they predominantly cater for the drinker – be that the social drinker, a group of friends having an impromptu gathering or a couple looking for a quiet night out.
But there are also pubs who have crossed over into the dining market – with varying degrees of success.
Thirty years ago that meant simply they served chicken or scampi in a basket but these days the market is much more diverse – from a family-friendly menu to all-you-can eat chains and good old fashioned pub grub.
I have had many disappointments eating in pubs and that is why I love it when I find a pub that produces restaurant quality food.
The Liverpool One Bridewell is one of the places that has made a seamless and successful transition into dining.
The historic Bridewell is an 1850s-built former gaol and police station which has retained many of its original features.
And the menu is as eclectic as the pub’s interior.
Food is available Tuesday-Sunday in the pub’s converted ‘cells’ downstairs while on Friday and Saturday the upstairs function room also doubles as an additional attractive restaurant area.
We visited on a Friday night and decided to ease ourselves in gently by sampling the wine and real ale selection in the bar downstairs before we were seated in a comfy white leather booth upstairs.
The Bridewell menu consists of tried and tested favourites and exciting new combinations that we were keen to try.
While we debated on the menu we shared a platter of breads with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and delicious plump olives.
To start with my partner Phil initially considered the black pudding, pan-fried with cinnamon spiced Braeburn apple and caramelised red onion (£4.75) while I mulled over the wild forest mushrooms cooked in butter, wine, cream and fresh herbs served on bruschetta (£4.95). In the end we were both swayed to try something completely different.
I chose the Cajun roasted sweet potato slices, topped with grilled goats cheese and toasted almonds ( £4.50).
The sweet potato was tasty, the cheese creamy and the almonds added a nice crunch.
Phil chose the Picante chorizo and Morcilla sausages baked in Lancaster Brewery cider, with garlic and sweet smoked paprika and served with hot bread (£5.75) and I must confess I was immediately envious.
The sausages were the right side of spicy and deliciously meaty while the sauce was perfect for soaking up the cider ‘sauce’.
We found the staff who served us in both the bar and the restaurant to be exceptionally friendly and helpful without being intrusive and were happy for us to take our time in choosing.
The menu’s main courses combine old favourites such as fish and chips, steaks, burgers, sausage and mash and traditional Scouse with a mixture of new and exciting choices.
For his main course Phil beat me to my first choice of fillet of sea bass served on a bed of pea and mint risotto with salsa verde and watercress (£11.25).
The fish was perfectly melt-in-the mouth cooked and the risotto flavoursome and filling.
I chose the Moroccan lamb tagine (£10.50) – slow cooked lamb, with a spiced sauce of tomatoes, red onion, apricots, and chick peas, served with couscous.
The dish, which was served in a traditional ceramic coned tagine, was perfectly cooked with a rich, tomato sauce that was spicy without being too overpowering and came with its own ‘mini tagine’ filled with coriander.
We had a bottle of New Zealand Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc (£21.95) from the Bridewell’s impressive wine list which includes no less than 12 white wines and 15 reds.
The dessert menu changes on a regular basis and is priced at a very reasonable £3.95 but we found ourselves too full to even try.
Instead we retired to the downstairs bar for a nightcap.
But a return visit is definitely on the cards in the near future.
Liverpool One Bridewell
1 Campbell Square, Argyle Street, 0151 709 7000, www.liverpoolonebridewell.com , @lpool1Bridewell
Children: Welcome. High chairs and baby changing available
Disabled access: via Campbell Street.
Service: Friendly and helpful
The bill: £54 for two – for two courses including a bottle of wine
Rating: **** (out of five)