All my adult life I’ve been obsessed with going to Liverpool. No idea why, exactly. I never liked the Beatles, I have fuck-all interest in football and I have zero links with the area. Maybe it’s because I’m a huge fan of Northern cities, and it felt odd to have never been to Liverpool, despite England being SO TINY. I imagined moody streets, stately architecture, gangs of writers and artists doing cool, creative things, people saying ‘our kid’, insert cliché here. Earlier this year I finally got to go. It was bloody brilliant. It had rainswept atmosphere in spades (it was March). There were hordes of tourists trudging the Beatles trail, and we laughed at a creepy statue of the Fab Four on the banks of the Mersey. We ate amazing food for a fraction of London prices. We noticed just how much Liverpudlians love to party and get dressed up; places were heaving with people having a proper good time. We stayed in a hilariously glitzy hotel that once must have been a bank and was full of people glammed up to the nines getting stuck into cocktails and roast dinners all day long. Everyone we encountered appeared to be prepossessed with dry, Northern wit and a generous spirit. We were cheered and inspired by Bold Street and Lark Lane and their interesting, quirky indie shops and cafés – such an antidote to the general UGH that is the British high street. Liverpool, you were worth the wait!
Look at the creepy Fab Four hanging out with a midget!
Here is a little summary of where to go and get nice things to eat, because in my opinion that is a huge part of what makes a city good.
East Avenue Bakehouse, Bold Street
If you require a nice brunch, East Avenue Bakehouse has your back. They do avo-eggs-bacon combos on sourdough toast, with nice cakes and great coffee. A great spot to make yourself feel human again after a few too many the night before.
Baltic Market, Stanhope Street
This is Liverpool’s first street food market, so you’ll find anything from Korean and LA street food to Neapolitan pizza and mezze. It’s housed in the atmospheric Cain’s brewery buildings, so expect lofty industrial spaces and craft coffee. We didn’t actually eat here, as we were still stuffed from brunch, but had a wander around and it looked great. There are lots of art studios in the adjoining warehouse spaces too, so plenty of nosing around to be done.
Greendays Cafe, Lark Lane
Get over to Lark Lane, a gorgeous street about 15 mins out of the centre which is lined with vintage shops and independent businesses. When you’re done browsing, climb the stairs beyond the small green doorway to the left of the blue gift shop (see picture below) on Little Parkfield Road and enter a cosy, relaxed café space that feels like someone’s front room circa 1970s, complete with knick-knacks, guitars propped up in the corner and a simple veggie menu. The food is tasty and unfussy, and the staff made us chuckle with their blunt humour. I accidentally gatecrashed a private meeting upstairs attended by a load of Goths, stumbling about trying to find the toilet (which was very eccentrically decorated). After traipsing up and down Lark Lane, a hefty slab of vegan chocolate cake and a pot of tea restored the lifeblood back to our limbs. It ain’t fancy, and that’s just what we wanted.
Can you spot the tiny green doorway?
Oktopus, Hardman Street
I would eat here thrice weekly if I could; the dinner we had here was an absolute BANGER. I did think, ‘oh no, not another small plates place’ (I have a morbid fear of having to politely divide small food up to share) but this didn’t matter, we got through the meal without fighting over who got the last forkful. Every dish we ordered was full of umami-busting savoury gorgeousness, all made with fresh seasonal produce. I always judge a place on the quality of its bread, and we carb-loaded on thick, craggy hunks of sourdough with a savoury butter. It was fit for the gods. Staff are super friendly and the atmosphere is convivial and laid back. Oktopus describe their style as ‘clean, simple seasonal cooking…using sustainable local ingredients used at the peak of their growing time.’ I’d clumsily describe it as a mix of Modern British and Mediterranean, with lots of twists. It’s WAY cheaper than the equivalent you’d find in London. I can’t remember exactly what everything we ate was…and I can’t check because the Oktopus menus change daily, but hey! Just take my word for it – it’s fabulous.
A delicious terrine with chutney:
Deep fried crispy seafood…were they mussels? No idea, they were delicious:
A fresh, summery plate of labneh cheese with herbs, peas and MAGIC:
I think this was sashimi with pea shoots and fresh cheese:
A type of cheesy polenta stack – the only slightly duff note in the meal, a bit stodgy and bland:
A delicious bowl of heaven involving ice cream, mango, rhubarb and more magic:
Maray, Bold Street
A tiny, bolthole of a restaurant on groovy Bold Street where you literally rub elbows with the person next to you, yet have to shout to your companion because it’s so noisy – no matter, the atmosphere is really fun! The food is AMAZING. Maray serves small plates inspired by the Middle East and everything we inhaled was super good. Everyone in the restaurant on a Saturday night is in serious party mode, sparkly jumpers and heels ahoy. Here’s what we had to eat – it was all so very moreish. Again, my memory fails me regarding what we actually had, there were dips, flatbreads, things from the chargrill, pickles and great pudding, and hopefully the photos give you a rough idea…Plus there are tiny shelves on the wall where you can put your wine glass, which maybe we weren’t meant to do.
It’s cosy in here:
Middle eastern breads with amazing dips and pickles:
Place your wine up on a private little shelf!
This might have been buttermilk fried chicken…
Some very delicious fried white fish on aioli:
Literally no idea, but we didn’t leave anything behind:
Insanely good chips with aioli and something else delicious:
Salted chocolate tart, mmm HELLO:
I realise there isn’t really a market for inaccurate restaurant reviews done from hazy memory – but hey! It’s not like I’m writing this for money ;o) If anyone wants to pay me to do this kind of thing, feel free and my memory will be MUCH BETTER.
More photos from around Liverpool…
The Liver Building:
Museum of Liverpool, on the waterfront:
Liverpool has a sizeable Chinatown:
Lark Lane and its independent shops and cafés are really worth a visit:
City centre Brutalism – loved this building:
Royal Albert Dock – you’ll find the Tate Gallery here:
We stumbled upon this multicoloured bubble structure tucked away on Parr Street – reminded me of Berlin:
Famous political bookshop: News from Nowhere, on Bold Street
Loved the mural of palm leaves on this coffee shop:
Best name ever for an optician:
FABULOUS article. You’ve unearthed the best of Liverpool by careful research and street-combing. I’ll be using it the next time I’m there. The photos are also terrific. Magnificent!
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Thanks Paul, you would love it there! There’s also an enormous Gothic cathedral too, very spooky and atmospheric…