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Restaurant review: Southern comfort

Angie Sammons - and chums past - mind their old school manners at Casa del Cocodrilo

Written by . Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: Southern comfort

Writing about restaurants isn't something you foresee while standing in the school dinner queue. Obviously.

In the not-so-golden-age that pre-dated turkey dinosaurs, food was fuel and, literally, you lumped it. It was all you could do to keep down your scoop of packet mash and ladled tin spaghetti, let alone entertain thoughts of regurgitating it, figuratively speaking, for the presumed edification of others.

Tracy (or was it Tracey?) ordered
jerk chicken because the name reminded
her of all the
husbands she'd
gone through

In the massive, babbling canteen, I vividly recall sitting across from two new classmates in that first term. Their perfect peter-pan-collar uniforms hung from flat figures kept skinny from being good at netball and legging it on and off buses all day. Faces full of expectancy and crinkled chips.

A while ago, that ingenious website, the one that demands £7.50 a year to keep tabs on familiar names you once knew as people, threw several of our school back together in the massive babbling canteen that is the Everyman Bistro. Faces full of expectancy and crinkled lips.

“I review restaurants,” I told Tracey and Tracy, and thus it was that they sat opposite me again, last week, at Casa Del Cocodrilo.

Part of Korova's mushrooming empire of restaurants and bars in Liverpool, it is one of three places it opened in Woolton village this year. There are more to follow in town. Geisha, on the site of the Varsity, is the latest, following the sale of Korova's flagship Alma De Cuba (and the Penny Lane Santiago) this summer.

Back in Woolton, I have eaten twice at its place up the road, Negresco Deco, and pleasant it is. But it is this venue, the old Elephant pub, now done out in the southern states colonial way, that has beckoned since the beginning.

Korova's executive chef, John MacLoughlin, darts to and from his bosses' kitchens around the city on a daily basis. A moveable feast. Tonight he's at CDC, where Margaret Mitchell meets Miami Vice. No Rhetts for the wicked.

A happy coincidence? Perhaps not. As I said, while none of us ever did foresee “dining out” as a day/night job, or even as a way of winding up the careers teacher, CDC did have some premonition that we might be dropping by. If we break a rule we tell you, so there it is. Who knows if it made any difference? We hadn't booked and the place was busy enough already, so I'd like to think it didn't.

There was a party of 10, a big family with plenty of young kids at the next table. It wasn't early, either, and I made a mental note to move to Woolton. Or Halkidikipaxadopolus. Anywhere, in fact, where the reserved welcome for the young isn't reserved for the daylight hours.

The menu at CDC is as rich and imaginative as the decor, although you don't get many stuffed animal heads or crocodiles in your sandwich. See, that's the Korova look, and it's everywhere.

Instead, on your plate, expect creole jambalayas, scallops given the key lime treatment, shrimp everything and catfish po boy, a whole surf and turf section and pineapples in your tarte tatin.

Tracy (or was it Tracey?) ordered jerk chicken (£5.50) because the name reminded her of all the husbands she'd gone through. It met with significantly more approval than any of her luckless spouses apparently had, in the intervening years, and the other T's soft shell crab terrine (£6.95) with chillies, herbs and yellow pepper aioli was deemed a similarly pleasurable marriage.

Vegetable fritters (£4.95) were delicate and tasty, just as they should be, with a fiery, coral hot sauce and black bean mango salsa. A far cry from the Croxteth schooldays when a light battering was something you learned to expect on the way home.

T&T were confronted by cajun shrimp jambalaya (£19.95), CDC's signature dish, comprising cajun style large shrimps, smoked chicken, smoked sausage and long grain rice cooked in a chicken stock with seared baby scallops on the side. They raved like schoolgirls and similarly deemed the chicken ragout dish (£12.95), with shallots, snap peas, sun dried tomatoes and chorizo, a winner.

The impossible riches of fillet mole (£19.95) a butter basted beef dish served with a lattice of pont neuf (thick chips, basically), squash mole and mange tout, bowled me over and then defeated me. Mole involves cooking with bitter chocolate and chilli and this all came in a whisky sauce. What was I thinking of? Was it Christmas Day? It certainly felt like it had been the next morning, as the excesses of Santiano sauvignon blanc (£15.50) and Trivanto malbec (£15.50) did their evil worst.

The puds were, again, a homage to the entire southern US and south American continent, with coconut cheesecake, rum souffle and pineapple tart (all £5.50) closing the event with all the rich swagger of a plantation owner. Full marks for plates cleared.

Casa Del Cocodrilo is another indicator of the bar being raised in deep south Liverpool.

Frankly, my dears, they don't give a damn about the pretensions of fine dining, yet this a “treat” place to spend an evening: its mad, opulent setting making it quite unlike anywhere else in Liverpool.

Go for the taxidermy and get stuffed.

Rating: 15.5/20
Breakdown: 7.5/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Casa del Cocodrilo,
Woolton Road,
0151 709 7097

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Jon GardSeptember 13th 2007.

In response to the above, I've been VERY impressed with Geisha since it's opening and the food in Negresco on Lark Lane is some of the best I've eaten in Liverpool.

scrittipolittiSeptember 13th 2007.

Can't think of the last time I heard a bad review of a restaurant especially in one owned by the notorious gangsta empire that are the Almas. I've eaten at the others and both were poor and overpriced. The owners may be able to get away with gaudy interior decor to distract some of their clientele but until they get some proper chefs and honest reviewers, Liverpool people will continue to be served crap food at inflated prices in restaurants which are largely part of the "informal economy"...

fat gitSeptember 13th 2007.

I have been on incapacity benefit for the last 15 years but I like a good feed from time to time to cheer myself up when I get stressed. People call it overweight, but I wouldn't mind going to this place and sitting in that big red chair and eating a big load of steak and thick chips.

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