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Grill on the Square, Warrington, examined

Jonathan Schofield enjoys good cooking while doing the census

Written by . Published on March 29th 2011.

Grill on the Square, Warrington, examined

Warrington in spring time for a food review. On census day.

It’s strange how life brings unrelated things together. But it’s all the better for that. Our destination was Grill on the Square and our intention was to fill out the census form while there. Efficient use of time, don’t you know.

I really liked Grill on the Square. It does exactly what it sets out to do, puts some quality into Warrington’s food offering, proves there is life beyond the hideous Swedish meatballs in Ikea down the road.

The fact that Grill occupies an old Post Office seemed appropriate. There is nothing more bureaucratic than the census, and this 1906 building must have experienced a few population counting days in its time.

First impressions of the conversion to the present restaurant were good. This is a clever stab at giving one of our regional town centres something beyond a run-of-the-mill curry, an Italian by numbers, or a Wetherspoons with micro-waved pies and peas.

To that end the decor has a restrained exuberance about it, a bit of French fin de siècle, but gently so in egg-shell blue. It’s easy on the eye, and comfortable to lounge in.

The staff seem diligent and also good at answering questions: a winning quality. Our main waiter was Ondrej, a Czech lad, who has one of the most unlikely commutes ever, from Harpurhey in lost north Manchester to Warrington, every day by bus and train.

Despite that journey – poor bugger - he was cheerful company.

The chef is Adam Smith, formerly the sous chef under Ian Matfin at Abode in Manchester (and nothing to do with dead Scottish pioneers in political economics for the brain boxes amongst you).

Smith’s food is vigorous, disciplined and packs a fist of flavour. It’s the best of British with occasional trips abroad and with a minimum of mucking about.

All the best qualities of the cooking were contained within the salt beef hash for £12.95. This was a big smiley red face of food with a round egg eye winking at me. The beef lay over potato and onion and was livened with a mustard sauce. It was substantial, utterly comforting and clever.

The salt beef provided punch and the mustard gave more punch. I enjoyed it so much I could designate a day of the week to this dish and enjoy it every time. Wednesday would be salt beef hash day if I lived in Warrington. Since I don’t I might have to get on that train with Ondrej.

An 8oz fillet steak, aged long for tenderness, with that flavour of enzymes breaking down in just the right order, came medium rare and was another cracker.

Not as original as the salt beef hash but very good with perfect chips, mushrooms, excellent onion rings and tomatoes, all arranged, rather aimlessly, on a plank.

The roast dinner – this being a Sunday – kept up the cavalcade of quality. The roast lamb shoulder, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, carrots and suede, mange tout and so forth came fresh. This is an unusual quality in restaurant roasts. Normally by 3pm a stodginess born of lying around too long waiting for a customer to turn up has overwhelmed mass-produced Sunday meals - and we’d arrived after 6pm. This hadn’t happened here. It was grunt of approval time instead.

We’d only had a couple of starters but both had worked. The soup of the day, a creamy broccoli (£3.95) did the trick. Better again was the deep fried Cornish brie (£4.95). The casing was rimmed on the inside with pancetta and this and the smooth, elegant, warm cheese made for a proper little treat.

Alas for the puddings.

The youngest citizen amongst us, the ten-year-old was feeling unwell – nothing to do with the food - so we had to forego the pleasure of seeing what Smith’s warm treacle tart or apple crumble tasted like.

The dinner meanwhile had been enlivened with a brisk Chablis Henry Cottet 2008 and a ballsy Ondarre Rioja Reserva 2004.

It had also been enlivened by filling in the census for the two lads before the starters had arrived. We puzzled over why the census asked what was the marital or same-sex civil partnership status of a person before it asked how old they were? “Yuck,” said the ill-ten-year-old, when I asked him whether he was married.

Census filling aside, Grill on the Square, makes for an enjoyable visit. It does exactly what it sets out to do, puts some quality into Warrington’s food offering, proves there is life beyond the hideous Swedish meatballs in the Ikea down the road.

The only thing that irked at Grill was the Boutique Beers list which included Asahi, Staropramen, Peroni, Crusquena, Corona and so on. This isn’t boutique at all, it’s wholesale booze warehouse. Get some proper rarities in and then Grill can call the beer list ‘boutique’.

That aside this place is worth a trip to Warrington. As a good example of a mid-range, well-run town centre operation, with top service, it's a model for other towns in the Greater Manchester and Merseyside area.

Grill on the Square
7 Palmyra Square North
01925 234 077

Click here to get an A la carte starter and main + glass of Prosecco for just £19.

Follow Jonathan Schofield on twitter @JonathSchofield

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Latest Rants

Phillip Lawler

I will visit this place once the management and staff have got their act in order.

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Well they say that 'love comes in spurts...'

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Just like the swingers room

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This is a menu for Laconia in 1938, it doesn't look that great.…

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