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Marco Pierre White Steakhouse reviewed

AA Grill says the Liverpool outpost could do better

Written by . Published on October 21st 2011.

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse reviewed

SINCE Marco Pierre White decided he preferred making money to making parfait de foie gras, his creditworthiness and his credibility seem to have been on different journeys.

You could be forgiven for thinking the
picture had been taken while an underling
was – shall we say – tasting Marco's sauce.
After all, it's what a sous chef is for
Turkey twizzling farmers Bernard Matthews did little for MPW's culinary integrity when they signed him up as a 'brand ambassador'. Nor, indeed, did Knorr, whose product he generously endorsed as 'the best
f....ing ingredient in the world'.

Meanwhile, his restaurant empire expands pretty much unabated, with interests from Dublin to Abu Dhabi. So while his credibility, like those cubes, might crumble, his stock – the other kind – is on the rise.

A recent addition to the portfolio is in Liverpool, with the three-Michelin starred chef responsible for the city's 'newest four-star restaurant' (whatever one of those is). That makes seven stars between them, which, in Milky Way terms, is very nearly an armful.

The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill – Liverpool, a mouthful before you even start eating, sits the other side of the bar in the self-styled boutique Hotel Indigo, amid the 'prestigious' (according to the spiel) commercial district. If either were hoping to pull in the expense account crowd, they may have timed it badly, and this particular Friday afternoon, the ground floor of the split-level eating space was modestly populated.

The design is said to be Marco's own, and cheery yellows and greens confirm his disdain of formality. Sombre it's not, with his customary starched white tablecloths providing the only stiffness in sight, while the eccentric artwork of the back wall especially catches the eye. Allow your imagination to run free and you will see faces among the patterns: amoeba-shaped, three-eyed, cheerful little fellows who look to have been designed after either the taking of powerful hallucanogenic drugs or watching too much CBeebies: In the White Garden.

The childish theme carried over to our speculation concerning the massive photograph of MPW, or at least his top half, which dominates another wall. Why, we wondered, the glazed, downwards-gazing expression? Is he looking down his nose in more ways than one; after all, we are mere mortals before his greatness.

Yet his reverie seems directed to a point below waist level and you could be forgiven for thinking the picture had been taken while an underling was – shall we say – tasting Marco's sauce. After all, it's what a sous chef's for.

Fortunately, such thoughts failed to taint Mrs Grill's appreciation of the pea and ham soup (£5.50), which arrived with a healthy complexion and a decent handful of rough-hewn, slow-cooked offcuts. It was a little less viscous than pea soupers of old, which lent a touch of refinement: more seasonal mist than thick fog, with a sprinkling of deep pink amaranth flowers for good measure. We had less good fortune with the accompanying bread, which, other than a stray slice of focaccia, was bland, stale and fridge cold.

Kipper pate with whisky (£7) came as a creamy, smooth paste. I wasn't getting the whisky but one thing this full-on kipper experience did not lack was spirit. It was very good, by the way, but a love of the cured herring is pretty much obligatory here; non-smokers need not apply. With it, three slivers of melba toast, a little scant for such a slab, and half a lemon dressed in muslin lest a pip should violate the plate.

Some dishes are common to several MPW restaurants – a corporate aspect that is to the detriment of many a hotel restaurant – and the chicken and leek pie (£12.50) had something of the assembly line about it, the pastry lid giving every indication of being fitted at the end of the process with no time to take on the character of the dish.

A filling of leeks, carrots, pellets of chicken fillet and a rather feeble gravy heavy on coarse grain mustard and tarragon, seemed to have been made in a hurry. The ingredients mingled amicably enough but their relationship lacked the depth and richness that comes with time spent together.

But steak is the speciality of the house –  the claim of 'fine quality native breed beef' being the only clue to its provenance. A 10oz ribeye (£22.50) was cooked textbook medium rare, the meat's tender, open quality testimony to its 28-day ageing. A chunk of fat at one end contributed some flavour but this was limited by a distinct lack of marbling through the meat.

Bearnaise sauce was a little tame, while the garnish was uniformly disappointing: a
grilled half of beef tomato that was a characterless lump, a few sadly wilted sprigs of watercress, and onion rings leaking more oil than a 1975 Austin Allegro.

Accompanying 'real' chips in beef dripping were nicely cooked but these Maris Pipers had suffered a rare flavour failure. The skin of the potato had been left on one side, raising further issues. Aside from the fact that skin acts as a barrier to the fat, could they accurately be called
real chips? Wedges, more like.

A dish of peas (included with the pie) could not, with Hallowe'en at hand, have been fresh, and I can't vouch for which bag they came from, but they did not displease Mrs Grill. Creamed cabbage and bacon (£3) from the side dishes, was sweet, fresh tasting and expertly cooked so as to retain a gentle bite.

Sherry trifle Wally Ladd (£6), not a form of mild insult delivered in northern dialect but a nod to the chef who devised this version of the classic dish, included judicious use of chantilly cream and pistachios. “Rich and lovely”, concluded Mrs Grill.
Eton Mess (£6) was absolutely fine but should probably only appear on summer menus since the fruit was inevitably unseasonal and a slight let-down.

While the giant image of White dominates the dining area, his presence in the kitchen would be more useful, where a little attention to sourcing, technique and presentation would not go amiss. Building an empire is one thing but it's the fine detail he needs to worry about, not the big picture.

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. Critics dine unannounced and the company picks up their bills - never the restaurant, never a PR company.




Food 6.5/10
Service 4/5
Ambience 3.5/5


Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill – Liverpool
Hotel Indigo,
10 Chapel Street,
L3 9AG.
Tel. 0151 559 0555.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it; 6-9 get a DVD; 10-11 if you must; 12-13 if you’re passing; 14-15 worth a trip; 16-18 very good to exceptional; 19-20 As good as it gets.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

always hungry....October 21st 2011.

Glad I read this! Was going to pop down and give this place a go! But don't think I'll bother now! My other half makes a wicked chicken and leek pie - why go anywhere else??

Reader VaughanOctober 21st 2011.

We went last week and had to send our starters back as they were frozen.....asked for my steak well done but when i cut into it blood oozed out onto my plate which completely put me off the meal!! i won't be returning anytime soon!!

Liverpool WagOctober 21st 2011.

It does serve you right for ordering a well done steak, Vaughan. I have no sympathy.

Wall-EOctober 21st 2011.

There will be one of these in Manchester next year.

Reader XxxOctober 21st 2011.

My wife and I went there a few weeks ago. My wife's steak was excellent and my fish and chips and mushy peas went down well. The service was very good - our waitress could not have been more helpful - and we liked the surroundings. The manager on duty that evening was enthusiastic and took the trouble to show us one of the rooms in the hotel - very nice, and available at attractive rates. Without wanting to sound like a shareholder, I was left with the impression of a group of people wanting to get it right. Good luck to them.

paulOctober 22nd 2011.

When is a pie not a pie

GladysOctober 23rd 2011.

MPW's original restaurant down south is fab, all these up North are just piss-poor watered down versions. The one in Chester, reviewed by Gordo some time back, is still a shocker.

AnonymousOctober 24th 2011.

Superb writing Mr G.

AnonymousNovember 15th 2011.

Got to agree the Steakhouses in London he actually owns and are fabulous (been to both). Not so sure about these franchises up North. Try the King's Rd Steakhouse in Chelsea.

AnonymousDecember 2nd 2011.

Birthday Girl


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