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Oasis In The Park - Review

Neil McQuillian goes to a revamped cafe in a revamped Sefton Park

Written by . Published on September 5th 2011.

Oasis In The Park - Review

THERE'S hardly a more untroubled spot in the city than Sefton Park, and there was no shortage of water there this rainy Saturday morning, but still the café at its centre calls itself ‘Oasis’.

The burger itself was a disgrace, really, smothered in fluorescent yellow cheese slices, like it had been "slimed", à la Ghostbusters. The meat was dense. Fitting that it showed up on the receipt as ‘buger’

The burger itself was a disgrace, really,
smothered in fluorescent yellow cheese
slices, like it had been "slimed", à la
Ghostbusters. The meat was dense.
Fitting that it showed up on the receipt as ‘buger’

Certainly it’s a place of convergence. With the map of Sefton Park resembling a simple Spirograph drawing, the café is sited in a wide island area which many paths open onto. It shares the space with a huge fountain topped with a statue of Eros. He seems to be aiming his bow at the café – whether out of adoration or tough love I was about to find out.

For a long time this was called the Aviary Café thanks to its proximity to the old bird jail. The connection was well represented by the turn out of pigeons strutting about the roof and across the tables on the terrace, where people in anoraks sat and gave in to the soporific effect of a mild, rainy park.

As part of Sefton Park's striking renovation (reported to be in the region of £7m’s worth), the café was given wings on either side, one of which houses the rangers’ office – closed today [I’m not sure if it’s ever open…]

In its windows were old photographs of the park and mounted examples of Sefton Park-relevant taxidermy. The other wing is destined for Ferraiolo’s Italian Bistro which is set for its ‘grand opening’ (according to posters inside) on the 16th September.

With leather couches, stylishly transparent plastic chairs, a view of the park billowing with greenery and reported opening until 10pm this has the potential to be a great success, although owner Gino Ferraiolo’s application for an alcohol licence caused a petition to be started in opposition this month.

Oasis in the Park, though, occupies the original Aviary space, albeit tarted up. Food-wise, however, you’ve got a display cabinet full of pre-packed biscuits and cakes whose cellophane clashes with the glass and cabinet lights so you can’t really see what the actual food bit looks like. Then there’s a variety of menus on the wall.

Breakfast is served 9am-12.30pm. The full English (£5.25) looks to be a proper belly buster, with two bacon, two sausage, two eggs, black pudding, tomatoes, mushroom, specifically Heinz beans, toast and tea or coffee. 

Then there are omelettes which go up to £3.95 if you want chorizo on  it. Healthier stuff includes granola, Greek yoghurt and honey (£2.25), Weetabix, sliced banana and milk, freshly made porridge with brown sugar (both £1.70) and fresh fruit with yoghurt (£2.25). There’s a little glimmer of the out-of-the-ordinary with the chorizo and granola sneaking onto the menu.

For lunch, there’s soup and a roll (£2.30), filled ciabattas and baked potatoes, and what I identified as the specials, thanks to their having an accompanying picture – fish and chips with mushy peas (£4.95) or, for four pence more, the Texas Grand burger with chips and a drink. The drink was "a can or a bottle of water", so don’t go getting any big ideas about orange or apple juice.

The Texas Grand looked delicious on the photo: a four-inch high tower of meat, tomato, cheese, gherkins and onion in a poppy seed bun.

"Remember your number," the lady said. A notice on the wall added: "Food orders may take 20 minutes or more depending on what you order. Please be patient as once food is ordered it is none-refundable."

Clearly this is born of people getting sick of waiting in the past, but it was tempting to wonder if it might have been down to folks having second thoughts once they see other people’s food…

I was going to eat in but, in spite of the revamp, there’s something that’s really not that conducive to actually sitting down at one of the tables in the ‘Oasis Café Area’ (that’s spelling it out). They’re up against the walls as if to keep the central space clear for some reason.

Today it was clean and airy, with homely wood furniture and checked tablecloths, but the table arrangement needs a little basic feng shui. The huge, armless clock on the wall, and cream-coloured bit of apparatus in the corner completed the puzzle. I sat down for a few moments, felt like I wanted to keep looking over my shoulder, and went outside to the terrace. "Remember your number," the lady warned again.

The terrace is the place to be, really, even in the rain. You’ve got the Eros fountain which is so grand it’s a little intimidating, and very fine people-watching opportunities. The voyeuristic pick, as I waited, was a man whipping his dog into a yelping frenzy by pretending to throw a stick then not. Most people, of course, were heading over to the opening of the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival, a huge site like a medieval encampment with its perky tents on the north field of the park. I wasn’t envious. I had my Texas Grand to look forward to.

It arrived. I think I’d known all along really. It didn’t look much like the Texas Grand of legend. You’d get lynched if you tried to serve a puny thing like this in those parts. The floury bun was nothing more than that. The chips were decent, too, white hot so they almost sang when I sprinkled the vinegar on. The burger itself was a disgrace, really, smothered in fluorescent yellow cheese slices, like it had been "slimed", à la Ghostbusters. The meat was dense. Fitting that it showed up on the receipt as ‘buger’.

I added some chips to the bun to pad it out a little. All things considered, a can of 7UP, the smell of vinegar and chips, the patter of rain and sight of predatory pigeons all added up to a classic English holiday package. I wouldn’t want this place to be totally granolarised and chorizoed. The prices should stay at this range. But surely it’s possible to produce a better quality of burger for £4.99.

With the revamp in mind, it’s perhaps a shame that the bins and the umbrellas over the tables are freebies (Wall’s, Carte d’Or) in gaudy colours that clash with the otherwise earthy tones of the café. That’s a minor gripe, though.

Drinks aren’t exactly cheap. Tea is £1/£1.30, filter coffee £1.50/£2, latte and cappuccino, mocha and hot chocolate £2/£2.50. 

The sponge cake I got for afters was no more than alright. Squatting in the display cabinet it certainly looked homemade. It was pleasantly soft and light, even if the cream was white, and substantial as bath bubbles.

048I got it takeaway in a peach-coloured polystyrene tub, and ate it on a bench with my rather tasteless and too-hot filter coffee.

It will be interesting to see if Ferraiolo’s Italian Bistro can make Sefton Park a site of foodie pilgrimage more than once a year. With Eros’s help it could just prove to be an excellent, sure-thing spot for a date.

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




Food 5/10
Service 3/5
Ambience 3/5


Oasis in the Park
Sefton Park,
Aigburth Drive, 
Liverpool, L17. 

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,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. 

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

AnonymousSeptember 6th 2011.

Fizzy pop with chips? Yeeuch!

Tea is the only beverage to wash down plate of jockeys!

AnonymousSeptember 6th 2011.

I do hope that selfish people will be prevented from driving their cars into the Park.
Too many fat and lazy people think they can drive their cars into our public parks, stop wherever they like and use the perimeter roads as racetracks!

Stray dogSeptember 6th 2011.

It's been pretty dreadful the couple of times I have been there. Sticky tables, a girl who stuck her hand in my cup when she was passing it to me, absolutely filthy gate into the private section which everybody has to touch as it leads to and from the toilets. Basic stuff really, but it was later in the day

AnonymousSeptember 6th 2011.

Bring back the aviary! It was free and educational for us urban poor.

AnonymousSeptember 8th 2011.

its a shame they wont let their customers use their toilets, when i asked to use the loo i was told to use the public toilets next door, when i know full well that the cafe have their own toilets, surely they have a legal obligation to let their customers use their toilet facility's

AnonymousSeptember 9th 2011.

as a customer and new mum I was also refused access to the cafe toilet facilities, i asked if i could use the toilets to change my young baby daughter, i was told by a member of staff it was the cafes policy not to allow any customers the use of their toilets while the public toilets were open, although the public facilities were more than adequate i feel as a customer i have the right to use their toilets and not to subject both myself and my child the indignity of having to exit the cafe during inclement weather to change her, surely the city council have a duty of care to ensure the cafe toilets remain open to customers at all times.

Gary ByrneSeptember 9th 2011.

I also had the same problem over the use of this cafes toilets, I was with my wife who had an issue with a sudden attack of flatulence, which then developed into rapid vacation of the bowls.
I politely asked a member of staff for the location of their toilets, only to be told that they had none, and to use the the public toilets next door...!
surely if I am eating and drinking at this cafe, they must legally provide some kind of toilet and washing facilities on request. needless to say I had no time to argue so my wife and I, left rather quickly...

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2011.

they cant keep getting away with refusing customers the use of their toilets, surely this is a legal matter

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 16th 2011.

actually if you check your facts they are not breaking the law.
the law states that they only have to supply toilets if they are open after 10pm and are a licensed premises!!!!!!!!!

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2011.

right location, right setting, wrong management.

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2011.

a senior member of staff told me that all cafe customers who wish to use the toilets must use the public toilets next door,,
the cafe toilets are being reserved for restaurant diners only, surely this is a two tier system and cant be allowed to happen.

JoeSeptember 10th 2011.

They do have a legal obligation dont be put off by the staff demand their toilets they take your money. Complaint to a Mr Paul Scragg at Calderstones via LDL. I have heard from the staff that they will be getting control of the public toilets soon!!! heaven forbid our council could be so stupid.

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2011.

Dear readers, i go dog walking to the Park a lot. I do agree with the review but can i just add having spoken to the Ranger on friday i can assure all of you the Taxidermy is all man made models! I was refused the toilets too even whilst buying tea.

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2011.

how can the powers that be continue to turn a blind eye as to what is an all to frequent disregard to the cafes customers, i am sure the cafe is owned by the city council
and is only leased to the proprietor, and by not letting his customers use his toilets then surely he is in breach of his contract, maybe somebody should contact the city councils legal department, they can insist he opens up his toilets to his customers or face being evicted.

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2011.

my invalid mother was refused access to the cafe toilets
she was told to use the public toilets on the other side of the building when she asked why, she was told you are a member of the public and that's what the public toilets are for

AnonymousSeptember 10th 2011.

i agree with Joe, but i think most customers when they ask to use the toilets when told to use the public ones they don't give it a second thought i am sure if they knew
the cafe had their own toilets they would complain more,
as for the cafe gaining control of the public toilets heaven help us, have you seen the state of the terrace? they cant even keep that clean, i think somebody should start a petition for him not to gain control of the public toilets
and also to insist he allows all his customers access at all
times to the cafe toilets.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2011.

apparently there is a influential group that calls itself the
friends of sefton park, i am sure if they are made aware
of the toilet fiasco within the oasis cafe they will assert their influence and insist the cafe opens up its toilets to all its customers at all times.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2011.

There used to be lots of substantial brick-built toilets in Sefton Park. All gone now though

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2011.

i have it on good authority that the cafe proprietor a
Mr Gino Ferraiolo is a committee member of the friends of sefton park group, does that not smack of hypocrisy?

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2011.

does anybody know the telephone number or e-mail
address of a Mr Paul Scragg, because i for one would like to know what he intends to do regarding the oasis cafe toilet debacle.

Stray dogSeptember 12th 2011.

You would be better off using the public toilets. Then you wouldn't have to touch the sticky swing gate that everyone has to in order to get to them.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2011.

yes, the saloon type swing doors were put up with a sign
saying no entry to stop people gaining access to the toilets, they have now been replaced with big cumbersome objects that contain imitation plants, and have been positioned in a way as to prevent customers
again gaining access to the toilets and wash-room

AnonymousOctober 16th 2011.

I recently saw on tv that the only time they would have any lawful obligation to provided toilet facilities would be if it were open after 10pm and and it was a licensed premises.as neither of these apply to the cafe they are not breaking any laws .

AnonymousOctober 16th 2011.

Yes what happened to the brick built toilets that were in sefton park as surely the council have an obligation to supply suficient toilets for such a busy park and I am refering to people out for the day with children over at the play area what are they supposed to do when the council close the public toilets at 4.30pm every day regardles of how busy the park is or what the weather is .Surely this cant be right .This is not being debated and should be addressed as angrily as the constant rants that the cafe management do not allow people to use their toilets.

AnonymousDecember 11th 2011.

I believe Mr Ferriolo reads this review. Perhaps he can tell us why he chases customers from his cafe to the public ( and now damaged) toilets next door when he has his own for customers. And why no toilet signs in the Cafe?

AnonymousDecember 12th 2011.

The whole thing has gone down the pan.

Stray dogJanuary 3rd 2012.

Another victim of the cistern

Stephen FaragherJanuary 4th 2012.

the old Aviary had a certain Bohemian charm and the cheek to charge you a quid for coffee made from thrice brewed coffee grounds, then there were the pot smokers/dealers.

I always wished for something a wee bit up market, but although it looks the part, the coffee still tasted as bland for twice the price, the expensive looking Italian coffee machine looks a bit under used as the coffee originates from a catering jug.

The funniest thing happened on New Year's Day, one glum faced woman struggling slowly with the throng, one equally glum faced other, mopping up prior to 4pm shit down.

I'm third in the queue, at the head a guy is having his "Cream Tea" constructed by Glum Woman number 1...scone on plate, squirt of cream from a can, catering knob of butter and blob of jam about £4.

Anyhow Glum Woman 2 comes over (3.45 pm), removes cream tea sign and second in queue asks for a cream tea only to be told they've stopped serving.

So man 2 quick as flash and obviously a fan of Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, asks for scone, with a squirt of cream, a catering portion of jam and butter, which she duly serves up for him....

Angie Sammons - EditorJanuary 4th 2012.

That's a great story Steve. Very funny.

You do mean 4pm "shut-down" I take it?

DaveFebruary 19th 2012.

whats going on with the toilets FED UP being lied to about them. THEY HAVE GOT TOILETS INSIDE TO THE RIGHT OF THE COUNTER. But last week they swore blind they didnt exist..

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2012.

We were in there today. The night time bistro isn't opening until March apparently. It all seemed a bit shifty

Darth FormbyFebruary 19th 2012.

Stephen, I was in Oxford the other week. I went into a butty bar and asked for bacon on toast. The woman told me they didn't do bacon on toast as it was a 'sandwich shop, not a cafe'. I asked her to do me a toasted bacon sandwich instead, and she did!

Andrew WishartMarch 23rd 2012.

"The funniest thing happened on New Year's Day, one glum faced woman struggling slowly with the throng, one equally glum faced other, mopping up prior to 4pm shit down"

Look it may not be an a la carte ponce restaurant but I like it.

Also they don't have a 4pm shit down (at least I don't think they shit on anything).

RMay 22nd 2012.

I have just been to this cafe with my 3 young children. I live near Sefton Park and come here regularly but I seldom go to this cafe - only once or twice since it opened, I have bought an ice cream off them so we could eat outside.

Well today I decided to sit in to eat. What a big mistake. I bought my children ice creams and ordered a spicy chicken wrap for myself. Was told that "there wasn't going to be any chicken for the next 15 minutes" so I changed my order to a ham and cheese wrap instead. Was given a ticket and on it said I had to listen out for my order. Well it took 20 minutes to arrive, by which I was already regretting my purchase dearly. Not only that, but the food turned out to be just one pannini-grilled flour tortilla with about 3 thin slices of ham and some of that flourescent yellow cheese the author of this article spoke about, sandwiched in the tortilla. And on the other side of the plate, a tiny ping pong ball portion of salad leaves with some olive oil drizzled over it. I wasn't given any cutlery to eat with, which, fair enough, with the tortilla sandwich I could just eat with my hands, but was I supposed to eat some salad leaves dripping with olive oil with my fingers? Were they just meant for decoration, or was I supposed to now make the walk to the cashier to ask for cutlery?

And then I witnessed some disturbing things committed by a member of the cafe's staff whose job seemed to be clearing used dishes off empty tables, taking the lid off the little white flip-top-lid bin that was near our table and pushing the contents of the rubbish bin down with his bare hands, and... gasp! Fetching plates of food orders out from the kitchen within minutes of pushing contents of bin down with hands... all done without wearing any gloves! He looked scruffy, unkempt, and I was inclined to believe he may not have even washed his hands carefully between clearing dirty dishes and pushing contents of bin down, and serving customers food from the kitchen! At one time, he actually plonked a dirty used plate on the side of MY table closest to the bin (when I was still eating with my children) whilst he was clearing unwanted food off another dirty used plate. I was so gobsmacked by this that I just stopped eating and stared at him all that time, jaws agape. Never have I dined in any restaurant in my entire life, witnessing a waiter or staff putting a dirty dish on a customer's table whilst the customer was still eating.

To be fair to him, he only did that cos he was struggling to clear some sticky food off that other plate he was holding, and he couldn't have held on to both plates at the same time whilst doing that... But still... Yeurgh! Anyway, he never once looked at me or in my direction as he did what he did. And soon after, he disappeared off into the kitchen and re-emerged with a white plastic basin to clear dishes with so he did not have to do *that* again, presumably. And he never did. But he should have done it right from the beginning, shouldn't he?

Well we left pretty quickly after that. I felt a bit sick after seeing all that and quite frankly, will never frequent that establishment again. In fact, I question why the clearing off uneaten food off dirty dishes should be done outside in full view of eating customers. And why each time that member of staff clears the dishes, he has to take off the bin lid completely, and then use his hands to push the contents of the bin down to make more room for more rubbish. It just smacks of laziness, lack of awareness of basic hygiene, and lack of concern for the customers.

It's a pity that it's the nearest one to the playground, which my children like to go to, so it's convenient to just come here after being at the playground. But the service is just horrendous. So bad, I do not feel like spending an extra penny in here again. The cafe at the duck pond is more pleasant though, although they do not serve much cooked or hot food.

AnonymousJuly 31st 2012.

Why would any cafe/bistro allow people to use their toilets unless they were customers? I can assure you all customers have access to the toilets and have never been refused. The council created toilets for park users situated next to the rangers base and shut them at 4pm so blame them. However after reading comments about the toilet situation the owner has now taken over the public toilets, opens them, closes them, pays for amenities and cleans them all out of his own money so that they can be kept open. He has taken reonsibility for them at no advantage to himself other than preventing park users who are not customers ranting at him. he keeps the toilets open until the cafe closes to benefit park users. In addition the disgusting things some park users leave being in the toilets is something he has to contend with and all for free he does not receive a penny for this act. As a member of friends of Sefton park he cares greatly for the park and often helps park users in a range of matters not part of his role as an owner of a cafe. He has assisted those in need of medical assistance, rang emergency services, dealt with anti-social behaviour and even rescued a duck in danger! He has fought for the right to take over maintenance of the toilets to assist park users.
The cafe is extremely busy in summertime and so often it's difficulty to keep on top of cleaning up after customers sitting outside however this has now been addressed and additional staff have been taken on to deal with this area. The oasis in the park is a popular, busy, friendly place to visit and many many regular customers would agree. See for yourself, the food is freshly prepared and cooked. All comments on here have been reviewed, addressed and dealt with.

AnonymousAugust 20th 2012.

What a pity. I've just read this after making a comment to a colleague about how Kemps have made a tourist attraction of the Isla Gladstone Pavillion in Stanley Park which is an absolute credit to the management. They should win a Liverpool Tourism Award. Gino Ferrioli should win an eviction notice.

Lb BaileyJanuary 2nd 2014.

Terrible service....was refused a glass of tap water, even though I was buying two coffees and some biscuits, as the queue was too long. No apology or offer of bringing it over when it was less busy, instead was very bluntly told I could buy a bottle. The woman behind the counter needs to attend a customer service training course....or find a job that doesn't involve dealing with the general public.

AnonymousJanuary 2nd 2014.

Even private citizens have a legal obligation to supply a drink of tap water to a member of the public in need. Why is this place exempt?

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