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REVIEW: Carpathia Restaurant/30 James Street

Angie Sammons gets that sinking feeling at 'the home of the Titanic'

Written by . Published on March 4th 2015.


REVIEW: Carpathia Restaurant/30 James Street
 

ABOARD the listing Titanic in April 1912, affluent New Yorker Benjamin Guggenheim was heard to declare: “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”

Famous last words and, a century later, how surprised might the playboy have been to find them taking on an entirely different meaning for an entirely different league of, er, gentlemen.


It seems they really did mean whole fish and, on the whole, it was pretty terrible.  


For in the bowels of Albion House, former HQ of the White Star Line and the very conception-place of the tragic luxury liner, there lurks a dormitory. 

This dorm does not follow the norm. For a start it boasts a bar and can accommodate lots of chums. For those who enjoy a night out staying in and partying hard, in every sense, there is a 40 ft spa pool and two jacuzzis. To enable one to further release the inner swimmer, there are 10 ample beds to take the strain. From there, the horizontal guest is rewarded by the sight of a ceiling mural depicting a disrobed Adam and Eve in discussion with a substantial snake. 

Whatever floats your boat, Mr Guggenheim might have remarked.

The £1,700-a-night room is called Morgan’s Vault in honour of JP Morgan, US banking magnate and one time owner of the James Street building. 

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And it’s easy to be sniffy and trot out the money-can’t-buy you-class card. Truth is, the vast White Star building was deserted for a lamentably long time. Yet, in a matter of a few months last year, Lawrence Kenwright, he of Signature Living, blew it back out of the notional water in a reported £7m deal backed by South East Asian investors. 

You wait 103 years for a Titanic Hotel and two come along at once. This one and the multi-million pound Northern Ireland-backed effort in Jesse Hartley’s Stanley Dock. The latter bagged the name Titanic Hotel and opened at the same time.

Meanwhile, back up the dock road and after much umming and ahhing over the name, Kenwright and Co cracked the virtual magnum of champagne on the side of the Albion House and declared “30 James Street - Home of The Titanic” open for business. 

1-Img_4289Cauliflower cheese

The Carpathia Restaurant takes up the top deck of the seventh floor with oceanic-style outdoor balconies on both sides. As a venue for a cocktail stop (an Unsinkable Molly Brown is quite sinkable) it is without peer. 

Views to the south are romantic - the spinning silver web of the big wheel peeps from behind the floodlit chocolate boxes of Albert Dock.  

Directly across The Strand lies the incredible hulk of the Cunard Building, built in 1914 by the then chief shipping rival to White Star.

If not for the Great War, it would have reached the height of the Liver Building next door. Nevertheless, even at half mast its arrival effectively put a stop to White Star’s beleaguered boss, Bruce Ismay, observing his own fleet sailing into the Mersey from his boardroom. 

Smoked halibutSmoked halibut

Was this deliberate mischief? Two chatty sisters at the next table - Marcia and Cynthia - wonder. Their uncle was Kenneth Bradshaw who worked as a scout for White Star from 1925 until it merged with Cunard in 1934. It is their first trip to the building since the 1960s when Cynthia operated the switchboard of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company in the turrets. Today both daughters of Albion are loving Kenwright’s work. 

It is less easy to love the work of the kitchen, which would maybe pass muster if this was an episode of Come Dine With Me in a suburban semi.

The name Titanic, however, carries global clout and you don’t need me to tell you that it simply isn’t good enough to send out hard potatoes, uncooked cauliflower cheese in a pool of insipid jaundiced liquid and soggy greens to an expectant worldwide clientele or, for that matter, to any paying punter. 

1-Img_4275Lamb wins the dinners

The above illustrates some of the low points that immediately spring to mind. Other things were better, like the pink and sweet lamb rump, cutlet and belly served over a galette of well seasoned potatoes, dubbed “scouse boulangere” (£17.50), allegedly with beetroot and red cabbage.  

Then there was the not unimaginative starter of smoked halibut with crab, avocado cream and fennel wafers (£8). Very Icelandic - unlike the bread which just very Iceland. 

To be fair, there was an attempt to bring a flourish to the home-bake baguettes.  But apart from sounding like the name of a porn star, the chilled pats of “rocket butter” added little jazz, though they did keep on coming.

Rocket butterRocket butter

In contrast, warm goats cheese (£6.50) with a slick of tangy verjus was stylish, but the promised heirloom tomatoes were nowhere and two kinds of melon were abundantly everywhere.

And why, when we could have ordered roast suckling pig, corn-fed chicken or even good old ribeye and chips (for £23) did we allow ourselves to be lured down the whole Torbay sole (£17) route?

Because it sounded English, simple, sophisticated, nostalgic. Like something that would be served, from under a silver cloche, to the Astors and the Vanderbilts in the first class dining room of a 1912 transatlantic liner.

How do you like your eggs? Left intact, in this case: the entire fat, brown roe of the spawning fish, or, to give Torbay sole its more common name, witch flounder.

It seems they really did mean whole fish and on the whole it was pretty terrible.  The tiny nugget of “brown shrimp nut butter” and feeble garnish of Southport samphire could not compensate for the anorexic amount of flesh on the bitty, gritty frame of Nemo’s mum. 

1-Img_4291A sac of roe is a sack of woe

A better advert were the serving staff - young, friendly, as helpful as they could be - and it is to be hoped they are compensated well for providing some much needed ballast.

From the “Desert” menu, we eschewed the delights of Coffee and Walnut "Sunday” for an innocuous Raspberry Slice (£6) and “Selection of Three Cheeses” (£8) whose description on the menu was as economical as the serving: “Chutney, Celery, Biscuits.” 

In the event,  a bunch of grapes stood in for the celery, unceremoniously dumped onto the plate with five crackers, something hard, something Brie and something blue.

They say worse things happen at sea. Not always.

1-Img_4294 

Angie Sammons on Twitter @twangeee

1-Img_4262
Carpathia Champagne Bar and Restaurant, 30 James St, Home Of The Titanic, Liverpool L2 7PS. website


 



All scored Confidential reviews are paid for by the company, never the restaurant or a PR outfit. Critics dine unannounced.

 

Rating:       10/20

Food:          3.5/10


Service:      3.5/5
Ambience:  3/5 
 
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: takeaways
against the best takeaways, fine dining against the best fine dining, etc. 
Following on from this the scores represent: 
1-5:     Straight into the dog bowl
6-9:     Raid the freezer
10-11: In an emergency
12-13: If you happen to be passing
14-15: Worth a trip out 
16-17: Very good to exceptional 
18-20: As good as it gets 

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

Paul WardMarch 6th 2015.

If you look at the pics and forget the text, you'll think that school dinners are getting more adventurous. Horrible.

RojeansMarch 6th 2015.

How to sink a ship with just a key board!

AnonymousMarch 6th 2015.

Any iceberg lettuce?

Charles LightollerMarch 6th 2015.

Popped in here for a nose around and an early-evening drink when it first opened. The cocktails were good, the service from the staff was good but it was apparent from the rapidly-deteriorating state of the three (only) unisex toilet cubicles and the growing noise from increasing numbers of scruffy ebullient ‘lads’ coming in which way this place was heading. We left before seven o’clock and there was a rowdy scrum of a function already in full swing on the ground floor. We haven’t been back and the experiences related on Tripadvisor by people who have been since is not encouraging.

AnonymousMarch 6th 2015.

How can they have such grand aspirations but get things so wrong? Desert and Sunday plus dubious food........desperate!

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyMarch 6th 2015.

The clue is in the chandeliers

seaman stainesMarch 6th 2015.

Of course, strictly speaking the RMS Titanic didn't list, she went down by the head.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 6th 2015.

Just like the swingers room

seaman stainesMarch 8th 2015.

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

John BradleyMarch 6th 2015.

This is a menu for Laconia in 1938, it doesn't look that great. upload.wikimedia.org/…/LaconiaMenu1.jpg… I wonder what the actual titanic menus where like.

Phillip LawlerMarch 11th 2015.

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

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Latest Rants

Phillip Lawler

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

 Read more
seaman staines

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

 Read more
Anonymous

Just like the swingers room

 Read more
John Bradley

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

 Read more

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