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Restaurant review: Blue Bar and Grill

Neil McQuillian finds that times, trends and standards may have marched on, but not everywhere

Published on September 20th 2010.

Restaurant review: Blue Bar and Grill

A TRIP to Blue. My my. Time to splash out on some new gear befitting this trendy, celebrity-infested, upwardly-mobile hot spot.

But where might a suitable outfitters be found? Why, Wade Smith of course. Some Patrick Cox Wannabes, perhaps. Bang on trend. Can't have Stan Collymore and Sinbad laughing at my Nicks should we cross swords in the toilets. Imagine my confusion, then, on finding this retail mecca gone from Mathew Street. Some young bucks directed me to Liverpool One. But I’m in L1! I said. Nice trainers, they said.

As I chewed a starter of salt and pepper chicken, a nice slab of horse brawn seemed not such a bad idea

No matter, I ironed my Global Hypercolour to within an inch of its life and strolled over to the Albert Dock with my companions. We entered the inner sanctum. What relief! There was nobody here. We could get on with having a lovely, trendy dinner in peace. I returned my nervously sweating armpits to their original colour under a trendy unisex hand dryer and we climbed the concrete steps to the restaurant space.

A sign asked us to wait at the top of the stairs. We did. This place is so trendy even the staff are fashionably late. Just as my companion caught her heel in a chunk out of the floor, a figure approached from out of the shadows under the arches: a young trendy waiter in period 90s costume of crisp black shirt and a thick knot in his blue neon tie.

That’s the thing: Blue calls to mind the photography exhibition depicting Lewis’s fifth floor. It has an intriguing, museum-like quality, a representation of consumerism and taste from past decades. It was the Albert Dock's first "aspirational" restaurant, originally opened in the mid 1990s by Korova's Rob Guttman, of whom great, trendy things were often expected back in the day.

The exposed building elements, rustic wood floors, leather sofas, curtains, chandeliers and black paint: it is all very "then". Even the staff’s uniforms recall Liverpool’s white suits at the 1996 FA Cup Final. Their service, however, was impeccable.

In spite of its dated looks, Blue’s trendy reputation has somehow endured and it seemed fitting that the yacht in the dock outside was named Indefatigable.

Indeed, the interior is pristinely maintained. More unsettling, for a restaurant critic, the yacht was flying a Jolly Roger bearing the legend Dead Men Tell No Tales. Once this review is up I will nervously pull back my duvet each night, preparing for the sight of a horse’s head. But as I chewed a starter of salt and pepper chicken (£6.50), a nice slab of horse brawn seemed not such a bad idea, or perhaps some pirate’s salmagundi.

The breast might as well have been soya-based meat substitute. The coating clung onto it for grim life. The best bit was the strange salad of lambs-lettuce/watercress leaves. It was as moisture-free as if it had been blow dried too, but had a nice, soft liqorice flavour.

Thai fish cakes (£6.50) certainly looked the part but mistook zinginess for saltiness. The drizzle of sauce did very little – a pot of proper dipping sauce would have been preferable. That salad came with it again, and at least its Thai basil-like flavour brought a distinct Asian flavour to the plate.

The chips that accompanied the rib eye steak (£17.95) were stacked like Jenga blocks and chunky in the way that thighs can end up after too many of them: soft and flaccid and a little clammy. The steak glistened slickly and looked like a thing of dark intensity but it was about as intoxicating as a Viennetta.

A Caesar salad (£6.95) might have come from a bag, sachet of dressing included. The guinea fowl (£15.95) was the best of the lot, though nothing to go back to the 90s for. The same can be said of the almond tart (£5.50), whilst the "local" cheeses (£6.50) were, by the waiter’s own straight-faced admission, distinctly foreign.

Thirteen champagnes compared to just seven each of red and white wines (starting at 16.95) says a lot about Blue. Our Montebuena Joven Rioja was described as "intense" on the list but we felt it was quite light.

Standards and expectations are rising in the city and Blue, in the kitchen at least, is an old dog that needs to learn some new tricks.

Rating: 11/20
Breakdown: 4/10 food
4/5 service
3/5 atmosphere
Address: The Albert Dock
L3 4AE
Tel: 0151 702 5831

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafés against the best cafés 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 Outstanding

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

Barnacle BillJuly 28th 2010.

They've even dummed down the Maritime Museum so that shouting hyperactive whelps will not be 'bored'

SuspiciousJuly 28th 2010.

Hmm, I smell someone with an interest who finds it hard dealing with criticism. I'm afraid Blue is very much as described. It need not remain that way, but I suspect to change would require owners willing to listen.

taken on boardJuly 28th 2010.

to answer "john" my comments are in most part agreement with lucky grills to the point where yes the reviewer was honest about his visit but thats his opinion, i was merley pointing out that having worked there its poor reviewing to suggest that some ingrediants are bought in, but as lucky grills points out a review is an opinion and it should be used as nothing more but a kick up the backside to the current employees, who knows they may just shock you on your next visit......

JonJuly 28th 2010.

Who are the PR people for Blue? if I was them, I would be writing comments here implying that the review was motivated by lack of advertising spend on Liverpool Confidential. And then I would get some ex-staff members to speak up for Blue. In a lame way, obviously. #justsaying

Dubious to say the least!!!July 28th 2010.

What a sad, sad time this is for your previously once informative and accurate website!!! As a regular reader of your reviews I am disappointed to read quite a clearly 'biased' review. I have visited Blue on numerous occasions and whilst some observations are true, to word it in such a manner is damaging to say the least... to both yourself and the bar. Blue has changed greatly over the last 10 years and to include a snippet regarding previous ownership is both irrelevant and almost childlike!!! Your reviewer sounds like a young boy retaliating after having his legs slapped by a displeased teacher! I hope this doesn't turn into a war of words between the two as the discreditations will amount to nothing, as it always does. Blue will always remain at the higher end of the restaurant scale, with excellent food, the fillet steak is actually to die for! So, any newbies or regulars to this site, please take this review with a pinch of salt and go see for yourself.

Una FormJuly 28th 2010.

I dunno but there you have it in black and white....and blue.

Albert DockJuly 28th 2010.

With tacky high street scally rubbish from the 1980s now being touted as "vintage" surely the nineties revival can't be far away?

Blue supporterJuly 28th 2010.

There's a suprise. A business that doesn't advertise with Liverpool Confidential receives a dubious review! Who says money can't but you love! Can someone explain the relation between Liverpool's white Armani suits of 1996 and a black uniform? Talking vintage - love the Liverpool Confidential website!

Prof ChucklebuttyJuly 28th 2010.

Thank you Wullie, always nice to see you pop up. And thank you to Mr McQuillian for what was otherwise an excellent review. You weren't to know. I'm alright now.

taken on boardJuly 28th 2010.

as someone who has worked in that kitchen before i find it quite hard to read as i know the effort that gets put into the food, yes consistency is essential but in these current difficult times of trading these one sided comments can damage the said business beyond repair, an before its noted yes i do have an interest as many of my friends still work there, in my times there i've always had good food and service to boot and its always worth a visit when the suns out, yes the decor may be gettin tired but to compare it to the blue of the ninetees is grossly unfair as the business has totally changed all over the city with places like hope street and the carriage works lookin after the high end diners, blue is and will always remain the trend setter and not the blown up corporate chaser, however as i said consistency is the key and your comments will be passed on and taken on board.

Marie TimeheritageJuly 28th 2010.

Apart from one very muddy and circuitous walk (thanks, Liberal Dimbocrats) to the Klimt exhibition in 2008 I haven't been to the Albert Dock at all for years. There's nothing there any more apart from cramped, uncomfortable overpriced bars and cramped, uncomfortable overpriced flats.

ChrisJuly 28th 2010.

Myself and friends have been frequenting Blue for the last couple of years and have always found the service and food to be of a consistantly high standard. Great surroundings - overlooking the dock, a relaxed atmosphere and a nice clientele.

Square EyesJuly 28th 2010.

I wonder whatever happened to the woman who played Jackie Dixon in Brookie? Had she been a cockney in East Enders the BBC would at great expense have created a job for her, but non-cockneys have no chance.

GordoJuly 28th 2010.


DigJuly 28th 2010.

I reckon the murdering feline was Ken. He was rather jealous of you befriending that rat you know? He felt ignored, unloved and ultimately hungry. So rather than go to the Blue Bar he ate that rat.

Infamy, Infamy, they all have it in for meJuly 28th 2010.

Love it when you give a place an honest review Confidential, and the owners come on incognito claiming you've got an ulterior motive! Theatre, theatre, and so obvious!I have just tweeted this article to all my followers

SuspiciousJuly 28th 2010.

Hmm, I smell someone with an interest who finds it hard dealing with criticism. I'm afraid Blue is very much as described. It need not remain that way, but I suspect to change would require owners willing to listen.

star_spotterJuly 28th 2010.

Eiew myee Gozz! She’s goin’ to be in ‘Bolloaks’! http://uk.imdb.com/name/nm0281939/news#ni3569512

DigJuly 28th 2010.

Is Blue still the place place to go to be seen? I must be getting old as I thought that ship sailed long ago. I know Blue has it's fans but it is hardly cutting edge and the food has NEVER been fantastic.

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