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Restaurant review: Citizen Kane

No spin needed for the plates of food served up at a caff off London Road, which takes tips from Michelin stars. AA Grill is impressed

Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: Citizen Kane

GOD, I hate it when a new restaurant tells me how great the food is before the paint’s even dry. “Finest ingredients, locally sourced,” shrieks the press release.

Jim's spare time
is spent dining at
the world’s best restaurants: The
Ritz, Quaglino’s,
The River Café, The Connaught – 'I like to keep up with what’s happening,' he says

I mostly hate it because, more often than not, the meal fails to match the spiel. Which can only mean – if they really are employing the best produce – that something is amiss in the kitchen. They can talk the talk, but they can’t work the wok.

Then there are places like Kane's, with the body of a cheery caff and a soul manufactured by Michelin. Kane's doesn’t employ a PR firm, it doesn’t advertise (it doesn’t need to), and there’s not much in the way of passing tourist trade on Stafford Street. And yet, 19 years after opening its doors, it is going strong while scores of pretenders have expired long before reaching old age. Cause of death: culinary art disease.

A background in hospital catering (he trained in the kitchens at Walton) might not sound like much of a recommendation, but Jim Kane doesn’t do hospital food. If hospitals did Jim Kane’s food, they would halve the costs of the NHS overnight. (If they want people to get better, why do they feed them cack? But that’s another story).

Actors, dancers, soap stars, businessmen, shoppers, Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale, they all come in here. Customers who have done their growing up in Kanes and now bring their own children in. One table has been booked for 17 years by the same company. “We adopt a few people, as well”.

The service is a delight; sunny, accommodating, they’ve got plenty on the menu but will bend it according to your will. Talicia was seeing to us. “We used to have an Alicia, as well,” said Jim. “Talicia and Alicia.”

Rope lights add to the cheer, round the window and all the way up the feature wrought iron staircase (plenty of room on top). The look is mildly Mediterranean with lemon and terracotta walls and floral prints, plain tables and comfy chairs that have lived life to the full.

Best of all, they do food you have no right to expect from a modest operation at the unfashionable end of town, starting with butterbean and red pepper soup (£2.95), made that morning. Rich, flavourful, perfectly balanced; so utterly seductive I’d have given up everything and moved in if it had asked me.

Jim makes pretty much everything himself, from the signature steak pie, to cakes and scones, ciabattas and club sandwiches. Pat, his wife, works there ocassionally too but, along with anyone else who has ever passed through the kitchen, she never lays hands on the pans. There, Jim’s rule is absolute. Chairman of the chopping board. The ovenor. Lord of the rings. Master of all he sautés. Leader of the p(an r)ack. (You're fired – ed).

Our two boys were attended to pronto; it’s good when the waiting staff understand the needs of small children with matching attention spans. Experience has shown us that around an hour and 10 minutes is the most we can guarantee before the kids trash the place.

Our Eldest’s huge roast breast of chicken (£4.25) was moist inside, crisp-coated outside. “Nice?” I asked. “More than nice,” he said, nodding emphatically. A three-egg cheese omelette (£3.95) was flawlessly executed, and enthusiastically consumed by Our Youngest.

Both meals came with chips, which – economics dictate – come from a bag, though not always. “We have a lady comes on the bus from Tuebrook and she likes battered cod with fat, homemade chips.”

Excellent lasagne (£4.95), fresh and perky, was a variation on the classic recipe with fennel and coriander replacing basil and oregano. “I’ve just made the pasta fresh, I ran out this morning."

Fishcakes (£4.95), delicate flakes of salmon, the softest mash and a fistful of chopped chives, showed that you don’t need to complicate things; just use good ingredients and use them well. With them, a lovely homemade tartar sauce turned pink with pulsed red onion.

Kane's Salad was a brilliant tumble of onions and peppers with leaves and tomatoes included for their flavour, and a good quality olive oil and balsamic dressing on the side. Then came the boys’ favourite bit. A fat chocolate éclair, a perfect cream and strawberry scone, and bread and butter pudding (all £1.95) I would defy Gordon Ramsay to improve upon: a consummate marriage of brioche, eggs, cream and Californian sultanas finished with an apricot glaze. Breaded bliss.

A couple of double shot espressos (£1.90), smooth, intense and strong as hell, had me bouncing off the walls. Meanwhile the boys, completely sugared, were bouncing off me. “I wish we lived here,” said Our Youngest as I edged him towards the door.

Food’s in my blood, Jim concludes, which sounds like murder for the arteries but goes a long way to explain his success. His spare time is spent dining at the world’s best restaurants: London, Paris, New York, culinary tours of Spain and Italy. “The Ritz, Quaglino’s, The River Café, The Connaught – “I like to keep up with what’s happening,” he says.

It’s a long way from the Blue Star chippy in Queens Drive where it all began, aged 12, but he’s never forgotten the basics. “Some of these people have legendary names, but I’ve worked with just as good cooks who were alcoholics.”

Or what you might call “locally sauced”.

Breakdown:8.5/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Kane's
23 Stafford Street, Liverpool
L3 8LX
Tel. 0151 298 1415

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

Ms GrillApril 25th 2008.

Mr Gordo. I am reliably informed that Kanes, being a daytime gaff, closes up at 6pm in order to allow Mr Kane to go home and do a stack more prepping for next day before enjoying a few scoops in the Crows Nest in Crosby. Why not make your Liverpool lieutenants show you the delights of both establishments at your earliest convenience and tuck up tonight with a few scoops of Gaviscon for your own dinner?

Paul and LindaApril 25th 2008.

To Les and Linda: You are right and we are finding trouble getting a table in there sometimes these days. If only they opened at night.

GordoApril 25th 2008.

Jeeeese Grill, i need to go here. I have just had a long lunch in Grado,over in Manchester; I think I am going to get on the train and have dinner here!

leon kayApril 25th 2008.

the breakfasts are great too,the service and the ambience great value for dough

leon kayApril 25th 2008.

the breakfasts are great too,the service and the ambience great value for dough

AbelApril 25th 2008.

I shall be going here, as soon as I am Abel. Sounds like an undiscovered gem. Neat end too - as the actre....

LES + LINDA - SOUTHPORTApril 25th 2008.

We have frequented this establishment for some two years now and each visit the food served is excellent, this coupled with a warm welcome from Jim and his staff make for an fantastic dining experience. Jim makes the best breakfast on Merseyside. A five star rating is warranted here!

Ms GrillApril 25th 2008.

Nice springs on the couch

Wretched RainApril 25th 2008.

@ LES + LINDA - I'm sure wielding Les' sword always produces the goods when hunting down a table here?! Or you could always swap a crop for a bit of scran!

GordoApril 25th 2008.

Oh well. never mind. How's the furniture?

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