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Restaurant review: East Avenue Bakehouse

AA Grill is in a crusty mood but warms to another Bold Street newbie

Written by . Published on June 27th 2014.

Restaurant review: East Avenue Bakehouse

THERE'S a lot to like about East Avenue Bakehouse. The front window, the back story, a nice vibe, a gleaming slab of hake, and, especially, the bread.

Here's the story: Charlotte meets Jo, age 11, when their families reside on the same road in Bournemouth. Charlotte abandons the south coast for her native Liverpool but does not abandon her buddy. Jo comes to visit, likes it so much she stays, and, in the fullness of time, they open a bakery together. They call it East Avenue, in honour of the street on which their friendship fermented.

The hake, courtesy of Ward's fishmongers, was bright and fresh as a new dawn. Cooked to micro-second perfection it supported our feeling that the duck's paucity of pink was an aberration 

Charlotte's sister, Ellie, is the other third of Liverpool's first all-female-managed bakehouse, a fact they celebrated by opening on International Women's Day. Girl power meets flour power.

East is yeast, as they might have said, but didn't, although it's not like they haven't had plenty to say. It is the way of things now, get the message out: take 500g of superlatives, a slice of baloney, a pinch of verbs, mix well and spread thickly all over Facebook, Twitter, hither and thither.

Thus, they are “a new style of eatery”, “an exciting slow food eatery”, “an eatery with bread at its heart”, “a social eatery”, and if I read the word eatery one more time, I will have to kill myself. 

Fit frittersFit fritters

And you're all welcome to attend, whoever you are, whatever you are:  “businessmen, lunching mums and hungry hipsters alike.” Hungry hippos too, I expect, if they have the price of a Bakehouse rarebit.

I'm tetchy, I'm sorry, and East Avenue is not the only place that wants to be all things to all men, women and children, but it all sounds just a bit needy. Better to cut the cliché and be yourself because if the punters enjoy themselves, they will provide all the PR you require.

So, let's get a couple of things straight: if EAB is a “new style of eatery” it's lost on me, but, yes, the “dining environment” is “characterful”, and yet “welcoming and comfy”. The front window draws you in with lots of wood and herbs and rack upon rack of bread, spelt or sourdough, twist or stick, the fruits of their chief labour. 

Inside, where it's bright and white, they have a smart tiled counter, what look like high chairs for adults (a touch twee for hipsters' tastes, maybe) and a bicycle hanging from the ceiling (doesn't everybody these days? But the bread boy's bike is fitting, so that's all right).

Duck in a pondDuck in a pond

In the end, it is the food that will speak most eloquently. I had already tried the bread (wholemeal, great) following an earlier recce which had also involved their coffee (not so great).

We began our early evening visit with a ubiquitious platter, passing on "The Carnivore" because there is only a certain amount of credit a restaurant can claim for a sausage. The vegetarian version gives more clue to what they can do, in this case "The Allotment (£10.95 for two)", some of which was just okay, like a red pepper dip with no pep, and a bowl of underseasoned minted mushy peas (which I'm guessing was meant to be the pate).

Some of it, however, was very good indeed, like a perfect, cumin-infused vegetable fritter with grated beetroot and cabbage; a scotch egg made with vegetarian haggis and white pudding - as good as any meat variety we could remember - and a couple of rounds of chia bread, soft and sweet and lovely. Three chias would have been even better.

If Goosnargh duck breast with savoy cabbage, potatoes, and a plum and red wine sauce (£15.95) had been presented with the same skill and care apparent in the picture on their website, all would have been well with it.

Sparkling hakeSparkling hake

Instead, the meat was overcooked, the potatoes lacked sufficient character to be served plain, the sauce needed reducing to about a quarter of its volume, and the whole looked like it had fallen from the sky and collided miraculously, but not quite miraculously enough, with a dinner plate. If you're charging sixteen quid, you need to get the details right.

Then it got a whole lot better. Liverpool would not exist but for the sea, yet only now and then am I presented with a fish that communicates its sheer quality before I even take a fork to it. The hake fillet (£15.95), courtesy of Ward's fishmongers, in Birkenhead, bright and fresh as a new dawn, was one such. Cooked to micro-second perfection it supported our feeling that the duck's paucity of pink was an aberration.

A generous slab, the hake came with good asparagus, not quite enough sauteed potatoes and four quarters of plainly roasted beetroot which lent much in the way of colour contrast but nothing in the way of flavour. The palette's important but the palate's more important; a longer cook with balsamic vinegar and a few good sprigs of those herbs would have got closer.

East Avenue Bakehouse %285%29The face of Bagpuss appears miraculously in a mousse on Bold Street

Choose your dessert from the counter: chocolate mousse (£3.05) was bulky and a little bland, good Tiffin (£2.50) was squashy, crunchy, smashie and nicey.

They haven't got everything sorted, not yet, but they want to do it the right way, and that's half the battle. Monthly Slow Food Sundays are proving a hit; a five-course meal, which involves, along the way, giving praise to its creator, a lengthy sit-down, and the taking of bread and wine.

Sounds good, but I've got news: this “exciting new approach to Sunday” has been standard practice for years across town, where they call it Mass. And if you're a Catholic you know just how slow those Sundays can be.

I'll say this much though; carry on as they are and it won't be long before the loaves and the fishes at East Avenue Bakehouse are the talk of Paddy's Wigwam.

Follow AA Grill on Twitter @AAGrill

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

East Avenue Bakehouse
112 Bold Street
Liverpool L1 4HY. Tel: 0151 708 6219. Website Twitter @EastAvenueBakehouse

East Avenue Bakehouse %286%29
Rating:      14.5/20

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

Venues are rated against the best examples
of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, bars against other bars etc. 

Following on from this the scores represent:

1-5: Straight in the dog bowl
6-9: Get to the chippy
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

 East Avenue Bakehouse %281%29

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

Paul WardJune 27th 2014.

Sounds a bit like a posh Sally Army.

AnonymousJune 27th 2014.

Sounds a bit hit and miss really, I prefer restaurants that get it right before I spend my money with them.

AnonymousJune 27th 2014.

It's been excellent every time I've been. And what was wrong with the coffee? I found it up there with Bold Street Coffee

John BradleyJune 27th 2014.

This comment has been deemed inappropriate by editorial staff, and has been removed.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyJune 27th 2014.

In what way was it inappropriate.

Orla HughesJune 29th 2014.

Why name a cafe in Bold Street after a road in Speke?

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