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Scouse at the Signature Cafe...

....Angie Sammons in Rapid's self service food corner

Written by . Published on August 9th 2011.

Scouse at the Signature Cafe...

DEPARTMENT store cafes: for many, our debut eating out experience; the public test bed to see whether we could use a knife and fork correctly or sit still for any meaningful length of time. 

In their day, that largely meant busy, vast, noisy, self services. Plates would be cleared by a lady walking around with a trolley and a swill bin, while the concept of all-you-can-eat comprised a Dairylea triangle and two Jacob's cream crackers wrapped in cellophane (think the Cooperative Retail Society's food hall on London Road or Lewis's latter basement dive). 

(Click here to add text)Of course, it wasn’t all like this. A la carte, silver service experiences, never knowingly undersold or overestimated, could be had on the fifth floor of George Henry Lee's. Elbows off the table, Timothy. 

They are all but gone, thanks to the rise of Starbucks, Red Hot Buffets and myriad daytime dining opportunities in the city centre. But then so are all the above mentioned stores. 

Nowadays GH Lees is Rapid Hardware's domain, the entire-length-of-Renshaw-Street relocated and condensed into its vast floors. Cookers, plasma tellies, washing machines, module couches and MDF everything jostle with hammers, chandeliers and axes.  

The Doherty family moved the lot - lock, stock and biscuit barrel - into the building left vacant when John Lewis went to Liverpool One. 

Still keeping up? 

Today GHL is known as the Rapid Department Store. And instead of gilt-edged service, they have built the Signature Cafe on the second floor in a bid keep the eyes of those with Araldite fatigue glued on the products once refreshed. 

Like the new Rapid, this is seeking to be all things to everyone, whoever that might be.

On the one hand, it is a tea and toastie place, on the other, you can buy full size bottle of wine from the chiller, if you wish, and glug on it with your (very good looking) prawn Marie Rose sandwich, your equally appetising looking fish and chips, a homemade cake or a curry on a Saturday.  

The view from the room? Divans and wardrobes. Test beds of a different sort.

“What’s yours, mate?” the young man behind the counter briskly enquired. Scouse and red cabbage (£5.99) as it happened, which was brought to the table 10 minutes later.

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It gets busy in here and you may struggle for a table at the peak of lunch time, a clean one that is, if the day we visited was anything to go by.

There are a lot of covers and not a lot of people to deal with the aftermath of, well, a lot of people.

Having said that, the lady with the detergent spray was quick to hose one down when she spotted us struggling.

Like her, the rest of the Signature Cafe appears to mean well. They do their damndest to get people in with the omnipresent locally sourced badge and they proudly boast a Five from Scores on the Doors, the council's hygiene inspectorate.

All the cakes are made right here on the premises and there are at least a dozen.

Our server couldn’t recommend one: “I don’t like cakes,” she said, so we chose a lovely moist lemon drizzle and an apple, elderflower and gooseberry sponge (£2.49), which was as light and soft as a dove’s wing. The coffee (£1.80) is pretty good too and no Illy signs anywhere.

Our steaming bowl of Liverpool stew was the beef version (let's not get into the whole scouse thing of mutton, beef, lob or blind) and was just the thing to savour on a freezing cold midsummer day.

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Your mother’s, will, in fond memory, be better. But once we broke into the forming skin which, if nothing else, will remind you of hers (her scouse, that is), it was packed with chunks of tender meat, cooked long and slow with big slabs of aromatic carrot, celery, onions and one or two baby potatoes.

A thin slice of drying-out white bread let it right down and was not worth the calories. The butter pat it came with had melted under the bowl so that it obscenely shot hot liquid all over the top of my companion's trousers when it was picked up; thus adding a whole new meaning to the adage that butter goes straight to your hips.

Still, Swarfega couldn't be far away and TK Maxx is only next door.

Excellent, unusually deep bowls they were too.

Do they sell these in here? we wondered of the indefatigable trolley lady as she picked up our plates and tipped the remains of our food into a black bin liner on the front without batting an eye.

“Not in here, no,” she replied cheerfully. “But they may sell them in Rapid.”

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




Food 6.5/10
Service 2/5
Ambience 3/5


Signature Cafe
Rapid Department Store,
Williamson Square
Liverpool, L1 1EA
0151 708 2000

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,16-18 very good to exceptional, 19 as good as it gets, 20 better than it gets

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Reader XxxSeptember 6th 2011.

The scouse at Rapid is delicious, and there is lots of it. Ignore the negatives and get down there. This is a Liverpool venture with a track record of giving good value. And just for the record, I was once involved in a charitable venture to send emergency goods to Kosovo. Rapid contributed a quantity of useful gear and added a not inconsiderable amount of cash for diesel to get it there. The only stipulation was that there should be no publicity. Well, it's a few years ago now, so I hope the Rapid family will forgive me for mentioning it now.

Rambling Blind scouseSeptember 6th 2011.

Judging by that picture, the best way to enjoy the scouse is wearing a blindfold.

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