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The Hub Alehouse and Kitchen - review

Neil McQuillian gets very English and apologetic about sending stuff back

Written by . Published on June 6th 2011.


The Hub Alehouse and Kitchen - review

THE Hub Alehouse & Kitchen occupies a significant spot in the city, with three very different – but very Liverpool – roads shooting off from it: the grandeur of cathedral-topped Duke Street, the grit and bingeing of Hanover Steet, and the blissed-out commerce of Paradise Street.

 The building’s circular shape accentuates the sense that this is the centre of something, and, with all the copper on show inside, this little nexus it can seem to glow at sunset, as if there’s some kind of occult alignment hocus pocus at work.

There was something dreamy
about all the copper and light
glossy wood, as if everyone
in there had a buttercup
held under their chin

This may well be overdoing the psychogeobabble of cour
se, but that’s only because the 1760 Casartelli building was this writer’s favourite as a child, when the family used to park in the free spots around the Bridewell.

iPhone 001.jpgIt was in a state of disrepair during these years, before finally being knocked down in 2001. In Chumbawamba fashion it got back up again in 2007, rebuilt in replica. It can’t be very often that a building is demolished and then reproduced – give or take a few details – but this one evidently had enough charisma to earn it a death mask. Perhaps better to call it the Casartellish building now.

The Hub’s owners – Steve Slater and Mark Friend, who also own the three Bistro musketeers – Pierre, Jacques and Franc, on Mathew St, Hanover St and Hardman St respectively – have selected a font for their signage which is a little reminiscent of Flares.

This is a pleasingly uncool choice, though it could be that they’re absolutely on-message, given that the clothing item is threatening a comeback. The exterior walls are creamy coloured, which is in keeping wth the Casartellish theme, since, if memory serves, the old paint scheme was more of a (grubby) yellow.

Three things strike you on entering: spaciousness, the bar and the presence of one of the biggest pieces of mood-setting bric-a-brac since the Yellow Submarine was plonked outside John Lennon Airport. This eight foot-ish copper-piping topped barrel (apologies for not knowing the technical term) we supposed to have once had something to do with beer making. 

iPhone 002.jpgIt’s extremely handsome, reminding you that everything about beer is just great. The barrel and copper pans dangling from the ceiling create a crafty sort of feel which actually works fine with the modern industrial look produced by the exposed air vent pipes snaking about the ceiling.

The bar stands out in part because of the ranked bottles of wine on the shelves behind it: a little unexpected, in an “alehouse”. This could perhaps be making the point that the place is about dining, too, not just beer swilling.

They’re open until midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 11pm the rest of the week, however, which suggests that customers are certainly encouraged to exploit the boozy side of things.

The sun was setting as we arrived this Sunday, and there was something dreamy about all the copper and light glossy wood, as if everyone in there had a buttercup held under their chin.

The glow played on our tankards, too, and the ale tasted all the sweeter for it. We tried a different one each, all of them excellent: a Lancaster Red (£3.10), a Josephine Butler's Elderflower (£3.10) and a Lancaster Blonde (£2.95).These were ales to do that big wooden thing proud.

iPhone 010.jpgA starter of salt and pepper squid (£4.25) was of a high standard, a nice little tangle of limbs in an appropriately coarse coating. It wasn’t utterly tender, but I don’t mind having a little wrestle with squid as long as the dish seems freshly prepared and well seasoned, and this absolutely was.

Unfortunately, while I was having a lovely time, one companion was sending their starter back and the other considering the same course of action.

The immediate return-to-sender case was a beef carpaccio (£6.25). Instead of grass-blade-thin slices of raw beef with a mustard sauce, this came as three quite thick chunks of admittedly tasty-looking steak, a little in the manner sometimes taken by the French, and famously brilliant at London’s Le Relais de Venise.

iPhone 011.jpgIt was deemed simply not carpaccio, however, and the server whisked it quickly away with a short ‘Okay’ which suggested an inward struggle to remain civil.

A starter-sized portion of wild mushroom and tallegio risotto (£4.95) was requested as a replacement. Barely three minutes later the waiter returned with a plate which certainly contained mushrooms but instead of being embedded in creamy rice were on top of some brioche. Had the waiter’s frustration exploded in the kitchen so that all anyone could catch was “mushroom” in amongst a lot of potty mouthing?

He went away again, and we waited a good risotto-cooking length of time for the correct ingredients to be assembled. It turned out to be fine, though not so flavoursome as the romantic phrase ‘wild mushrooms’ would have you hope. The other starter was a tomato, basil and mozzarella salad (£4.50) and again that whole ingredients thing had obviously proved a bit too much. In place of basil, there were lots of salad leaves.

iPhone 012.jpgWas this kitchen Countdown, where you try to get as close to the target as you can? Basil is obviously crucial to this dish. There were other niggles, too, unfortunately. The tomatoes, which ought to have provided the body (and probably in good-sized slices) came as insipid cherry tomato halves. And there was no olive oil either, just balsamic vinegar. It was a real shame that things had started out like this, as we liked the place, and had the gut feeling that the kitchen was capable of much better. We were told later by a reliable source that Sundays are the head chef’s day off. Make of that what you will.

The oxtail was the one item on the menu that had run out, sadly (but interesting that it’s so popular), so I went for another meat-n-bone double act, with a big old T-bone (£19.95), to be cooked rare. It was really pretty tasty, and I was enjoying it very much and certainly didn’t want to cause any more fuss (oh no) but my French companion – fresh from her sad salad – spotted the second cob of flesh as I brought it to my (really very appreciative) gob.

That’s not rare, she said. Why no, it’s not, is it, in a Hugh Grant kind of way.

iPhone 015.jpgI was so apologetic for mentioning it to the waiter that he ended up persuading me to send it back. “It’s not what you ordered,” he said. The replacement was much better, sizzling all over and clearly straight off the grill. It was no more pink, however. I hid it behind my (very good) chips as I cut.

A pie of venison, pigeon and rabbit (£11.50) had a satisfyingly pallid and homemade-looking pastry lid, browned in patches and flecked with flour – it recalled school and the olden days. It seemed a good price, for such unusual meats, though the diner couldn’t vouch that each were present and he was hungover and wouldn’t share. In his defence, it was quite a small pie.

A good apple, pear and blueberry crumble (£4.50) was attractively presented in a little storage pot, whilst the cheeseboard (£5.25) was enormous and covered in a patterning of red siso cress that looked like cobwebs. It’s harsh to complain about portions being too big – not since my brain, tripe and trotter soup in Turkey has this thought even occurred to me – but this cheeseboard’s bountifulness was a little unnecessary.

One final teeny weeny little thing if you don’t mind my saying - we requested a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (£12.95) but got a Moncaro Sangiovese (£11.95)

In addition to dinner, you could try them out for breakfast (served 9.00-11.30am at weekends) or lunch, until 4.30pm, with a ‘Lite bites’ menu offering three/five/eight dishes for £9.95/£15.95/£24.95, hefty sandwiches from £4.50-£5.50 and a roast on Sundays (£9.95).

All that complaining, and here I am seriously considering another visit – it must be that old Casartellish magic. 

Rating:

13.5/20

Breakdown:

5.5/10 food
4/5 service
4/5 ambience

Address:

Hub Alehouse & Kitchen
12 Hanover Street
L1 4AA
0151 709 2401

www.thehub-liverpool.com

iPhone 020.jpgVenues 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,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect.

Liverpool Confidential critics dine unannounced and we pick up their bills - not the restaurant, not a PR company.


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

Lynn PowerJune 7th 2011.

We went there not long after it opened, on a Sunday again as it happens. The waiter took our drinks order and then arrived back with our drinks shortly afterwards. He told us he would be back to take our order- 45 mins later and numerous attempts to get anyones attention while tables were cleaned around us and bills paid we eventually got his attention and asked for the drinks bill and promptly headed for Gustos. Will not be attempting to eat in the Hub again.

Mike HomfrayJune 7th 2011.

We had a much better experience last week - my fish and chips were very good and the puddings were both excellent. Good Belgian beers as well

AnonymousJune 7th 2011.

We had a good time there too, a while ago, but it looks like a Sunday issue. People flock to the Liverpool One on Sunday now, more than ever, so you can't take your eye off the ball then.

Nice write-up of a messy experience and yet, like Mr McQuillian, for some reason it wouldn't stop me going back. Not Sunday though! Weird I guess.

Mark Friend - Hub OwnerJune 8th 2011.

As the owner of The Hub Alehouse and Kitchen it pains me to read such a review, and in all honesty I think it could possibly have been harsher, so thank you for that!

Every Restaurant owner who cares about what they do has sleepless nights over poor reviews, so I guess that tonight it's my turn to toss and turn till the early hours.

Your comments will be used to further our staff training programme, so again, thanks. The Hub has been open for almost 4 months and like most new openings it has had its teething problems......so no excuses, hands up, sorry for those occassions when we got it wrong.

From day one it has been, quite unexpectedly, a hugely busy venue and to be totally honest I would have preferred (and expected) a slower build to trade so that everyone could settle in at a comfortable pace....this was not meant to be!

Four months later and I'm really pleased and comfortable with the standard of food and service at The Hub. I'd be telling you porkies if I said that that we are getting it perfect every time, but almost every time is the truth, which means we're getting close to where we want to be.

Anyway, I'll stop rabbiting and sign off....thanks for your honest review and to all our customers who have kept The Hub a busy and fun place to visit!

EditorialJune 8th 2011.

Well said, Mark. Onward and up.

JohnJune 9th 2011.

Well i'll be blown, that surprises me, i've been loads now and each time it's been great even on a sunday the roast is out of this world

Reader XxxJune 20th 2011.

What a positive response from the owner. It makes me want to eat there.

Hero
Mark GarnerJune 24th 2011.

Well said Mr. Friend; Other restaurant owners take note. I tell my staff to look for criticism in what they do, listen and learn. That is what makes us stronger. Next meal for me in Liverpool is with you guys.

AnonymousJune 24th 2011.

That comment makes me want to eat there as well, really positive! I'm going next week now!

Ian Charles CarruthersJuly 5th 2011.

Sat 2nd July - A lovely place. Nice and airy and comfortable, sit back and relax. Staff great, Sophie, Ruth & Jade, couldn't do enough for the 4 of us. The only thing they couldn't do was to get the food onto our table. We waited and waited for our starters and then waited longer for our mains, 'til it become embarrassing for us and the staff. The problem was with the kitchen.
When we finally got our food it was very good. The shift manager I think it was Sophie, was so apologetic and said we could have our desserts and coffee on the house. Would we go again. Yes! Everyone deserves another chance

JimJuly 8th 2011.

Nice place for a drink but a month ago I complained about dirty beer glasses. Was in last night and found nothing had changed. Never seen so many bubbles stuck to inside of a glass. Would have provided this as private feedback but their website doesn't seem to want email contact with their customers.

MookyJuly 15th 2011.

I have been The Hub a few times now and I really enjoy it. There is a great atmosphere, I went in with my boyfriend the other weekend for a quick drink and we ended up staying for a couple of hours. The cocktails are reasonably priced and food is good value for money. It’s nice that a lot of the staff are scousers and you have a bit of banter with them.

AnonymousJuly 15th 2011.

I go quite a lot with my family and we all love it in there! It has a great atmosphere - mix of a pub and a restaurant - its really relaxed and they do a great burger! Would def recommend!

Liverpool WagJuly 15th 2011.

Hmmmm.

AnonymousJuly 15th 2011.

went to hub in July. Ordered two burger meals. What came was burnt and dry as a bone - awful. If the chef can't cook a burger what hope is there. won't be going again

ObserverJuly 16th 2011.

Mooky/the first Anonymous isn't going to like your honest appraisal when she/he reads it on Monday morning, Anonymous.

PR people don't work at the weekend, however they do, give the credibility of real opinions a bad name, and, as most people can all see through them, the reputation of the restaurant also.

MikeJuly 22nd 2011.

To get it right you MUST employ passionate and inspired chefs who would rather fall on their boning knives than send out food that wasnt EXACTLY what was stated on the menu cooked to the customers requirements . The buck stops at the owner. The master must BE THERE to ensure that the kitchen staff are not "Near Enough" and sloppy. Look a The Brewery tap in Chester. Spot on every time and served with a smile and good humour by an obviously happy crew. I hope you can turn it Mark. A great concept and well positioned.

Salad DazeJuly 26th 2011.

Hurrah! I've found my mojo. My old moniker is reallowed on the site. I thought I'd lost it. And Colonel Gadaffi is on a plane to Venezuela.

Claire O'connorSeptember 11th 2011.

I've just come home from the Hub and I'm gutted. We went for my boyfriends birthday and as we'd been before shortly after it opened we were really looking forward to it. We booked a table and it was filthy, as was the one we were moved to. We weren't offered drinks after finishing the drinks we had when we arrived. The food was cold and the staff were rude.
I will never go back.
The Hub is a pretentious, over-rated, dirty DUMP.

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