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Bold Street Coffee - review

It's the antithesis of Starbucks - and AA Grill is not the only one to give this passionate place his blessing

Written by . Published on October 7th 2011.


Bold Street Coffee - review

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SUPERMARKETS don't belong anywhere near Bold Street, the physical, philosophical polar opposite to the monotone monolith that is Liverpool One. But that hasn't stopped them gatecrashing the party.

Despite her better judgement, a friend in danger of decarbohyration recently found herself in that branch of Sainsbury's at the top end of Bold Street.

The only sandwich which vaguely appealed was priced £3 and came as part of a “meal deal”. How much for just the sandwich, she asked the man at the till. “Three pounds”, he said. “But you can have a fizzy drink and a bag of crisps as well, and it's still three pounds.”
At BSC they work hard, but they also have passion. There, the daily grind just means the coffee's coming. They are in love with what they do and what they sell, and how else can you
expect people to keep coming back?
Wonder no longer why the UK has the worst obesity rates in Europe when they are giving away the junk food for free. As he spoke, the checkout operative's mouth shaped into an evil grin and my friend realised that the tufts of hair she had mistaken for poor grooming were actually tiny horns.
 
That last bit may not be strictly true, but you can't deny that supermarkets are the work of Satan.

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The Reverend Billy Talen, a New York political performance artist and friend of Liverpool Confidential, knows this better than most. He carried out an “exorcism” at the Bold Street branch of Tesco Express in order, he proclaimed, to “drive out the demons”.  But those demons use weapons of mass production.


Perhaps my friend had Rev Billy in mind when she decided to forego the offer of all that extra salt and fat and sugar and more fat in the form of a can of pop and a bag of cheese and onion. Instead, she went to Bold Street Coffee and, for an extra 20 pence, bought herself a goat's cheese, cherry tomato and basil panini with side salad. The preacher would be proud.

Bold Street enjoys a unique status among the city centre retail “offer” – as we are now obliged to call it – for the sheer number of interesting, independent traders. Among them, News From Nowhere, possibly the only community, not-for-profit, workers' co-operative radical bookshop this side of High Street, Havana; and Matta’s International Foods, who I have to thank for the knowledge that pitta bread pockets do not necessarily have to taste like empty cereal packets.

Dscf98144The world's only branch of Bold Street Coffee fitted in nicely with the ethos of its surroundings when it opened a little while back and didn't take long to be voted the city's favourite independent cafe at the Liverpool Food and Drink Awards.

The individuality starts out front, with the sign, handwritten by a friend with a flourish that he probably couldn't replicate if he tried. Inside, there is something about the place, which could in part be to do with the décor, a pleasing coalition of whitewashed walls, scatter gun posters, elegant low slung lights, padded seating all down one wall, a pushbike hanging from another, though probably not the functional-at best-tables and chairs. But there is a vibe that makes you want to stay and experience more.

There are some things you can make a success of with sheer hard graft, and others, like  restaurants and coffee shops, which take something more. I know a man who opened a shop once, let's say it was a bread shop. He worked ever so hard, but he had no love of bread, no interest in it other than its potential to earn him a crust. That shop is long gone.

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At BSC they work hard, but they also have passion. There, the daily grind just means the coffee's coming. They are in love with what they do and what they sell, and how else can you expect people to keep coming back?


One other ingredient adds to the allure of the place, something that percolates through everything from the ambience to the a La Marzocco FB80 coffee machine, hand-made to order in Florence.
It's that component which defies definition, which you've either got, or you haven't got. Nous, instinct, style, call it the x factor, if you like. Certainly, it was enough to attract the best Talen show in town. The aforementioned Rev Billy Talen brought his Earthalujah Choir in to perform a blessing at BSC, declaring it to be “the complete antithesis of Starbucks”.

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They were discussing The X Factor at the next table the day we went in, but not in a way I've ever heard in the queue at Starbucks. One man was talking zealously about the application of the negative and the positive in our everyday lives, with particular reference to Simon Cowell: “He's a magician, but he uses his magic to abuse people.”


All the coffee at BSC is painstakingly sourced and bought at better than fair trade prices. Like Starbucks, there are the usual Americanos (£2) and lattes (£2.20). Unlike Starbucks, there is a daily choice of three single origin filter coffees, from about £2.30 up to £3.50 for something extra special. After an Americano and two cups of an excellent, complex Nicaraguan filter, I was rebounding from the plasterboard.

The food's wicked, but not wicked like the supermarkets are. Spicey butternut squash soup (£3.95, or £3 to take away) was smooth as velvet, with the mellow heat of an early autumn day. It came with light, delicate granary bread, one of the few things not made in the kitchen but courtesy of Antoni's Bakery across town.

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Melted Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese with sauteed onions on toasted white bloomer (£2.95) was big and tasty and unapologetic except perhaps in the description – come on, guys, let's call a fried onion a fried onion and be done with it.
 
Salads are not merely there to appease the diet-conscious, but prepared with thought for flavour, texture, colour: a  Greek salad featured, alongside the familiar goat's cheese and good quality olives, slabs of crunchy pepper - Greek unorthodox; and a Waldorf Salad dressed in a good quality, home made mayonnaise that had previously featured in top drawer coleslaw. There are three choices daily and £4.50 buys you a massive portion of one, half and half, or a mixture of all three.

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A range of sandwiches and panini changes daily and, by the way,  the goat's cheese panini mentioned at the top of this review was, my friend reports, “fantastic”.


I am something of an expert on brownies; not, before someone calls the police, little girls in uniforms, but the chocolate sort, which come in many shades. The Bold Street Coffee version (£2.10) was rich, soft, dense, and possibly the most perfect example on God's Earth.

The food this lunchtime was prepared by one of BSC's two chefs, Tariq Paul Ali, Taz to his friends and a refugee from IT. I feel a bout of Taz-mania coming on.


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

Rating: 17/20
Breakdown: Food 8.5/10
Service 4.5/5
Ambience 4/5
Address: Bold Street Coffee
89 Bold Street,
Liverpool,  L1 4HF.
Tel. 0151 707 0760 

 

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; 19-20 As good as it gets. 

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

AnonymousOctober 7th 2011.

What a lovely unpretentious little place this is and thank you for highlighting it. More like this on Bold Street please, although I see some dreadful looking "sports bar" is set to open opposite in Stephen Yip's old tat shop. Let's hope it runs out of money first before the evils of Concert Square are dragged up the street.

AnonymousOctober 7th 2011.

Now THEY would never have Radio City on in there!

London RoadOctober 7th 2011.

Truly excellent piece of writing as usual, Grill.

Knob TwiddlerOctober 7th 2011.

Aye, Anonymous! Remember 'Café Berlin' in Bold Street? Their flyers listed ‘Radio Four’ as one of the attractions to go there for Sunday breakfast.

AnonymousOctober 7th 2011.

I prefer it to the Italian Club who offer squirty cream

Andrew EdwardsOctober 7th 2011.

Embrace this gem of a coffee shop! It's important to support indies like this. The filter coffee is outstanding. I'm normally an espresso drinking man, but their filter blends are a lovely variation in my coffee addiction. You can feel the passion and taste the love. These people care and the coffee is the real star (as it should always be). I go out of my way to enjoy a hot drink at BSC, passing numerous coffee-chains on my detour and I think that says it all. One BSC is worth ten Starbucks! Also, check out the fantastic harpist, Stan Ambrose, who provides the best coffee-drinking ambience music ever!

AnonymousOctober 11th 2011.

The only thing that upsets me about it is that they close at 5 or 6 before I finish work - it would be a fantastic place to go in the evening!

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Anonymous

The only thing that upsets me about it is that they close at 5 or 6 before I finish work - it would…

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Andrew Edwards

Embrace this gem of a coffee shop! It's important to support indies like this. The filter coffee is…

 Read more
Anonymous

I prefer it to the Italian Club who offer squirty cream

 Read more
Knob Twiddler

Aye, Anonymous! Remember 'Café Berlin' in Bold Street? Their flyers listed ‘Radio Four’ as one of…

 Read more

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