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Restaurant review: Hotel do lack

AA Grill finds himself eating at the Adelphi - and it ain't good

Written by . Published on August 5th 2011.

Restaurant review: Hotel do lack

ELEANOR Roosevelt once said: “There are only two deluxe hotels outside north America worth speaking of – the Hotel Georges V in Paris and the Liverpool Adelphi.”

These days, critiques of the hotel, by its guests, are inclined to be less reverential. “Stay away”, “read and weep”, and the disconcerting “no credit to Liverpool” are among recent contributions to travel websites.

A drinker from the bar buttonholed me, anxious to locate the toilets. I discovered why when the unmistakeable sound of retching reached
me from his cubicle moments later

From its status as the stopover point for first-class passengers of the great ocean liners to TripAdvisor’s July 7 posting, “disgusting, old and smelly”, the road has mostly been downhill and, along the way, concealed the occasional high explosive device.

Take the 2006 story revealing that so many burglaries were being committed in the hotel that it was skewing the city’s overall crime figures. Then there was the famous BBC series of 1997, Hotel, which gave the impression of a shambolic, Fawltyesque comedy of complaining customers and rowing staff, presided over by the fiery Eileen Downey, and chiefly remembered for the instruction to the head chef from then operations manager Brian Birchall to “just cook, will yer!”.

20081707Food1Lamb cutletsJudging by a recent visit, the intervening decade or so has seen little change. Eileen is still at the wheel, Brian has been promoted, and I experienced my very own “just cook” moment.

From the foyer, you have to cross Jenny’s Bar to reach Crompton’s Restaurant, a logistical detail that gave rise to a couple of interesting moments during trips to the gents.

On the first occasion, a drinker from the bar buttonholed me, anxious to locate the toilets. I discovered why when the unmistakeable sound of retching reached me from his cubicle moments later. It could have spoiled my appetite but luckily the tap I used to wash my hands made a noise like the dying screams of a torture victim and drowned out the remainder of his vomitory activity.

Shortly after 11pm, I went again only to find the doors of the bar firmly shut. No amount of pushing or pulling by myself and a mild-mannered Scottish woman heading the same way could budge them.

Suddenly, a voice boomed at us from across the room. “Just open it!” The words “will yer!” hung in the air like a spectre. We tried again. “JUST OPEN IT!” demanded the barmaid, with some irritation. As we continued to fumble, we heard the sound of feet pounding carpet. Moments before she reached us we flung open the door and made good our escape. My acquaintance from north of the border was so rattled by this time that she pleaded with me not to return without her.

20081707Food2Game terrineThe food proved equally entertaining, in the same if-you-didn’t-laugh-you’d-be- livid kind of way. Crompton’s is described as “the finest French cuisine in beautiful elegant surroundings” which, by any standards, is some claim.

To be fair, they have made some effort, from the starched white linen, to the smart new, if rather pinkly garish, carpet, to drawings of English stately homes which have as much to do with the finest French cuisine as, it transpires, the food.

I should make it clear at this point that the opinions expressed below belong only to myself and the good Mrs Grill. You might love Crompton’s food, and the fact that this would surprise me more than if God appeared to me at my local newsagent’s tomorrow morning is neither here nor there. It may, therefore, be judicious if, after each observation relating to the food, readers mentally insert the words “or so WE thought”. E.G. “The veg was crap – or so WE thought”. This will save me having to repeat myself.

The restaurant’s attempts at taste and refinement were a little undermined by the abundance of grubby finger marks on the walls and the sound of Liverpool FC chants coming from somewhere above our heads. “WE LOVE YOU LIVERPOOL, WE DO,” they called as we perused the wine list. “WE ALL LIVE IN A RED AND WHITE KOP,” they added amiably. “Coachload of Reds’ fans in the bar tonight, is there?” we wondered of the waiter. “No”, he replied. “That’s the CD.”

When we arrived, at 8.45pm on Saturday night, we were the only diners in the place. Nothing had changed when we left two and a half hours later. We would have suspected the veracity of the waiter’s claim that 32 people had only just that minute left had he not been such a thoroughly decent and dutiful fellow.

We began with a glass of dry house white, the first sip of which provoked an outburst from the beautifully elegant Mrs G.

“Fuck me!” she said, and not in a good way. The wine was so awful I was forced to empty my glass into the only available receptacle – the ice bucket for a bottle of Sancerre, which, thankfully, proved a big improvement.

The menu is written in French (“Les Preludes”) with English translation (“starters”) below. Snails and chateaubriand are on offer along with “coupe de crevettes” – prawn cocktail to you and me – and “supreme de volaille tropical” – Hawaiian chicken by any other name.

A game terrine (£4.50), processed into squishy blandness, flopped between two puddles of underpowered, over-sweet Cumberland sauce with a few sad leaves and slices of under-ripe tomato. Salade “Adelphi” (£4.50), sliced mushrooms, bacon and ham topped with croutons and a handful of those leaves, was uninspired for a signature dish but at least one of the less offensive offerings of the night.

The roast rack of lamb (£11.50) wasn’t a rack of lamb, but the crumb-covered cutlets that came instead were cooked something like the requested pink and tasted of lamb. A Madeira wine sauce had the viscosity of engine oil and appeared to have been thickened with a big spoonful of cornflour. Poached monkfish tail (£12.50) was like no monkfish I have had.

In fact, it didn’t taste of fish at all and appeared to have been broken down into its constituent proteins before being remixed into something suitable for hospital patients with a gastrointestinal complaint. An accompanying beurre blanc would have been bad enough if it had only separated and formed a skin but it was also repellent. Frankly, I would rather eat my own bile and as I surveyed the unpleasant yellow substance, every taste of which made me feel increasingly unwell, I may as well have been doing.

A “bouquetaire” (word of advice: don’t use pretentious French culinary terms if you can’t spell them) of vegetables (£2.75) made a mockery of the description “freshly cooked”. Perhaps they were fresh but if so then it takes a special kind of skill to produce, for instance, carrots that tasted like they had been cooked for several hours, some time last month, then zapped mercilessly in a microwave in a futile attempt to jolt their limp corpses into life.

Dauphinois potatoes were, by a distance, the best thing all night: soft and flavoursome with an aura of the recently cooked about them. Unlike the roast potatoes which reminded Mrs Grill of the miniature boulders she used to find in the oven as a teenager when six hours late home for her Sunday dinner after a day misspent with friends.

In circumstances like these, I usually manage to shovel enough down me to avoid an awkward scene with the waiter, with me mumbling something about not being very hungry. This time I ate so little, and was so appalled by the level of awfulness displayed that when the inevitable question was asked I felt compelled to tell the truth. “It was”, I admitted, “pretty terrible, really”.

It was one of the many times in my life when I have been made to deeply regret being honest. Utterly mortified, he declared he would inform the chef immediately. No, no, we insisted. He offered to knock something off the bill. It’s okay, we said, it’s not your fault, you’ve been great. It’s NOT okay, he said. This is my restaurant. Oh, no, I thought. This man really cares. A light in the darkness.

He apologised again. It didn’t get any better. A slice of low grade lemon tart (£2.95) was garnished with a handful of strawberry pieces which might have been nice had they ripened for long enough to acquire a flavour.

The “assortment of fine cheeses” (£2.95) comprised four or five predictable selections, one barely distinguishable from another – other than an acceptably ripe Stilton – served with pieces of celery which were like chewing balsa wood infested with dry rot, and what appeared to be the entire contents of a family cheese biscuit selection emptied out on top of it.

All in all, it was the most fun we’d had in a restaurant in ages. Unfortunately for the Adelphi, we were laughing at it, not with it.

Rating: 7/20
Breakdown: 2/10 Food
4/5 Service
1/5 Ambience
Address: Crompton's French Restaurant
Britannia Adelphi Hotel
Ranelagh Place
L3 5UL
0151 709 7200

*Review originally published in 2008

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

Nelson GriddleJuly 17th 2008.

You have hit the nail on the head, Kevin, they don't know there is a problem. Sorry to get a bit deep for a Friday afternoon, but to me the Adelphi sums up and mirrors everything that is wrong about this city.The excellent raw materials are there in both, in terms of architecture and unrivalled position, but the people at the helm ensure that neither ever reaches its potential, or walk the walk if you like.

Poncy French DishJuly 17th 2008.

Thank you very much for the fantastic read which I found very informative and amsuing. I must admit that I am now even more worried about the launch event on 8th August to which some of my colleagues have been invited. I think I shall get the Pepto-bismol ready....

London RoadJuly 17th 2008.

Manc Lover of Liverpool is very correct in his/her assessment of Mersey Pointless-ship and of our equally useless city council. "Deluded" doesn't really sum it up!

LolaJuly 17th 2008.

Have just laughed out loud at the picture of the jumbled crackers! What a terrible shame that this magnificent hotel has been reduced to such a state. We had our uni graduation ball there a few years ago & it was farcical! Filthy & staffed with untrained international students who spoke no English & had clearly never worked at a bar before, we couldn't have got drunk if we'd tried as was impossible to order a drink!

TonyJuly 17th 2008.

why don't we organise a boycott of it and just embarrass the **** out of Brittania Hotels? Interesting that such an awful place could produce such a beautiful review...

DigJuly 17th 2008.

The Adelphi is akin to Madonna reinventing herself to change with the times. Unlike Madonna The Adelphi tries, then fails. The rooms and corridors still whiff of faded glories, the large rooms still have an air of elegance but the illusion of elegance is shattered when the scallywag staff open their grubby mouths.

ShazzaJuly 17th 2008.

My cousin was staying there and took a takeaway back. She was forced to eat it on the steps!!!

DigJuly 17th 2008.

Where are you from Tip? Did they not teach you how to spell there? With your obvious lack of intelligence you would be better off not typing insults.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2008.

I agree. Haven't laughed so much in ages! Those pictures are amazing! Did they really, really, really have the Kop CD playing!?!

billyoJuly 17th 2008.

It is the epitome of Liverpools problems. Once great now disgusting. Once important now decrepit. Once elite now scummy.Would have been interesting to check the rats and cockroaches in the kitchens (and that is just the staff)

Rhi EvilJuly 17th 2008.

Also.. i feel i must add my own horrific experience to this board....I was lucky enough to go on a training course at the Adelphi(!) and noticed that the heavy door to our booked room was held open with a glass water bottle.. a friend picked up the bottle and the heavy door shut behind us... then we discovered that there was in fact, no handle on the inside of the door..... the group (myself and around 10 other people) had to ring down to the reception using a mobile phone..... and waited at least 20 minutes for the phone to be answered....We were finally rescued by an angry looking man who yelled at us for moving the bottle!!!!! when someone dared to mention Health and Safety he appeared to turn purple with anger and threatened to throw us out!!!Minutes later we were offered our buffet lunch for free.. and i for one was glad our company wasn't being charged for the trays of awful nibbles and sandwiches that were then bestowed upon us.... Classy.

Jon GardJuly 17th 2008.

Those pictures look, erm, 'appetising'.

Le MinxJuly 17th 2008.

Well I worked there for approx 4 days (yes, I can't believe that I stuck it out for so long!ha!) earlier on this year in the events dept and during my initial induction training day I was reliably informed that during the Aintree Race days, the jockeys and their trainers entertain and stay over with a varied selection of ladies of the night.....and that Mrs 'crack yer face' Downey knows about this....and allows it to happen! Yuck! I wouldn't recommend staying over in one of those stain-soaked rooms....mmm! tres chic! The whole place is an absolute toilet bowl and should be condemned! For God's sake don't eat there....or you will end up with a tasty dose of botulism and/or listeria! Bon appetite from the Britannia Group! ;) Enjoy your stay!

The Hotel InspectorJuly 17th 2008.

can help? (The proper blonde one in the garish donkey-jackets, not this narky new millionairess one.)

rhi EvilJuly 17th 2008.

Fantastic review.... But how sad that such a historic and once magnificent landmark for Liverpool has been reduced to this.....I say we start a 'Save the Adelphi' group.. and maybe, just maybe, the management will see what a laughing stock they have become....

youngerthantwiggyanywayJuly 17th 2008.

I used to go to the gym at the Adelphi, a long, long time ago. Much like the restaurant above, nothing much was right with it, apart from the hint of what once was, and what might have been. After a certain feminine item was left unremoved on top of a shower partition for six weeks, I finally left... ...my great grandfather wrote a book in 1918 describing post-war England, and he described the Adelphi as one of the great hotels of the world, equal with the Ritz in Madrid. In particular he mentioned the officers' club (or room - I forget which). How sad, how terribly sad. Does nobody in this organization ever read anything written about them, or watch the press even?

"Jus' kewk wilyer!"July 17th 2008.

, ahem.

Manc lover of LiverpoolJuly 17th 2008.

London Road makes a pertinent point. Surely LCC and Mersey Pointless-ship could put pressure on the Britannia Group to make them understand that the Adelphi is too important to be treated like this. CPO it or something. Sadly compared to my city your council is crap and rows with itself over trivialities. There are benefits to the one party state of affairs we have in our politics and the dictatorship of Sir Howard and his puppet Sir Richard.

Fur coat and no knockersJuly 17th 2008.

Unfortunately, they've wrecked the Grand Foyer in their recent refurb. The pillars are still there, but they've tried to modernise it and they've knocked the character out of it. I was in there a couple of weeks ago and I could hear "The Time Warp" from that wonderful transvestite musical coming from three different weddings. Says it all really.I

BuxtonJuly 17th 2008.

I can't believe they play Liverpool FC supporters singing on a CD in the restaurant. Hahahaha. It's so ridiculous it's funny.

Superior WaiterJuly 17th 2008.

Discreet cough

Dame Edith OvensJuly 17th 2008.

Hear hear, Mr. Griddle!

food loverJuly 17th 2008.

It is crap ive been there, I had to go for a kebab afters and even that was 10 times better

Del FontJuly 17th 2008.

Lovely writing. Beautifully designed - the positioning of the "**** me" is inspired

Rob CoterillJuly 17th 2008.

Staying there for a convention in '98, I remember asking for a refill of the water jug for our table. "No." I was told: "somebody else has asked for water, so you can't have the jug."

AnonymousJuly 17th 2008.

I have just read this again. Class. Pure class.

ThatsmonseurbollockstoyouJuly 17th 2008.

**** me! I haven't laughed so much since Jay Rayner's last classic slag-off in The Observer. Back on form, Grilly Boy!

Salad DazeJuly 17th 2008.

Superior Waiter is always right. As my learned friend reminds me "The governments’ response to rising youth unemployment was to set up a programme to provide temporary work experience for school-leavers without jobs. In this context, the Job Creation Programme was introduced in 1975 to provide young people with some workexperience, although not to provide any formal training. At this stage, a small minority of young people experienced schemes, but in 1978 with the introduction of a new programme,the Youth Opportunities Programme, providing six months of work experience for those who had been unemployed for six weeks, levels of participation grew. In 1981, Youth Opportunities was succeeded by the year-long Youth Training Scheme(YTS) and in 1986 YTS became a two-year programme (subsequently renamed Youth Training (YT)) and, more recently, Skillseekers."

VicJuly 17th 2008.

Utterly hilarious. Best restaurant review I have ever read!

EtienneJuly 17th 2008.

A great review of an awful restuarant and hotel. When I was growing up the name Adelphi had a touch of class about it. Then we all saw the 1990's documentary and all our opinions changed. An unintentionally comical staff led by the odious Eileen Downey and a backing cast of camp attention seekers and scallies. Liverpool in the past 20 or so years has become a very aggressive and uncaring city and it's a shame to see these values have also become a trait of the Adelphi. The picture of the food(?) in the second picture down in incredible. What is that? A slice of pale meat surrounded by what an 80 a day smoker coughs up in the morning. Horrendous.

Kevin DonovanJuly 17th 2008.

Me owld mam and me were taken to the Adelphi's then 'French' restaurant in 1975 (for reasons too complicated to explain just now). Even then, with a poor little YOP lad attempting silver service of the 'petit pois' and everything tasting of nothing but salt, I knew it was irredeemable.The problem is THEY DON'T KNOW THERE'S A PROBLEM. It's a disgrace to the City, to food, to community, to the social contract, to everything. The only answer is compulsory purchase and hand it over to Jamie Oliver, or Quiggin's - or the Everyman Bistro. Which would be appropriate as the Everyman-Playhouse production of 'Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi' is romantic historical tosh BUT a fab night out at the theatre. (And, yes, I saw Roy Rogers and Trigger at the Empire in 1954.)More power to your fork and knife, Mr and Mrs Grill.

Poncy French DishJuly 17th 2008.

amusing even....

Sir Howard WayJuly 17th 2008.

I saw that Eileen Downey in Lewis's just after the telly series. I confess that transfixed with terror, I hid behind a display in case she shouted at me.

AnonymousAugust 8th 2011.


Puzzled non-dinerSeptember 7th 2011.

Can someone at Castle Confidential explain why a review dated August 5 is attracting comments from over three years ago?
If you have access to a company time-machine, then surely a whzz back to the Adelphi's salad days of the 1920s is more appropriate than a stop-over on the day before yesterday?

Mrs GrillSeptember 7th 2011.

We were having a chat about it on Twitter earlier with some new chums. Maybe that's why.

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