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Restaurant review: Aruma

Angie Sammons visits a place where duck satay meets moussaka - at least on paper

Written by . Published on September 21st 2010.

Restaurant review: Aruma

THEY haven't got skordustumbi.

This would probably sound like brilliant news to a 16th century sailor in the days before penicillin.. For those more au fait with the modern Mediterranean, and its cuisine, it means the lamb in garlic sauce is off.

The interminable mic'd up wailing from the musician – a sort of scouse fado attempting the Paul Simon Songbook– was doing nothing to convince us to spend good money on better booze

We are faced with the menu - for the third time in half an hour, the number of times it has been brought back with a message from the kitchen.

No skordustumbi? That's a shame. OK, make it the T-Bone steak.

Ten minutes later. No that's off as well. Er, and the fillet too. Oh, and by the way, they haven't got red mullet either.

Hmm. The halibut? No? I know, hake! How about the monkfish?

The waiter shrugs at each of these suggestions with such vigour that we wonder if we have walked into a silent disco.

Finally we ask him: “Well, what exactly have you got then?”

What the Aruma, on Mount Pleasant has got is a menu with 200 dishes. But, like the singing from the Friday evening's hired "turn" - a bloke with a guitar in the beer garden out the back - it is mostly off.

Greek, Italian, Chinese – this place appears to be a jack of all trades. But, right now, it has a lack of all trades.

It could have been very different. Half an hour earlier we had taken one look at the place, a handsome, double fronted Georgian house that started off as the Heart and Soul, and turned on our heel. For why? Nobody appeared to be eating, only drinking in odd twos and threes. In fact the only evidence of food was two plates of the discarded sort, sitting deserted on an otherwise bare wood-effect table, under the bright lights.

Nevertheless, we were pursued outside by a friendly chap who urged us to come back in.

Yes, we are still serving food he had said. Lots of food. Look at this big menu.

It was mad, we told him. So much to choose from, so much to read under laminate that it was all starting to pixelate.


Which kind of restaurant are you really? we asked.

Greek, he said agreeably. They used to be the Parthenon.

At this point my friend reached for his coat but I pushed him back on to his chair.

Oh, the one that was torched in Parr St last year? Yes, we nodded, fires were terrible. How long had they been here? Six months.

One final question: If you are a Greek restaurant, why have you got over 130 Chinese, Italian and English meals too?

In case one of our customers does not like Greek food, he replied.

Of course.

The charms of duck satay were for another day, preferably in a Chinese restaurant, and I reserved the option of purchasing a nine-inch ham and pineapple pizza for my next trip to the local Iceland.

So, Greek it was. A dish of olives (£2.40) was plentiful, the green not too bad, the black pitted side soft, mushy and, to our mind, repellent.

A large plate of coarsely-textured hummous was much better (£2.40), although partially submerged in a pond of oil it would probably put a lot of people off – the sort of people who think steak with a marbling of fat is unacceptable. But we wouldn't mention steak. It was off. To accompany the chick slick, big white bread rolls (50p each, extra).

A waitress suddenly appeared: “Sorry, but we haven't got any wontons.”

“We didn't order any wontons.”

Baffled. “Oh....didn't you?”

The Kalamari, sic, or squid with fried butter, in reality was mechanically uniform hoops, in a thick coating, which arrived warm, rather than blisteringly hot, and therefore greasy. So unappetising was this motley collection, sitting on ribbons of sad iceberg lettuce, that after one each we couldn't continue.

But hating waste, it was covertly wrapped it in a paper napkin as a late-night treat to tip into the hound's bowl upon my return. At £5.95 it would be a pity to waste almost six squid of anyone's money.

Although only £8.50, the pinot grigio was abrasive and no bargain. Naturally they did not have our first, more pricey choice. There were several Greek wines, but experiences in Liverpool Greek restaurants of late had left us wary. Meanwhile the interminable mic'd up wailing from the musician – a sort of scouse fado attempting the Paul Simon Songbook– was doing nothing to convince us to spend good money on better booze.

Red snapper (£11.95), which really WAS the only fish in this sea, could either be grilled, or roasted in wine, herbs, garlic and celery. This sounded promising, but, when it came, appeared to have been poached. It was a reasonably sized hunk of fish, pale and moist, but failed to live up to the expectation of flavour.

Aphrodite chicken (£9.95) was the last thing I wanted but the last thing they had. This was a battened down boneless breast over which a viscous Ouzo oozed. It was identical in appearance and flavour to one I had witnessed in another restaurant a month ago.

A Greek salad arrived (£4) with plenty of good creamy feta and crisp lettuce. But it was let down by completely flavourless tomatoes. Better ones are in season. There is no excuse. Never mind, one could always chomp into one of the many kingsize pickled whole green chillies that had invaded this classic dish and made it their own.

For any broccoli-hating children, the vegetables section is bang on, containing, as it does, just four items: mushrooms, garlic mushrooms, extra bread and garlic bread.

This was all looking like something of a missed opportunity. I am not sure why this restaurant venue never seems to fulfil the expectations of its elegant and impressive surrounding, no matter who runs it, it seems to remain stubbonly off radar, but if Gordon Ramsay's TV people are in this neck of the woods, get in there (with reading glasses).

The chips, by the way, were excellent. Freshly cut and cooked, floury crispy lovelies, which is harder to achieve than it sounds

We required a proper stiff drink after this, but a trip up the road to a bar was cut short by the uncomfortable shifting glances thrown my way on the two occasions I opened my handbag. By now its secret squid parcel - more of a dogs dinner than Sex and the City 2 - really was no secret any more.

At least the canine would be more appreciative, I reasoned, as I grabbed a cab home. He's never been fussy whose tentacles he licks.

Breakdown:5/10 food
1/5 service (includes availability of menu items)
1/5 ambience
Address:Aruma Café Bar and Restaurant
62 Mount Pleasant
L3 5SD
0151 708 6604
Liverpool Confidential reviewers always dine out unannounced and we always pick up our own tabs

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafés against the best cafés 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 Outstanding

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

SultanJune 7th 2010.

And his pop

Elgin MeatballsJune 7th 2010.

First of all I have never eaten Greek in another city but sadly, all of my experiences in Liverpool's Greek food outlets convince me that the only place to eat Greek food is in Greece. Christakis is generally fair if you just want to fill up and can switch off to the drunken bedlam and although Eureka is good I have never once had the wow factor in any of them. More the that's quite nice factor.

DigJune 7th 2010.

I don't get it.

DigJune 7th 2010.

I was kidding.

WappingJune 7th 2010.

Liverpool Wag, that's got me reaching for the screenwipes.

AnonymousJune 7th 2010.

there's nothing worse than music while you are trying to eat. They should ban it. If I want music I will sit and listen to music. If I want to eat I want to concentrate on this thing.

AngieJune 7th 2010.

Hummus wise, Mike, I agree, but some people wouldn't. As for going to Greek places in Liverpool, we fell into this one by accident really and it was the last thing on our minds to review another Ouzo chicken. My money remains on the Eureka in Myrtle Parade until someone tells us different.

GazbyJune 7th 2010.

LOL@Bugs Runny and Liverpool Wag

DigJune 7th 2010.

Drive by The Parthenon regularly. The front seems to have become a garden for Goths to meet and drink cider. I wonder if they know about the asbestos concerns when it burnt? Maybe they're not Goths and thats normally how pale you go with the mild after effects of asbestos.

Mike HomfrayJune 7th 2010.

Yes. Its always grim, yet its such a lovely building. I remember going to the Parthenon once. They had a singer, but there were only about four of us eating, and the staff tried to clap and look enthusiastic. It was painful.You don't seem to have a lot of luck with Greek places. Two rules1. Don't have the calamari. Italians cook calamari well. Cypriots don't2. Do have the moussaka, pastitsio, or grilled meat. That's what they do wellI actually like hummus with extra olive oil, thoughAnd Makedonikos Rose is a delight, I don't care how naff it is, its great with the food

DigJune 7th 2010.

Haha. Thanks!! I never tell lies. Sorry, got to go, customers just walked in. Got to get my gold chain and sheepskin on.....

SultanaJune 7th 2010.

No, he's just in there regularly with his nan.

DigJune 7th 2010.

Does anybody else get a sneaking suspicion that Genuine curry lover has a personal interest in Sultan's Palace?

Bugs RunnyJune 7th 2010.

The Rabbit Vindaloo is good. Although in the morning you have a Bright Watery Ring.

that'smrbollockstoyouJune 7th 2010.

Six squid!!! Wahahahahaha! You should be on the stage, Ange.

Liverpool WagJune 7th 2010.


AristotleJune 7th 2010.


Liverpool wagJune 7th 2010.


Liverpool WagJune 7th 2010.

Dig, I know the place. they also do a Tarka. It's like a tikka, but a little otter

Nik16June 7th 2010.

Shame on u

Genuine curry loverJune 7th 2010.

For air conditioned family restaurant for all the family I always visit Sultan's Palace for number one Indian

AnonymousDecember 9th 2011.


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