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Trattoria 51 - restaurant review

Southport's latest family Italian makes a splash with Andrew Hobbs

Written by . Published on November 28th 2011.


Trattoria 51 - restaurant review

BADEN-Powell would have disapproved of what we did after lunch at Southport’s Trattoria 51.

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We didn’t indulge in any “beastliness”, which can be brought on by rich food and eventually leads to blindness, feebleness and insanity, nor did we make fun of the British Empire. What we did wrong was to go swimming immediately after eating.

It was a big lunch, with plenty of rich food, but I have no regrets (the beastliness is another matter). An inset-day treat at Trattoria 51 is a great way of feeding the kids, and, while they stuffed their faces with pizza, the adults could enjoy some sophisticated flavours in a relaxed, stylish setting.

We have a lot to learn from the Italian 
attitude to children, and I don’t mean 
Signor Berlusconi’s affection for teenagers

Between courses, the young ‘uns tested the famed Italian family-friendliness almost to destruction, but nothing broke.

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Trattoria 51 opened back in June, in the same premises as 51 The Promenade, Attilio Sergi’s fish restaurant, which did well while he was in charge of the kitchen but struggled after he went to manage Il Forno in Liverpool.

Now Attilio is back, with his business partner, Toni Karemana, with a more informal, family-oriented restaurant which deserves to do well. It will do very well if they tweak a couple of things, but more of that later.

The decor is new, but similar in style to 51 The Promenade – clean, understated and modern, with not a scrap of gingham nor a single plastic onion. The menu inspires confidence with a manageable amount of choice and a mixture of the familiar and the intriguing. There are a few vegetarian choices, and they also offer gluten-free and dairy-free dishes. There are appetisers, starters, pizza, pasta and risotto, a small but well chosen range of meat and fish dishes, plus daily specials -particularly fish - which we only noticed after we’d ordered. The failing eyesight must be an effect of the beastliness.

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Appetisers of juicy marinated olives (£1.95), toast with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (£2.50) and pizza-style garlic bread (£3) put us in a good mood.

The starters were not so impressive -- Parma ham and mozzarella (£5.50), which was what it said on the tin, not that it came out of a tin, but a bit underwhelming; the meat balls in tomato sauce also barely whelmed, with both the meat and the sauce lacking flavour. Yet the veggie choice, Melanzane Parmigiana (aubergine baked with tomato, mozzarella, parmesan and garlic, £5.50) was gorgeous, with lots of rich flavours and textures.

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The children had been lured there with the promise of pizza, but no one had warned them about filling up on bread (what do they teach them in schools these days?) so they didn’t do justice to their margherita and diavola (spicy chicken, pepperoni, chilli and rosemary). Trattoria 51 offers any dish as a children’s portion for £5.95, with a soft drink thrown in, although the pizzas were actually adult-sized. The usual grown-up price is around £6 or £7.

Gerry had “linguine 51”, consisting of al dente pasta with king prawns, tomatoes, pine nuts and courgette (£8.50), tossed in a dab of powerful white wine and garlic sauce.

I was impressed, but wasn’t going to swap my pork belly, no way. There was just the right amount of this old favourite, served with a sweet Calvados jus, a slice of  black pudding and a podium of creamed potatoes, but again a couple of details let it dow: outrageously, there was no crackling on the pork, and the seasonal veg included some astoundingly flavourless carrots.

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The pork, and my starter of meat balls, came from the £9.95 two-course fixed price menu, available lunchtimes and early evenings.

We shared two excellent desserts, a chocolate truffle ice cream (£4.50) and a chocolate brownie (£3.95), both rich and fresh, although the waiter was a bit vague about whether they had been made on the premises that day, as the menu had suggested. That was no ordinary waiter, but co-owner Toni, who was friendly, knowledgeable and exceedingly tolerant of three kids with energy to burn. We have a lot to learn from the Italian attitude to children, and I don’t mean Signor Berlusconi’s affection for teenagers. Grazie, grazie.

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The wine list, like the menu, is well chosen and not overfacing, and our glasses of Salento and Primitivo (both £3) were spot on. The bill for enough food to sink two adults and three children, plus two glasses of wine and coffees, was £77. About right for an independent Italian restaurant offering quality food (for the most part) and warm, friendly service in a stylish environment.

If they can make everything as good as their best, they will trounce the local opposition.

I think Baden Powell’s advice about swimming and eating was wrong, but if you do develop stomach cramps after going straight from Trattoria 51 to Splashworld, try the Indian Bathing Precaution (see Scouting for Boys for details).


 

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

Rating:

15/20

Breakdown:

Food 7/10
Service 5/5
Ambience 3/5

Address:

Trattoria 51
51 The Promenade
Southport
PR9 0DX.
01704 510051.
Website here 

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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John ParrApril 9th 2013.

I tried the lunchtime menu for 9.99 two courses
Wasn't impressed had meatballs that looked and tasted like they had come from a tin, processed meat and straight out of the microwave.
Then cannelloni, again this was a microwaved ready meal, I left most of it very disappointing nothing like Italian food.
When paying the bill was asked if I enjoyed I enjoyed it I explained politely my disappointment with the microwave cooking, no apology was told I should have told them earlier and they would've cooked me a steak?
No apology, got a bit upset, I pointed out that he had asked me if I enjoyed it and was just being honest.
To be fair my wife had one course from the main menu and she enjoyed it.
I'd stay well away from the £9.99 menu, that said I won't be going back due to the response I got

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