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Bistro Noir - restaurant review

Angie Sammons visits Lark Lane's latest with some trepidation. Then warms, just a bit

Written by . Published on March 28th 2011.

Bistro Noir - restaurant review

ELSEWHERE, we have talked about Lark Lane.

Its alleged demise, as the benchmark of truly individual surburban life, is bemoaned by many. Usually ex-tenants of LHT flats now living over in the Wirral, or up in Crosby, with mortgages, and healthy, informed opinions about varieties of cheese.

Masses critically chattering, in comfort zones far away.

In truth, Lark Lane is just like the rest of Liverpool, but with bells on. And Zen chimes, and people who know how to properly roll spliffs.

“I moved out of Lark Lane because I was sick of the same alky in the street coming up to me every morning and asking me did I want to hear a joke.” This, from a colleague who, for 20 years, was as much a part of the Sefton Park furniture as the bandstand, and sitting now in his new local, the Volly in Waterloo.

"You haven't walked the dog in the Marine Gardens around nine o’clock in the morning, yet, have you?" I'd replied.

In truth, Lark Lane is just like the rest of Liverpool, but with bells on. And Zen chimes, and people who know how to properly roll spliffs.

And sometimes you just grow out of it. Or you don’t and you turn yellow.

In the last 10 years, however, Lark Lane has had smoke of a different sort blown up its backside, as the graduate trainees in the local media have swooned over its “bo-ho”, “eclectic”, “iconic” “eateries” in all their outpourings.

These are all the banned, bad words on here, “Bohemian” cliched rhapsodies that are to blame for chancers running their sovereign-ringed fingers over the newsprint, keying “best-kept secrets, L17” into their sat-navs; a north-end wind blowing freshly cleaned money in 4x4s.

“Are you from Huyton?” I recall Kirkby's Dame Margi Clarke asking one such fellow, in her thrall, in Keith’s one night; in the same way as one might ask John Inman if he was a friend of Dorothy's.

Yet the sort of places that some people set up in the south-end rarely last, and don't forget, there is still much good.

While Keith’s is falling around on its ears along with all the people in it, you wouldn’t change it - or the white wine fridge - in 100 years.

Then there are all the familiar Maranto/Que Pasa type venues that have been there for decades. You may not use them, but you would miss them if they were gone.

So it is the brave and certain restaurateur who takes on a new venture and hopes to become established on the Lane.

Bistro Noir, then, is the first restaurant to open there in quite some time, and all of which we have just talked about has nothing to do with.

I mean it sounds good. Bit Gallic? Ooh, hang on, tagines and kebabs, that must mean Morocco.

Yes, yes! The cuisine is Definitely Casablancan. There’s goat curry. Here’s looking at you, kid.

“We are not just a restaurant, we are a bar, come in and have a drink,” says a sign somewhere.

You would too. The most expensive bottle of wine is thirteen quid or thereabouts, and the rest of this place, on paper at least, is a bargain.

On Monday nights they are practically giving it away: three courses for £9.99 and a glass of something thrown in.

For the rest of the week, all night and every night, they appear to have gone slightly mad too, serving three courses off their only menu for £14.95 (take two courses for £12.95).

On the night, we were two, but in the cold light of the morning after I am looking at a bill that appears we were three, totalling £44.85. But, hell, it was dark, and isn’t that what “noir”means?

At the time of writing, Monsieur Noir was not contactable to rectify this. However the third member of our party, our invisible friend, was on his way down.

Chicken peri-peri sits alongside stuffed vine leaves and steak and chips in this world-on-a-plate fest, but we are becoming accustomed to jack-of-all-cuisine menus in Liverpool, so, for the moment, let us reserve judgement.

Meatballs (£3.95), beef, I am guessing, were flavoured with middle eastern spices. They were well done, and dense: not quite cricket ball dense, but my friend was fairly bowled over by them. The chick-pea infused tomato sauce they came in was fresh and plentiful. A couple of excellent sardines (£5.95), grilled and adorned in only lemon and olive oil, were leaving us feeling quite well disposed towards Bistro Noir.

Lamb tagine (£10.95), chunks of long and slow-cooked meat, bobbed in a sauce that was a dead ringer for that in the recently departed meatball dish. It was served with a mound of plain yellow couscous and a college-textbook sprinkling of saffron. Both really could have done with spicing up a notch or several, and I don't mean heat.

Goat Curry
The goat curry (£9.95), meanwhile, sounded like it had good intentions. Served on the bone, of which there were many, the meat was melting and well flavoured. A nice big "h" on the menu indicated heat. Unfortunately, it was keeping the stated scotch bonnet pepper (one of the most tempestuous of chillies, in fact) under its hat. "H" was therefore not for "hot", but for "hidden". Yet where? This thin sauce had little depth.

Desserts (£2.95) were bought in, from somebody called Anne, in Wales. Lemon and blueberry drizzle and a warmed plum tart were really quite good.

What Bistro Noir does have going for it is a cosy, easy vibe. Two supporting walls have been knocked down and there is a back section with a big communal table.

Couples appear relaxed, candles flicker everywhere among the stripped wood furnishings. Individuals sit, plates discarded long ago,heads buried in books. It’s proper looking 1980s bistro, like Robin’s Nest. I will have my fondue now please.

The cheeseboard, placing a hefty £3 premium above the average dessert (at £5.95), must, therefore, I reasoned, be something special. I caught the eye of a chap with a proprieterial look.

What's on the cheese board?” I asked.

“Cheese,” he said.

What kind of cheese?

“Cheese," he replied. "Cheese is cheese, isn't it?”

Breakdown:5.5/10 food
2/5 service
4/5 ambience
Address: Bistro Noir14-16 Lark Lane
L17 8US
015 728 9826

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

AnnieBMarch 25th 2011.

Love the review, pure Angie.

AnonymousMarch 25th 2011.

The wasp returns....

Still HungryMarch 25th 2011.

We went there on Friday. The food took so long to arrive I'd eaten the table by the time they brought me my starter.

Curtis WarrenMarch 25th 2011.

I take my own ice bucket to Keith's. It doubles up as a urinal

Mike NearyMarch 25th 2011.

'Cheese. Cheese is cheese isn't it' Ahh.. here we go again delighting in smart arsed understatement. And we wonder why so many tourists leave with that slightly bewildered look on their face.

Ex-TenantMarch 25th 2011.

I moved out of Lark Lane because there were NO LHT flats - I lived in a freezing, privately-rented attic with shared facilities.

Also city centre Canning Street was more desirable, more culturally significant and had fewer beggars, tramps and criminals from Fazakerley than decaying Lark Lane in 1985.

AnonymousMarch 25th 2011.

just kerb crawlers. no fun living on Canning Street if you were a girl.

Falner SquareMarch 25th 2011.

Roaring up to the back bumpers of kerb crawlers usually got rid of them. There were far fewer rapes and burglaries than around Lark Lane too.

Canning Street was also easy walking distance form five theatres, a concert hall and two hundred pubs in those days. It was worth putting up with being constantly pestered by the prozzies.

Ivor NeverpaidforitinmylifeMarch 25th 2011.

In the late 1980s Princess Diana came to open LHT's sheltered housing for ethnic minority old folk on Falkner Square and for months in advance the police swept all the prozzies out of the area and chased them up to Crown Street and Mount Vernon and kept them there. After that hardly any bothered to come back and kerb-crawling virtually stopped on Canning Street.

Liverpool WagMarch 25th 2011.

Er, you are very wrong about that Ivor.

Hip O'CrittMarch 25th 2011.

Bistro Merde

Tony BrokeMarch 28th 2011.

They're not kerb crawlers, they're the only sort of people who can afford to live in Canning Street these days.

Donna Oulton shared this on Facebook on May 9th 2011.
North EnderOctober 14th 2011.

Can you please explain what you mean when you talk about a north-end wind blowing in money in 4x4s please? Also, is your space bar broken? There seems to be alotofwordsjoinedtogetherinyourarticle.

East EnderOctober 14th 2011.

Leave it aht!

There's a lot of money in the North End that isn't purely from the Sickness Benefit and Job Seeker's Allowance.

AnonymousOctober 15th 2011.

Lark Lame

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2012.

Enjoyed reading that enormously and wish I had done so before I went to Bistro Noir last week

AnonymousMarch 26th 2012.

Food ok but sloooow to say the least, service is absolutely atrocious, manager is a horrid little man. The only saving grace is the nice decor, but so not worth it.

AnonymousMarch 11th 2013.

Over hyped on trip advisor! Some blatantly fake reviews as well... It's not as 'quirky' as it likes to think it is.

Laura JonesOctober 18th 2013.

I went there last week and you are right, Lark Lane has turned into something which resembles the council estate I grew up on in South London! I was shocked, when I moved to Liverpool 12 years ago I loved Lark Lane, the restaurants, including Estaban's tapas bar, were delicious. The place was chique and I was really pleased with it. On my last visit I enjoyed Bistro Noir, the food was great! I am veggie and what was on offer for me was home-made pasta, fresh parmesan and hallumi salad, I was most pleased, but the area! Man alive it has gone down hill, what happened and why??

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