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Restaurant review: The Patio, Mossley Hill

With so many restaurants up around Penny Lane, AA Grill plucks out The Patio for close, close scrutiny

Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: The Patio, Mossley Hill

IF you live around Penny Lane you can’t complain there is nowhere to go. Where Church Road curves away from Smithdown is a case in point. Three restaurants, side by side, should be suicide for at least one of them, yet they all – The Patio, Spire and, completing the arc, Ark – seem to get along just fine.

Certainly, the seafood risotto will linger awhile in the memory...A dish which, in other hands, could have gone horribly wrong was, instead, soft and creamy with sturdy, fresh flavours, revealing a real sensitivity on the part of its creator

Each employs its own strategy to get crumbs on seats, from an £11 three-course lunch at The Patio, to a £14.95 fixed price evening menu at Spire, to Ark’s two courses plus a bottle of wine per person for £15.95 on a Monday night, which is great unless you’re following the Government’s sensible drinking guidelines – that’s half your weekly limit gone and it’s not Tuesday yet.

The Patio is the product of that urge every Brit abroad feels after a fortnight of dining in the open air. Why can’t we do that at home, we think, forgetting that, other than on the four or five days that constitute the English summer, the chances are it will rain on your marinade and one strong gust will have your mixed leaf salad doing cartwheels down the street.

At The Patio, they have surmounted the meteorological hurdles by creating the outdoors indoors; a kind of virtual al fresco, with pictures of plants and carpet the colour of lush lawns. A plastic paradise where every shrub is perfectly manicured. Even the chairs look like garden furniture.

The Patio is very popular and it’s not hard to see why. Despite its unrelieved artificiality, the effect is tasteful and soothing. The dining space is divided into three split level areas with plenty of room for manoeuvre. The service is spot-on: easy, well-timed, thorough but not in your face.

Twice runner up in the Liverpool restaurant of the year section of the Lancashire and Cheshire Life Awards (it’s not a Michelin star but it’s a start), The Patio says its aim is to provide a dining experience “you will never forget”. A noble aim but it was going to have to be some meal to mark itself indelibly on my memory along with the births of my children, the fall of the Twin Towers and the time I projectile vomited all over the upholstery and occupants of my college mate’s best friend’s mother’s car.

Certainly, the seafood risotto will linger awhile in the memory. Clams, prawns, cockles, mussels, langoustines and squid bound with fresh tomato and cream was fabulous and good value at £7.25. A dish which, in other hands, could have gone horribly wrong was, instead, soft and creamy with sturdy, fresh flavours, revealing a real sensitivity on the part of its creator.

Breaded, deep-fried bubble and squeak with mozzarella and red onion salad (£5.25) worked well, with a good proportion of bubble to squeak.

The constituent parts of the half roast duck with sweet potato mash and sautéed almond and raspberry sauce (£13.95) were all very good but needed some kind of edge. All sweetness and no bite.

I don’t know where the swordfish came from but chances are it wasn’t off the back of a Fleetwood trawler any time recently. It’s probably our fault for choosing it. The verdant surroundings must have made us think we were on Kefalonia. Or perhaps we expected that, for £14.65, some care had been taken to ensure satisfaction. But unlike the accompanying wild mushrooms, this was fish in need of a flavour.

A dish of nice sautéed potatoes came with some enigmatically entitled “vegetables of the moment”, which could be meant to indicate they are seasonal or could just be pretentious bollocks. The unseasonal presence of baby corn and mange tout rather point to the latter.

Even so, the veg, which also included lovely cabbage, was tasty and precision-cooked. Fat chips (£2.95) and sautéed asparagus (£3.95) were even better despite those tips pushing our meal’s carbon footprint to about a size 15.

Crème brulee with pineapple salad, and white chocolate cheesecake with forest fruit compote (both £4.95) were proficient and comforting but sadly the selection of British cheese, devoid of personality, only justified French sneers about our food. I resented paying £6.95 for the displeasure.

A few months back, I pulled a bottle of wine off the shelf at Oddbins in Castle Street and asked if it was any good. A slightly miffed manager replied: “I wouldn’t stock it if it wasn’t.” If every restaurant owner in the city adopted that philosophy, we would have that Michelin star we’ve been crying for.

Like a handful of other places in and around Liverpool, The Patio is a good restaurant which, with a little more regard to raw materials, could be a very good restaurant.

It also does a prawn menu (starter or main course), oyster menu and a hot and chilled “orchestra of seafood” for one or two, for which 24 hours notice is required. And if the seafood risotto is any indication, they would be well worth going back for.

As for one or two other items of grub amid the shrubs, I may have to hedge my bets.

Breakdown:7/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Patio
3-5 Church Road
L15 9EA
0151 733 7474
Liverpool Confidential writers dine out unannounced and pick up their own tabs.

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BaffledMay 9th 2008.

I was wondering that too...

Stanley StreetMay 9th 2008.

Prawns give me the toms.

Joan BonkerMay 9th 2008.

"... putting crumbs on seats".I don't think I'll read a better phrase today. And I'll be reading a fair few, I tell you that. I'm a sub-editor.

wavyjellyMay 9th 2008.

My thoughts entirely - apart from the vomiting reference. Is that allowed in a restaurant review?

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