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Restaurant review: Cafe Porto

Angie Sammons on why it's not just any Porto in a storm for those in need of a tapas fix on Rodney Street

Written by . Published on September 22nd 2010.

Restaurant review: Cafe Porto


IF there were a “best kept” secret category, in those Liverpool eating out awards, the ones that Liverpool doesn't really have, Cafe Porto would win it hands down. Not least in the literal sense.

Like a maiden aunt's sitting room, this curious little place is small, perfectly neat, perfectly tidy and perfectly formed. It even has the starched Portuguese embroidered tablecloth, which someone brought back for her from Faro Airport in 1995, albeit times ten and covering the creaky wooden tables.

Cafe Porto could also win the best olives citation at those mythical Liverpool food awards: this mixed and deeply savoury fruit jumble, drenched in good olive oil, garlic, peppers and shallots, is worth the trip alone

And just for the moment, quietly tucked away on the wrong end of Rodney Street, Cafe Porto, behind tall Georgian sash windows, remains quite out of step with the modern dining life. Yet that's no bad thing.

Perhaps unlike the parlour of your aunt, there are a couple of indicators that suggest a different music. A chaotic and tiny kitchen is right in the middle of it, for a start, failing to hide behind a wicker screen. An old bobbled Portugal football scarf takes pride of place above the door, while original, numbered-edition photographs of bleached boats, rough and ready salted fishermen and dazzling sunscapes punctuate the pale cream walls.

Oh, and there is a proprietor who looks like Pierce Brosnan on a good day. A very good day.

The first time, we arrive on a whim. We are flying past in a taxi to some prospect that neither of us fancies much, when we remember that Porto, by day a caff serving paninis and hot specials - is on the ship's radar for a night time tapas visit. So we jump out at the lights.

It is an evil Mersey gale that propels us through the door and slams it shut, but, alas, the only remaining punters, a couple, are paying the bill. It is around 8pm on a Tuesday.

They about to close but no, they insist, it's perfectly all right if we stay. Really.

We'll come back another time, we say, looking around, and noting, too late, that the place closes at five tonight. They will hear none of it.

You need to eat, you must stay, shrugs Pierce, and it is settled. He is assisted by an exotic Bond Girl called Rowena, although I may be imagining all of this.

And so the tunes are plugged back in and Judi Tzuke washes over the room like a gentle Estoril wave as one after one, a mostly excellent array of tapas is paraded before us. The crowning glories being the delightful salt-cod

fishcakes (£5.35) with creamy and garlicky home made aioli, and a moreish meaty and fiery chorizo in a deep red wine broth (£5.15).A plate of oil-packed meaty anchovies (£4.25), are a revelation for the meek, being both delicately flavoured and wonderfully salty at the same time.

Cafe Porto could also win the best olives citation at those mythical Liverpool food awards: this mixed and deeply savoury fruit jumble drenched in good olive oil, garlic, peppers and shallots, (£2.75) is worth the trip alone.

They get through a hefty five litres of olive oil in here a week which is nothing to Pedro Almeida, for that's our host's proper name. He comes from a background in restaurants on the Atlantic's Costa Verde and takes great pains to ensure that all is as it should authentically be. Most of what you see has been created from scratch (even those striking photographs on the walls are home made), all the sauces, all the patisserie, and it shows. Franjipan is apparently the one dessert that sells like, well, hot cakes, and we sample an excellent rick dark chocolate cake made with just one tablespoon of flour. They also do good quality Sical coffee, none of your Illy rubbish.

The patatas bravas (£4.25) were a let-down, and why? Because they use tin tomatoes and I later have a long yes-but-no argument in a fact-finding email with Pedro about the use of good quality tomatoes from a tin against fresh but feeble local specimens.

Other good stuff we tried was a generous roast chicken salad (£5.45) with sweet roasted Med vegetables, an expertly prepared and entirely rustic lasagne (£5.50) and a good thick, eggy slice of Portuguese tortilla £4.85), both of which came with a nice, fresh, green salad in a balsamic dressing.

At this point it must be mentioned that alcohol is not served - that's apparently about to change - but you may attend with your own (Ten till Ten and Bargain Booze are near by), which will be uncorked for £2.50 and warmed or chilled, depending on the colour of (oh dear, if only we'd known) your clinking bag of Oxford Landing.

Cafe Porto sits next to Puschka, one of Liverpool's better-known secrets, a little gem which has held its own for several years now and needs nothing but for a hardcore of regulars to spread the word.

This is not competing. It is an entirely different cuttle of fish altogether, but it could do with the same.

If you ever find yourself stranded by the tide, give it a try. Get my drift?

And the verdict? So Faro so good.

Breakdown:7/10 food
4/5 service
4/5 ambience
Address:Cafe Porto
14 Rodney St
L1 2TE
0151 708 5276

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

younger-than-twiggy-anywayMay 8th 2009.

forget the food -5'm going down for a bit of "piercing"...

Honor Madge EstisecretserviceMay 8th 2009.

Do you serve octopus, si?Do you only sieve rice?

Z|ardozMay 8th 2009.

Asked them for Black Truffle Omlette and was told that; Truffles are out of season, we can do you a cheese and ham instead!Fine dining indeed!!(p.s. Black Truffles are never out of season - no licence is required to find them!)

Processor ChucklebuttyMay 8th 2009.

I almost drank from the bottle of Soy sauce that was on the table but the waiter said, no, that's for your rice only.

ScaramangetoutMay 8th 2009.

They used Royal Timothy Dalton plates and the man with the golden buns gave me a bit of Coldfinger round the back. Beat that Miss Mankey Pinny from the Pigrim

AnonymousMay 8th 2009.

Mmm. They do good cakes in here. Thank you.

AnonymousMay 8th 2009.

So, do exotic Bond girls called Rowena work in there,or do you just get to chew on bit of chubby broccoli?

Red FoxMay 8th 2009.

Sounds like a gem of place . . not least a gaff that isn't trying to shoe horn you out of the door on the dot of closing. Well crafted piece too!

Ursula UndressMay 8th 2009.

And if they did pate, would it be Liver Let Die?

Miss ShovehalfpennyMay 8th 2009.

perhaps the smaller establishments would fear the kiss of death from Gordofinger. Anyway, you can't be expected to go on every odd job.

Dr NoMay 8th 2009.

I realise that they can't sell booze in here, but if you take your own white wine, have they got a licence to chill?

DigMay 8th 2009.

I went there with my friends Roger and Glen. I did what you nearly did Prof and drank the Soy Sauce. It made very ill. I said 'I have to go to the John, Glen'. When I got back to the table I shouted 'Oh no! Roger, more!'

MMay 8th 2009.

Huh? Who said Cafe Porto was fine dining? No one but you Zardoz. And as you are presumably ranting from a locked ward, you are also a liar.

Orbis non sufficitMay 8th 2009.

It's getting popular judging by the Q.The fish is wonderful. I found the Quorn Tub of Sole ace. I would certainly Try Another Day.

Mandy Smith's mumMay 8th 2009.

to younger than Twiggy: you are getting the hang of this double entendre aren't you?

AnonymousMay 8th 2009.

Fabulous rants.....

GordoMay 8th 2009.

How is it you never take me to these good gaffs?

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