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Restaurant review: Back in the black

AA Grill reviews his credit score after revisiting his former bank, now the Restaurant Bar and Grill

Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: Back in the black

I COULD never love a bank. I mean, one minute they are all over you. Can’t do enough. Want to borrow a few grand? Not a problem. The next minute . . . well, you know the story. It’s the one that ends in tears and a visit from a debt collector.

Fungi seeks fun gal for good times in warm, damp environment. Good sense of humus essential

So it was with mixed feelings that I entered the Restaurant Bar and Grill, once the Brunswick Street branch of Halifax Plc and scene of heated discussions regarding my money. Or, rather, their money. Not as many heated discussions as in Barclays, round the corner in Water Street; I’ve had some real humdingers there. But nothing to the ones in the Crosby branch where I once shouted so loudly I ended up going in with flowers the next day. Paid for, as I recall, with a cheque, which they duly returned. That’s gratitude.

These days I still get angry with banks, but over-the-counter confrontations are gone, now that their business is conducted by phone. If you’re going to charge somebody £58 for bouncing a single cheque – yes, you bastards – it’s probably safer to discuss it at a distance of a couple of thousand miles.

Banks had all the best buildings before the shareholders sniffed another opportunity to maximise their dividend, and these days they are all restaurants, or bars, or, in this case, both. The RB&G (oh God, it sounds like another bank) knew a good thing when it saw it, so has not messed with the place, using its dimensions to good effect. Two walls created with thousands of unopened wine bottles laid on their sides, serve to separate the dining space from an island bar, while softening the vast former banking hall; comfy chairs and half-moon booths do the rest.

Every time I walk past the place I want to go in; drawn by the throng of happy, shiny people gathered at ranks of tables. When my old pal Jackie and I sat down it was 6.30 on a Thursday evening and warming up nicely. They have clearly spent on the place. The décor has a late ‘50s feel; low-hung lampshades, fabulous posters of Bardot in bud and a youthful Rex Harrison at an unnamed Liverpool location.

From a good list, we had highly drinkable pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc by the glass, and a bottle of honest Macon Charnay Cuvee a l’Ancienne (£21). The menu took a disconcertingly long and winding route round the globe, via Italy, north Africa, Lebanon, India, Thailand and back to Blighty for bangers and mash. Our waiter, nice chap, announced that the sea bream was proving a hit “with the ladies” while the guys were going for . . . you’ve got it, the steak.

And so, to begin, nice pitted olives and bread – Jackie was a fan of the rosemary-infused number –with their old friend, balsamic and olive oil dip. Oysters (£9.95) were six fabulously fresh-tasting creatures, on a bed of ice, with lemon and Tabasco. Top marks. Baked mushrooms with goats cheese and caponata was a lovely balance of flavours but not the bargain of the day at £6.25 for what turned out to be a single mushroom. (Fungi seeks fun gal for good times in warm, damp environment. Good sense of humus essential).

Jackie insisted the salmon fishcakes with spinach and lemon and dill butter sauce (£13.50) were “mmm, nice” but she is a journalist by trade and prone to exaggeration. Fishcakes need to zing if they are to rise above the level of chip shop staple, especially at this price, but I got too many flat notes.

I was keen to join the girls on the bream team only to be told it had, that minute, run out. So, as fate had it, I ate steak, in this case an 8oz chargrilled ribeye with béarnaise sauce (£15.95), which proved the big disappointment of the night. Flaccid, beyond the asked-for medium rare, short on flavour, and looking like it had not so much been allowed to rest as fall into a deep slumber from which it could not be roused.

Side orders were better: fries (£2.95), dry, crisp and in their skins, and spinach which was tasty but cost me £3.50 to put a splash of green on my plate and feel the colour drain from my wallet.

Desserts came in the shape of a textbook New York cheesecake (£5.75) and a lush chocolate amaretto mousse (£5.50) which took Jackie’s ‘mmm’-ometer off the scale.

The RB&G prides itself on serving “great food” and it has prices to match, in which case we are entitled to expect the best. What we got was a lot of strong supporting acts but a couple of stars that failed to show.

Which is a shame because the place has a lot going for it. Will I give it another go? You can bank on it. You just can’t bank in it, not anymore.

Rating: 15/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Restaurant Bar and Grill,
Halifax House,
Brunswick Street,
Liverpool L2 0UU
0151 236 6703
Liverpool Confidential dines unannounced and picks up its own bills.

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Shame about the RB&GJune 29th 2007.

Don't mind paying for good food but there was something wrong with this place - you couldn't get a smile without paying for it.6 of us visited and were offered olives / bread / humous etc. must have been £40 on the bill before we ordered our starters.Prawn starter was ok but noodles were out of the freezer and monkfish main cousre off the specials was just disappointing. Caeser Salad - poor - Thai curry -ok. Other meals were nondescriptOh and another £30 for a few chips - straight out of mcdonalds if you ask me - and miserable TINY sald bowls.Al in all we felt a bit ripped off at £47 per head (and we only had 3 bottles of wine between us all! )I wont be going back!!

Salad DazeJune 29th 2007.

PS I also had oysters to start at RBG. Good, one thinks, that shows a bit of panache. But they arrived swimming in the melting ice rather than tasting of the sea, and were rather stringy tired specimens. Not awful but not plump and fresh (the sort of thing I had by the dozen in pubs all over the west of Ireland last weekend). The meat course was done as I requested but its subsequent time under the lights meant I had to ask them to start again. At least the mint tea was real mint tea. And the wine list was good. But…

Here here!!June 29th 2007.

I have to admit I was not impressed at all with the RB&G. Went a few weeks ago with 5 friends and the fact that not one of us even commented on the food to one another, speaks volumes really. I had the thai curry and it was awful.....tasted like it was out of a jar tbh!!I was quite disappointed and thought it was extremely over-priced.

Salad DazeJune 29th 2007.

Oh dear. Are talking about the same place? Friday evening in The Restaurant Bar and Grill, Brunswick Street. Thumping music preventing conversation ("it's piped in and we can't turn it off") chaotic service ("You are serving our mains but we've just finished our starters and you haven't cleared the table yet." "But we have a big party in." "Please serve it again when you have cleared and wiped the table and after a reasonable interval." Later: "Excuse me but now this dish is stone cold and the gravy has congealed under the lights". Etc. Etc. Style rather than substance? Fur coat, no knickers? Copping off rather than eating in? Gawd help us. What is going on here? Are they trying to recreate La Coupole in Paris or Balthazar in Tribeca? Well, sorry, it's actually the old Eagle and Child in Page Moss with posher frocks and better suits. Awful. One nice waiter embarrassed by the chaos around him. Never again. Sorry, boys and girls, but that's not how to do it.

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