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Restaurant review: Hamilton's

AA Grill visits the Atomic Kitten's place in the Met Quarter, but did it make him whole again?

Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: Hamilton's

LIZ McClarnon may be celebrating her Celebrity Masterchef title and, in its wake, the inevitable contract for a cookery book, but Natasha Hamilton was the first Liverpool-born member of Atomic Kitten to take a professional interest in food.

Indeed, Ms Hamilton took her headlong plunge into catering so seriously that for a while last year she was being described as "pop star and restaurateur". Kensington-girl-makes-pud.

Tired and uninspired, the side salad looked like I felt, unless I was missing the point and the chef intended a seasonal twist, the feeble leaves representing
the decay of autumn

Together with new husband Riad Erraji, who was already running a chain of cafes in the Midlands, she opened Hamilton's restaurant and H bar, club and restaurant, both in Liverpool city centre, both accompanied by the usual celeb-o-mania and generous serving of superlatives - "decadent", "continental" and, obviously, "sophisticated". But the first year has not been entirely trouble-free.

Hamilton's and H were markedly different entities and marketed accordingly, right down to the choice of names. The former was cafe culture casual, family friendly and daytime only. “H” was later, dressier, sexier; the abbreviated name presumably intended to lend a small air of mystery - elusive and exclusive. I'm sure it worked for some, but every time I saw that big, bright capital “H” on Victoria Street, I got a picture in my head of Harry Cross, archetypal grumpy old git of soap opera. "Alright, H?" Ralph, his lodger on Brookside Close, would say. "No, I'm not all right," H would retort. Happy days.

At H, you could have roast vine tomato soup, Caesar salad, pan-fried calves liver on bubble and squeak. The lunchtime restaurant-opening suddenly stopped, but worse was to come. The club's famous patrons included a hard (and I mean hard) core of regulars whose faces were familiar all right, but only if you worked for Merseyside CID. Magistrates shut the place down in September after a reported double stabbing.

If there is going to be trouble, it's probably not a bad idea to have roast vine tomato soup on the menu, if only to serve as a distraction. "Waiter, waiter, there's blood in my soup." "No, madam, that is the soup."

Natasha was shell shocked, H-bombed. "A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into it," she told one journalist, and she wasn't wrong there. H was recently allowed to reopen under strict conditions. A clean slate and clean clientele, but no more restaurant. This may be for the best; most restaurants are worried about people taking the cutlery home, at H they have installed a metal detector to ensure the punters don't bring their own knives in.

It's a short walk from H to Hamilton's, down the road and up the escalator at the Metquarter designer retail complex. Just along from All Saints, which seems about right. If you are still not sure you're in the right place, there is a wall, a shrine some might say, devoted to pictures of Natasha in her pop pomp.

Hamilton's is the epitome of good taste, all greens and browns, booths down the sides, smart, high-backed, seat-upholstered chairs. It began life as a ground floor delicatessen with first floor restaurant, claiming a "brand new dining concept to Liverpool", but with Delifonseca – same concept but a year older – just round the corner, this was questionable.

Anyway, the deli appears to have been given the welly and, to be honest, the first floor of a shopping centre given over to high end, high street couture is not the obvious place to look for black truffle shavings and a slab of Stinking Bishop.

Given the preponderance of stores given over to women's fashion, it's no surprise that the majority of the customers this day are female – a posse of teenagers, mums keeping up appearances, a scattering of pensioners - and it's buzzing. Girls Aloud. The service matches the mood – genial, accommodating and efficient, despite a

bustling Saturday lunchtime trade.

Other than a place for the WAGs to drop their bags, Hamilton was keen to create a family friendly environment and she would have been pleased to note the small platoon of pushchairs standing at ease among the tables.

As the mother of young children, she was also determined the food should be of the highest standard and announced that her suppliers would include the organic Claremont Farm in Wirral. Everything on the children's menu - chicken and bacon salad, plaice goujons, chips and mushy peas - is said to be "locally sourced", although that's one of those phrases that could mean the ham in the ham and cheese panini came from a pig reared 30 miles away, or it could mean it came from the shop down the road.

Alongside cafe standards like wraps, panini and sandwiches, main courses include "traditional" fish and chips and scouse. "Hamilton's beef burger" could be a credible signature meal – caramelised onions and fat, rectangular chips are excellent – but for one crucial element, the burger. A uniformly smooth disc, perfect for stacking, it lacked any mark of individuality. A good burger explodes on impact, filling the mouth with juices and flavours. The best you could say about this one was that it was a good fit for the bun.

Red pepper hummus from the "gourmet" sandwich range featured "fire-roasted pepper" which made it sound exciting and exotic, which it wasn't. If there was any garlic in the hummus, it did not register on the palate (WAGs probably don't like garlicky breath). Accompanying Mediterranean vegetables managed to be the best thing between the bread without bettering average - I didn't even notice there was "picante salsa" in there until I checked the menu afterwards.

Tired and uninspired, the side salad looked like I felt, unless I was missing the point and the chef intended a seasonal twist, the feeble leaves representing the decay of autumn. Slimline seasoned fries were pretty good but whoever had charge of the cayenne pepper jar that day either had the shakes or a mouth lined with asbestos. From the first taste I felt my mouth burning, which was okay with me but would frighten anybody of a sensitive disposition. Maybe they were expecting the Spice Girls.

Carrot cake and scoops of "luxury" ice cream were much what we expected of a dessert list that read like the frozen section at Sainsbury's. It need not be like this. On paper, they have it about right: Hamilton's looks the part, it has a spring in its step, you are well treated, and Natasha makes the right noises about the food. But on the evidence of this visit all the fine talk does not translate on to the plate and somebody needs to take a firm grip of the quality control.

One solution might be for Ms H to push her musical partnership into a new area and harness a recently-discovered natural talent for cooking. That's right, put Liz McClarnon in charge of the food and rename the restaurant, Atomic Kitchen.

Rating: 12/20
Breakdown: 5/10 Food
3.5/5 Service
3.5/5 Ambience
Address: Hamilton's
Hamilton's, Unit 22, 1st Floor,
Met Quarter,
Liverpool, L1 6DQ
0151 236 7720

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

CheeksNovember 21st 2008.

Yep, totally agree. The roast veg wrap was 90% lettuce (ok, it was a caesar roast veg wrap but even so...) and it took ages coming. Pretty poor.

AndyNovember 21st 2008.

Restaurants make their money from booze, not food. Why should they care if the carrot cake is from Costco as long as the punters get pissed in the wannabe reflected glory of such a 'talented', er...celebrity?.

woman from pilgrimNovember 21st 2008.

its been a while. glad u enjoyed your breakfast dig. yes watching with interest i was not happy to when i heard H was not open for the planned after party. i wonderd who was the shady lookin person who was trying to hide behind the candle stick. dig is a lovely person and a great friend we have been to the sir thomas hotel tonight and it was a laugh watchin mamma mia ha, histerical woman dancing away to abba. x

Whole againNovember 21st 2008.

I was very disappointed with my lunch at Hamiltons. I ordered a steak baguette & asked for it to be well done only to recieve a fatty bit of meat that soaked the bread with blood when I bit into it. For the money we paid, the food was defo not worth it. Was made up when it opened as thought it would be ideal location to stop for lunch when out shopping but have spread the word amongst my pals not to go & won't be going again.

watching with interestNovember 21st 2008.

i went to a fab charity do at the alma de cuba on monday.an after party had been booked at H.people ariving at H were more than a bit suprised to find the place closed.how shabby is that?

DigNovember 21st 2008.

Did you not say hello to Woman from Pilgrim Watching with Interest? She was at the Alma de Cuba and the non event at H too. Just been in The Pilgrim for my lunch. I can confirm they do the best breakfasts and the girl in the pinny and D&G glasses is gorgeous!

QuagmireNovember 21st 2008.

Brazilian, eh?

DigNovember 21st 2008.

Maria. DO TRY a smoothie from Mark on the Smoothie Express stall. He's a man on a health food mission. He does natural energy, detox, bug blasters and lots more. All made with fruit and ice. Filling, healthy and delicious.

AnonymousNovember 21st 2008.

Is it still going? I thought the police closed down it ages ago.

Fission ChipsNovember 21st 2008.

A much better option.

DigNovember 21st 2008.

I've never been to Hamiltons but that would bother me if I did go. Shows a lack of detail. Retail is detail. If they can't get the menu right can you trust them to get your order or food right? The spelling on the menu is only a small thing but it speaks volumes.

DigNovember 21st 2008.

I had a feeling you may be a stalker. Whenever I go in The Pilgrim I have a look around to see if I can spot you. It's going well thank you Watching with Interest number 2. We're very good mates now. Going out tonight in fact. I won't divulge where as we have an official stalker on our hands. Well, she does anyway. I want one now. Oi Nadia! Come and stalk me will ya?!

Atomic mittenNovember 21st 2008.

Oh, and I must apologise for having whinged about their spelling, referring to the place as 'Hamiltons' rather than 'Hamilton's'. Shame on me...

Atomic mittenNovember 21st 2008.

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that no one at Hamiltons can spell? The menu is literally littered with errors and it gets on my nerves! Ceasar??? I ask you.

watching with interestNovember 21st 2008.

i did see her there in all her gorgeousness but thought it a tad uncool to pester her on the grounds that she may call the police on me seeing as i am one of her most ardent stalkers.besides it is rude to drool on a lady without first having a formal introduction.

SarahNovember 21st 2008.

Yep, locally sourced alright - that slice of carrot cake has come all the way from Costco on the dock road!

Lynne with an 'e'November 21st 2008.

I went with my Mum to Hamiltons. We asked for peroni beer, the waitress thought there was only 1 left, but then did find 2. Mum's scouse was more fat than meat. My Hamilton burger was beyond words!! For over £8, I was expecting a real meaty burger. What I got was akin to a Birds Eye burger from the frozen section of a supermarket. Needless to say, I wont be giving my custom there again, and have told my large circle of friends not to bother.

KnowlegeableNovember 21st 2008.

The metal detector line is actually true. H Bar was only allowed to reopen on condition that it installed them to stop people taking weapons in. One of the only places to have this "facility".

DigNovember 21st 2008.

It's all so obvious now. Natasha opens the places, Kerry blags the free food on telly, Liz trains as a chef on telly and Jenny mixes with the WAGs to bring in the famous custom and the celeb spotters to spend their money! It's genius and all this from a girl band! I bet if you record Iceland ads, The celebrity chef thing and Atomic Kitten videos then play them back really slowly you'll see a reccuring subliminal message. 'H' 'H' 'H'.

mariaNovember 21st 2008.

i always go to the met and always think to go to this placve , but look so expensive... now i will not try at all. ..this burguer look UN DISASTRO!!

Mike HomfrayNovember 21st 2008.

The food looks so grim - somewhere to avoid...

another watching with interestNovember 21st 2008.

Hey Dig,how's it going with Pinny woman?

DigNovember 21st 2008.

Diggety Diggety. Pun intended.

mariaNovember 21st 2008.

HUmm.. I WILL try ....rss as being brazilian I always think that i cant never find good smoothies around here .. let you know soon how good it is...

Keep upNovember 21st 2008.

No, anonymous you are confusing this with H Bar in Victoria Street. Read PROPERLY! Also look at the date of this: November 2008.

DigNovember 21st 2008.

If you're in The Met Quarter make sure you get a Smoothie off Mark from The Smoothie Express bar as you walk in. He also has low salt and fat sarnies and soups. All delicious and very healthy at very reasonable prices!! There you go mate, I don't just come up with your slogans I'm doing ads as well now!

DigNovember 21st 2008.

I was hoping Eleanor Abernathy would be my stalker. No dead canaries there either. I think the cats would eat them all. If you think Mildred could do a job then I'm free to be stalked every other Monday. I'll give her a 3 month trial period. If I don't feel threatened by then we'll have to part ways. I trust you're judgement tho Prof. You haven't let me down yet.

Platonic BitternNovember 21st 2008.

Don't go!

London RoadNovember 21st 2008.

Maybe the metal detector was broken.

thatmrbollockstoyouNovember 21st 2008.

Welcome back Grilly Boy with a corker. The Harry Cross anecdote was especially spot on with lots more laughs elsewhere and a great punchline at the end. A perfect dish in fact, mate, well cooked up.

Big 'H'November 21st 2008.

Good guess at Birds Eye by the way Lynn but it's all from Iceland. Kerry Katona leaving the band and advertising Iceland was all part of our grand master plan. We knew we had a limited shelf life as a band so our efforts moved into the food and drink sector using freebies Kerry gets. I'd recommend not having the steak or chicken breast for a while though. We're not sure that's from Iceland since Kerry's boobs got smaller.

Burger me!November 21st 2008.

That is without doubt the most crappy dry looking burger I have ever seen. It's like something from the very worst road side mobile cafe with a toasted sandwich maker. A six pack of cheap burger buns from Iceland and a Ross Burger. Are they serious? it really doesn't take that much effort to make a burger, but it does take some effort and for £8.00 or so this looks about 25p worth of effort.

astonishedNovember 21st 2008.

remarkable. Is this their contribution to Capital of Culture?

colNovember 21st 2008.

very funny. i particularly liked the metal detector line. you may have upset some people tho. Have you got adequate life insurance?

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