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Restaurant review: Out of the Blue

The party was over early for AA Grill and diners at the Bluecoat's swishy new upstairs restaurant. But was it worth going to?

Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: Out of the Blue

IT was 10.32pm when a man appeared at our table to announce that if we wanted another drink, we couldn’t have one. The bar was now shut.

I think he thought he was being helpful. He wasn’t.

My mouth gaped. It really did. It wanted to say, “Excuse me, but are you saying that we are sitting in Liverpool’s brightest new cultural jewel, in all its £12.5 million refurbed finery, in Europe’s cultural capital, bang in the middle of the city centre, on a Friday evening, with Yoko Ono 10 feet away (I’ll explain later), at a time when most people of less than middle age are only now leaving their houses for a night out, but we can’t get a sodding drink?” Instead, it just gaped.

Morecambe Bay
cod had not had
far to travel and
tasted like it, though
I rather feared for its sustainability. Enjoy while stocks last

We didn’t even want a drink, but that wasn’t the point. And it wasn’t the end of it. A couple of coffees to round off? No, sorry, we’ve dismantled the coffee machine. Oh, and we’ve all got to be out of here by eleven, so if you wouldn’t mind . . ?

I’ll just pop to the loo, then. Er, the toilets are locked now.

As it happened a helpful chap unlocked the toilets before unlocking the front door to let us out. Thank you and goodnight.

A shame, because until that moment we’d had a whale of a time. It’s my own fault, really. I booked online and, when I looked again, the website did indeed make it clear they close at 10.30. But, do you know, I didn’t even think to check.

THE day had not started well. The size of Mrs Grill’s grump told us another birthday had turned up like an uninvited guest. I figured that if the mourning was going to last into the evening, we should go out. A little food and a lot of wine might at least numb the pain awhile.

So it was we found ourselves at the restaurant upstairs at the Bluecoat, which, in order to aid the less resourceful among us, they have called “Upstairs At The Bluecoat”. When we arrived, Yoko was already there, safely roped off from the less than legendary, fresh from her first live performance at the Bluecoat in 41 years.

“What was she doing exactly?” I wondered. “Dunno, but it was probably money for old rope,” grumped Mrs Grill. My bitter half. Further enquiry revealed that Yoko had kicked things off by showing a film of her previous Bluecoat performance. She followed this with a spot of crocheting and finished up dancing among the audience.

Mrs G pinned me up against the back of my chair with one of those looks – eyebrow arched, lips coiled – which require no soundtrack.

Things are different at the new-look Bluecoat, with a coffee bar selling pre-packed sandwiches and a restaurant aiming upmarket. “Upstairs” has been nicely decked out but with the same ready-to-wear feel as a dozen other city centre joints – stripped boards, padded leather seating and a central bar separating the diners from the drinkers.

Suddenly, a commotion. Yoko was sweeping through the room, right by our table. “Alright, Yoko!” Mrs Grill waved. Yoko beamed and, not wishing to stir things, I kept shtum on the subject of “old rope”.

Once the superstar had left the room we turned out attention to the rest. Lo and behold, the chap on the next table was a regular ranter on Liverpool Confidential. Specialist subject: eating out. Posting name: Salad Daze. A pun-loving guy.

Salad was with his wife and their neighbours who together form a loose restaurant critics circle to strike fear into the most accomplished cooks. They also proved excellent company.

Mrs Grill seemed especially taken with our new friends, partly, I suspected, because all of them were substantially older than her.

Manzanilla and Aragon olives (£1.50) went exceedingly well with Mrs G’s G&T. Goosnargh chicken liver parfait with toasted brioche (£5.75) was a little loose but came in a lovely kilner jar which Mrs G had to be dissuaded from slipping into her bag. Caramelised leek and blackstick blue tart (£5.25) was agreeable, if unexciting, but would have done better without the rather firm and flavourless poached pear that accompanied it, while Salad complained that “the tomato terrine (£4.75) was OK, ish, but lacked any deeper flavour ”.

So far, so-so, but things were about to get a whole lot better. From a small and very reasonably priced selection, Morecambe Bay cod (£12.50) had not had far to travel and tasted like it, though I rather feared for its sustainability. Enjoy while stocks last.

“Good cod!” exclaimed Mrs G. Firm and well-cooked, it came with French beans and onions cooked properly in stock, and some tasty boulangere potatoes. “It’s like something I’d be pleased to cook at home,” she observed, managing to acknowledge both the Bluecoat’s dexterity in the kitchen and her own.

Rhug Estate rib eye steak (£16) was a good piece of meat, expertly prepared, bang on medium rare, with perfectly symmetrical chips assembled in a perfect criss-cross. The chef’s either a Virgo or an obsessive compulsive.

The advertised spring greens had been mysteriously replaced by an assortment of vegetables – beans, courgettes and spinach – which were green all right, but were not the product of an English spring. They were, nonetheless, very good.

“My chicken (£11.50) was nicely cooked,” remarked Salad, “but the sage and onion stuffing . . “ Hang on, who’s writing this review?

Local cheeses with Cains ale chutney and rustic breads (£4.95) was superior prison food, but chocolate and hazelnut brownie with hot fudge sauce (£3.45) slid down a treat, and Salad strongly recommended the rhubarb crumble sundae. (£3.45)

Salad piped up again. "When I was Salad," he began.

"Eh?" I said, confused. "But you are Salad."

"No, no. When I WAS A LAD . . "

"Ah," I said.

Sensing this was going to be a long story, I glanced hastily at my watch." It was 10.31. "I think we'll have to be going shortly."

Little did I know.

Rating: 15/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Upstairs at the Bluecoat
School Lane
0151 709 5297 ext 201

food critics dine unannounced and we pick up our own tabs.

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

Stanley StreetApril 11th 2008.

Mr. Bollocks is equally as likely to be related to the legendary lady 'ping-pong ball' entertainers of Llandudno, Miss Mary Hinge and Miss Betty Swallocks. North Wales can be very racy!

Disco KidApril 11th 2008.

To Pedant: Do you not put the prices of things in brackets when you speak, or perhaps you wave two fingers on both hands in the air and say "quote, unquote" when gossiping about someone. As to the free rangeness of the chicken, I am reliably informed it is from Goosnargh, up by Preston, which sounds great on all the menus you see about town and in Manchester, but not free range, just posh sounding. Does that clear it up for you? I suppose it's an easy mistake after two many gin and tonics.

A. ChumpApril 11th 2008.

Yeah! Then dee could gerrin der big-screen footie, couldn' dee?

Salad DazeApril 11th 2008.

Anyway, I tried to give it a second chance and now it's closed because of a fire. And the ground floor caff is a travesty of what was there when it was run by the boys and girls from the Everyman Bistro.

that'smrbollockstoyouApril 11th 2008.

To Arsula. Without wishing to you bore you about the whole family tree, or the dog's bollocks to use the vernacular, it will come as no suprise for you to discover that given R.A.'s stroppy nature he emerged from the Russian side of our extensive breed, being the great great great grandson of Lenin's (VI Lenin no relation) Director of Public Relations I. Kickabollockov. Hope this proved to be informative.

V. I. Lenin AirportApril 11th 2008.

AA Grill gave 4/5 for the service! WHY? If the staff were any good at all the waiter would have tipped them off at 'last orders' and offered to run to the bar to fetch them their post-prandial snifters before it closed, as would happen in any local-run Liverpool restaurant! Bah!

Graham BandageApril 11th 2008.

Oi, Kelly, that was uncalled for. Grill writes engagingly and wittily about restaurants for little reward, and all you can do is make stupid comments about mooli. How dare you? How bloody dare you? I hate you. You tw*t.

TV KellyApril 11th 2008.

And by the way, can I just say that this is, by far, the greatest piece of writing ever published in the world, ever.* And I'm not exaggerating, it's THAT good.

TV KellyApril 11th 2008.

Uncalled for? And then you use a word like that? I was playing a straight bat. It is definitely the best thing I've read about the Bluecoat. Anyway, I'm sure Grill is big enough to look after himself. I'm told he's paid a small fortune to write these things and could engage the services of the Russian mafia should he so desire.

NadiaApril 11th 2008.

To AA Grill, you not eat out with man at this event this time but take this so called Mrs Grill? I think that you try to lie to people about being with woman. I am hot Russian lady and I would like to be taken out to Osqa restaurant for a big steak and afterwards much vodka and dancing by man with big fast car. No?

pedantApril 11th 2008.

Did Salad Daze really put the price of his chicken (in brackets) as he was telling AA Grill about it? If so, he is either a tight wad or another one of those compulsive obsessive types who arrange the chips neatly. And was it free range?

Arsula UndressApril 11th 2008.

I wondered if Mr. That'smrbollockstoyou could be related to the noted local champion of the oppressed and protester R. A. Bollocks?As suggested above I think we could best puncture the pomposity of the unwieldily-appellated 'Upstairs at the Bluecoat' by simply dubbing it 'Bluey's'. After all it is LIVERPOOL Capital of Culcher, izni', la?

Everton FanApril 11th 2008.

Upstairs at the Bluecoats shouldn't offer a 'local' menu with such diminutive portions. Hotpot in a teeny pot anyone?We went at lunch shortly after they opened and asked the waitress whether we should have one or two portions of chips between three (along with other sides). She suggested two as you'd only get about 7 chips then had to apologize because actually you only got 5...As for the puddings the spoons didn't reach to the bottom of the tiny glasses - we had to use the handles...Perfectly formed but small, small, small...

Ursula UnctiousApril 11th 2008.

Mr Grill sounds pretty hot to me. By the way, is 'lady ping-pong ball entertainers of Llandudno' a euphemism for 'lady of the night'? It also being a euphemism, of course. Or should that be 'of coarse'?

that'smrbollockstoyouApril 11th 2008.

To Mr/Ms or Mrs Nom de Plums. Sadly, I have to confess I am not related to the legendary orator but his disinherited and disgraced binman brother F. U. Bollocks. Sorry about that.

Salad DazeApril 11th 2008.

My cover blown and my age revealed in one excellent Grilling. I'll never lift my fork in public again. Fork in public. I've now had time to digest Grill's comments and my own earlier grumpiness - as well as recover from being sandwiched between Yoko and Mrs Grill - and I have to say I'm no more ecstatic. I'm willing to give the Bluecoats another chance to get it right but, really, overall, my first experience was just not good enough. I need to be assured about cosmic issues of time and place: for example, when were the spuds cooked and where? In between then and now I've had another trip to London and eaten in places which get it right every time - and met Mrs Daze for tea in the Everyman here, which does the same and has been wonderful for over thirty years. The staff at the Bluecoat are lovely but the food has a way to go to catch up.

Dingle BelleApril 11th 2008.

Those cheap plasic church hall chairs look rather sweaty.

Stanley StreetApril 11th 2008.

I wondered if Mr. Grill could possibly be related to the enormous number of Bar and Grills that have appeared in Liverpool in the last ten years? Personally I doubt it as Mr. Grill is quite obviously a man of taste and discernment, whereas the frankly passé bare brick and badly-furnished 'Bar and Grills' invariably purvey bum-threatening convenience 'food' and Bacardi Breezer to the sunbed-worshipping Liverpool yoberati.

NadiaApril 11th 2008.

I would like to meet this VI Lenin Airport at Old Post Office but sorry I cannot today as rich men contact me to eat in London Carriage Works. Old Russian proverb say you do not look gift nest of dolls in mouth.

TV KellyApril 11th 2008.

What did Yoko have to eat? I bet it was the words "joyous plinth" made out of mooli shavings, served on some sort of 3-D irregular pentagon. That's what she tends to order, I believe.

everybodythinksthey'reabloodycomedianApril 11th 2008.

Trust you to turn up when there's a sniff of a fight, Tubi

Nom de plumApril 11th 2008.

Mr Bollocks, as a close friend and admirer of AA Grill, I can tell you only this: he is understood to be in some way connected to the Savoy Grills but a rudimentary grasp of genetics is enough to confirm that the comely critic could in no way be related to the fat, hairy antipodean to whom you refer. While on the subject, I wonder by chance if you are in any way related to the legendary orator, A.U. Bollocks?

that'smrbollockstoyouApril 11th 2008.

Nice one again, Grilly Boy. Me and the girlfriend had a splendid introductory night at the Bluey about a month or so back and had a shared rib-eyed steak which was absolutely gorgeous followed up by some delish home made ice cream. Service was good too with just the right dollop of Liverpudlian banter going on. By the way, talking of Bluey you're not related to Lucky Grills who played the lard-arsed Aussie detective of the same name in the legendary TV series of the early 80s are you?

Tom TubigripApril 11th 2008.

Eh up, Mr. Bandage. I've just had a peep at your 'bloggs' and I reckon that Chrissie Hynde must be about seventy-four by now. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!

Arsula UndressApril 11th 2008.

Charmed, ai'm sure!

V. I. Lenin AirportApril 11th 2008.

Still, if it means that the 'Old Post Office' regains its rightful place at the centre of Liverpool's bohemian artistic maelstrom so much the better. We'll just have to get rid of those fat old tramps who eat "sizzling steaks" and stink the place out. Yes! We could send them across to the Bluecoat...

Graham BandageApril 11th 2008.

And I don't mean twit, I mean the other thing. You know, the lady parts thing.

TV KellyApril 11th 2008.

*About Upstairs At The Bluecoat.

Kofi AnnanApril 11th 2008.

Calm down, lads. It's all getting a bit heated.

Billy BunterApril 11th 2008.


Squirly BrassyApril 11th 2008.

It will probably be renamed Bluey's when the local gangster property developers take it over. And then it will be full of WAGS and **** food like any number of local establishments I could mention.

Graham BandageApril 11th 2008.

Tubigrip, old chap! It's been a while since I've been here, thanks to the blog (at grahambandage.blogspot.com) How the Dickens are you?

Tom TubigripApril 11th 2008.

Aye, 'appen it is!

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