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Top nosh or what?

What are the best and worst eating experiences you've had this year? Here are AA Grill's picks, and we've got a £100 tab for the top rant about yours

Published on January 14th 2010.


Top nosh or what?

THE last 12 months have been a Traumatizer ride through the region's restaurants - no wonder I get through so much Bisodol

Alas, too many restaurants are still opened by rank amateurs with lots of money and no idea. But, and it's a big but, there are more places than ever where you can be pretty sure of eating pretty well, and more than a couple of restaurants where you can be confident of food that excites and stimulates.

What's the best thing you've eaten in a restaurant this year? Share your thoughts on Liverpool Confidential and the best comments will win a £100 tab at a restaurant of their choice.

Here, to set you thinking, are some high spots - and a couple of low spots - from my eating out experiences in 2007.

Best starter
Strong contenders included Coriander (now happily reborn as the Ceylon Spice Company) in Waterloo, for terrific fleshy prawns (£5.95), Sri Lankan style, with piping chilli sauce that nearly had us calling the fire brigade. From the Malmaison, sweet, meaty scallops found their soul mate in a confit of baby fennel. Lovely, but just edged out by lobster at The London Carriage Works. At an expletive-popping £13.50, it was going to have to be damned special - and it was: a fresh, flavour-packed assembly of lobster, mango, buttered spinach, potato crisps and lobster foam.

Best main course
The London Carriage Works provided spectacularly good rare breed pork with caramelised apple, while gleaming roasted haddock in red wine, with baby onions and celeriac puree was a treat from Simply Heathcote's way back in January.

At Michael's in Birkdale, Scottish venison and redcurrant sauce, happily married to a potato and celeriac rosti and creamed savoy cabbage, was a beautifully rounded plateful, and might have been the winner had it not been for the best lamb chop I am ever likely to eat, courtesy of the Malmaison Brasserie.

Whoever said paradise tastes of Bounty bars hadn't tried one of these - a strapping, butterflied Kendal Rough Fell loin chop (£14.50), smeared with cooked marrow and encased in strips of fat made from one hundred per cent artery-clogging cholesterol that, once tried, could not be ignored. I ate the lot. When they finally open me up they will probably record a verdict of death by Barnsley chop - but what a way to go. Accompanying spring greens and new season carrots tasted like vegetables used to before they invented supermarkets.

Best pudding
At Fraiche in Oxton, the tiramisu was what BBC executives would call "high concept": served in two parts, first in miniature, each element laid on a strip of rice paper, then sprayed with amaretto. The unexpurgated version that followed proved it was more than show. By complete contrast, the winner - from Michael's - was a simple, but majestic crème brulee, with a gorgeous raspberry coulis.

Best thing in a glass
Reluctantly accepting the advice of a wine waiter at the London Carriage Works, we ordered a bottle of Australian Barossa Valley Craneford merlot (£22). What we got was an absolute revelation to any of us who have ever pulled a face at the mention of merlot.

But the plaudits go to the Ceylon Spice Company for treating us not just to the award-winning, rarely encountered Himalaya beer, but also a bottle of 3 Stones, a fruity, feisty New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£15.90).

Best coffee
While more restaurants succumb to the corporate mediocrity of Illy coffee, Kimos' cup brims with character and individuality. A smooth, full-flavoured, caffeine-kicking mouthful.

Best atmosphere
Kimos, in Mount Pleasant, has the power to transform your mood (from bad to good, that is) but the London Carriage Works wins by a whisker for making you feel at ease but like it's still a special night out.

Most imaginative food
Fraiche, for its modern French food drawing on molecular gastronomy There is simply nowhere around producing this kind of haute cuisine: technically flawless, a tad self-conscious but with plenty of panache.

Most tolerant of bloody kids
It was heart-warming to find so many places where it isn't assumed that a child equals trouble. The Olive Press, Castle Street, has experienced our boys' worst moods and always comes up smiling. But Amber, in Mossley Hill, shades it for the sight of a newborn baby in blissful repose at nine o'clock in the evening.

Best value
If prices always reflected quality of food, the Maharaja would be the most expensive Indian restaurant in town. As it is, their take on southern Indian cuisine is superb value. Joint winner Kimos looks so good you would pay just to sit and stare, but for laughable prices you can also have your fill from a well-cooked, Mediterranean-influenced menu.

I've saved the worst till last - it's more fun that way. Last summer, Filini at the Radisson Hotel, had the distinction of preparing the winner and runner-up in the let-down food category. Raspberries and champagne cream (£6.25) came encased in layers of polystyrene masquerading as meringue but was just pipped for awfulness by Italian cheese which included three characterless lumps with something described as lemon marmalade but tasting of cold hot dog onions. To be fair, the menu, like the restaurant, has since been revamped. Hopefully for the better.

Over to you . . .

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

Fat GitDecember 19th 2007.

I have been on incapacity benefit for 16 years and so don't have much money to spend on restaurants bit when I do it's to places like the London Carriage Works where they really know how to treat a gent. David Cameron says he's going to make it more difficult for people like me, but I have difficulty with stress in the workplace. I do keep Ken Hom in my taxi and sometimes read the recipes when I'm parked up outside Weatherspoons. I went to Caesar's Palace once and to the Algarve at Christmas but they were no good. I wouldn't mind that £100. It would cheer me up.

AndyDecember 19th 2007.

Went to Zyka a new Indian restaurant in Formby, expecting a bit of same old same old. Instead it turned out to be the best meal we'd eaten in Merseyside this year! Apparently they get their spices fresh from Brick Lane market in London and it shows. This was the best Indian I'd tasted outside Bradford. Friendly service, reasonable prices, nice decor: a real treat.

Mike HomfrayDecember 19th 2007.

Have I won? I'm rare excited - haven't won a contest since I bagged a game of Ker-Plunk when I was 8!

Mike HomfrayDecember 19th 2007.

The best.....The menu at Room always delights: is always proves fascinating just what modern twist they have given to standard dishes. Their deconstructed cheese on toast was fun, and the chef can cook a rare steak properly. The black pork curry at the Ceylon Spice Company certainly deserves a mention. Given the religious make-up of most Asian restaurants, the use of pork by the Christian populations of Sri Lanka and southern India are often overlooked. This dish is tasty and different. In a similar vein, Maharaja provides a range of excellent and different southern Indian food.The classic retro camp of Lino's on the Wirral is well worth experiencing (I don't think your reviewer quite entered into the spirit of things..... They have a wonderful bottle of Gewürztraminer on their wine list which is worth every penny - and the service is splendid. Their home-made coffee ice cream is also well worth getting to know - along with everything else on their home made desert menu.Room deserve another mention for service. They gave us - a bottle of much more expensive wine than we had ordered (both Viognier, hence the confusion) and I realised after the glasses had been poured. I informed them and they immediately said - we should have checked, you'll be charged the lower price.Malmaison is a welcome addition to the restaurant scene and also win the Most Decorative Waiters award.The worst. Step forward, Carob. Is this restaurant still open? It doesn't deserve to be. One of the starters was potted shrimps - ice-cold with rock-hard butter. Either room temperature with the butter removed, or Lancashire style, warmed. Surely a chef should know this for himself? The service was unbelievably inept and on paying the bill, they had the nerve to ask us if we wanted to leave a gratuity....and lets have a few lwess here-today, gone-tomorrow' bars that can't decide if they want to be dining venues, drinking dens or hen party venues. The food at the Haymarket was actually rather good, but the racket caused by the drunken hen party opposite wasn't....

Liverpool ConfidentialDecember 19th 2007.

Right, we forgot to close this contest. You've got 24 hours to rant on your best or worst eating experiences in Liverpool, in recent memory, for a £100 tab at a restaurant of your choice. Otherwise the very knowledgeable Mike Homfray wins.

Tricky WooDecember 19th 2007.

There's still the Lobster Pot though

clareDecember 19th 2007.

Ziba must be the best restaurant in Liverpool and yet its never mentioned anywhere. I have been here 3 times (11th, 12th and 13th wedding anniversary - its not cheap!) and every time the food has been fantastic! The most memorable main course I've had was scallops on curried lentils which sounds a bit yuk but tasted divine. Last time I had good old sausage and mash which was absolutely perfect (my wedding anniversary is in February so I needed a real winter warmer and that really hit the spot!). After the meal you can enjoy a coffee on one of the big comfy sofas in the bar or sample one (or more in our case!) of the great wines they offer.Its worth making it through another year with my beloved just to go back!

that's Mr Bollocks to youDecember 19th 2007.

Things have been going rapidly down hill in Capital of Culinary ever since they closed down the Chip Ahoy at the Pier Head.

David NewDecember 19th 2007.

I love the Malmaison too. Especially the scouse in there. It's a real winter warmer and well worth the trek. I have to say I went to Spire with my wife on the recommendation of your other reviewer and found it tremendous for a suburbs restaurant and it is now a favourite for us except you now have to book weeks in advance. Fraiche has an atmosphere like the moon unfortunately, a great shame since you will not taste food like it anywhere else on Merseyside.

AnonymousDecember 19th 2007.

Peter is right. The Sir Thomas Hotel is rubbish. All "style" and no substance.

PeterDecember 19th 2007.

Worst by miles and miles is the St John Restaurant at the Sir Thomas Hotel in Sir Thomas Street. All I wanted was a reasonable Sunday lunch, nothing over the top, in reasonable surroundings in the city centre. Not living in the area at all, I relied, (yes I know) on their web site details! What I got was absolute rubbish served virtually cold, the worst service anywhere, with huge waits between the first and main courses, we bailed out before dessert. Polite enquiries as to the time being taken, were met with rudeness with no attempt to expedite anything. We were not alone. How this place exists I do not know. I should have checked out Liverpool Confidential first!

Liverpool ConfidentialDecember 19th 2007.

Looks like it Mike. Give us a call and claim your prize. Oh, and congratulations on the Ker Plunk. What did you win that for?

AnonymousDecember 19th 2007.

The Rat & Parrot...please tell me you are joking.

AnonymousDecember 19th 2007.

My wife and myself have often stayed in Liverpool and we have tried many eating places, but the best one we found was the Rat and Parrot by the bus station always a good meal and very reasonable, we would not go anywhere else

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