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Simply Heathcotes closes for good

Jonathan Schofield gets distracted while pondering the death of a city flagship

Written by . Published on August 26th 2010.


Simply Heathcotes closes for good

Ah challenging times these.

Here’s another one that’s bitten the dust. Paul Heathcotes flagship Liverpool Restaurant, Simply Heathcotes, has closed.

The big problem, apparently, lay with the bridge link over the Strand which connected the Pierhead with the city centre and was closed and demolished months ago. This brought thousands of office workers, tourists and the like past the door each day. With the bridge gone the supply died, Heathcotes found itself in a windy no man’s land playing Billy no mates.

So on Wednesday the couple of dozen staff at one of the city’s showcase venues have been shown the door and Liverpool Two has lost a place where the city’s tourist authorities used to host guests.

Coupla points about this.

It shows that Heathcotes despite its qualities never made itself a destination restaurant. If it had people would have beaten a path through the narrow streets to nosh down irrespective of the smashed up bridge. This was also the case with the Manchester Simply Heathcotes which closed some years ago. In the end the food wasn’t as good as the aspiration. Or the initial marketing.

Second point – one for debate.

Confidential has recently eaten in one star Michelin places in the Lakes, the Samling and Holbeck Ghyll. It seems that most of the top quality starred venues outside London are located in country hotels, or down mossy lanes in small restaurants. Both Liverpool and Manchester have excellent city centre restaurants – London Carriageworks for instance, or Podium - so how come plush country areas get so much of the recognition?

Maybe it’s because we still suffer nationally from cutsy-itis. The innate snobbery of the Michelin critics naturally draws them to places of old fashioned patronage – they’re still a sensitive bunch who would rather gaze at a distant view of the soaring Langdales than of the gritty Dock Road. That would be a bit too post industrial. Not chocolate box enough.

Having eaten at one-starred places across the North I fail to see why no city centre restaurants in Manchester or Liverpool have made it into the starry firmament of Michelin guides in the last decade. There is no particular difference in quality, no massive yawning abyss, between the best in the city streets and the best down the country lanes.

It’s a real puzzler. Maybe it’s the service rather than the food quality which brings city centre places down? But again having experienced a recent cross section of award-winners I haven’t noticed any major difference in how punters are received.

Not that any of this has much to do with another Simply Heathcotes closing. Not directly at least.

But maybe recognition, when restaurants deserve it, in the Michelin Holy Grail might encourage the others, raise a city’s game and increase footfall - demolished bridges or not. Then again me thinking that certain critics have a blind spot when it comes to Northern cities might just be a case of yours truly wearing a fat northern chip on his shoulder. Simply nonsense rather than simply the case.

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

younger-than-twiggy-anywayAugust 26th 2010.

Well, I actually liked Heathcotes - I had some amazing meals there, and some simply good ones too, but never a bad one. However, I hated the venue. It was modern and cold, with a blue light that set my wrinkles off. It reminded me of those business places set at the bottom of commercial buildings for account managers with big wallets and clients to impress. A kind of in-between place that would have done well if there was any real business of this sort in Liverpool. I like Panaromic too. But, even if the views are great, the food is not. It is good. Full stop. As for the London Carriage Works, I find it vastly over-rated - this is the only place that forces me to eat BEFORE going to it because the portions are so mean - no wonder they push the bread basket. There is a sprinkling of good restaurants and a fair number of, well, fair restaurants in Liverpool. At most the service and ethos is about 50% below any normal standard I would expect. This has led me to abandon what would have otherwise been promising places, for instance that new one in Bluecoats. Also, I have eaten all over the world and only in Liverpool have I been asked to leave a deposit when making a reservation. There are so many reasons this is weird. When people tell me to go to such and such 'cos the food's fantastic", it never is. You need to travel to know what really great food is. The standards in Liverpool are much higher than twenty years ago when I first moved here, but they still lag sorely behind. As far as I can see we have been inundated with a plethora of mediocre chains in the last year and a smattering of trendy, sorry not good enough, Tapas bars. Shoot me for my comments, but only if you have travelled far and beyond. Heathcotes was a culinary step in the right direction and about 750 meters in the wrong place. It is a real pity that is was not simply re-located, and that long before the ugly foot bridge came tumbling down and brought it with it.

DangerscouseAugust 26th 2010.

That is a real shame, but I do agree with the article and all the points. Panaromic is the best restaurant in the City for my money, and that will never get a Michelin star because they can't use gas as they are in high rise building (a requirement for a Michelin star). Despite the lack of stars, we all know that there are some fanatastic restaurants here, and we're gonna try Etsu sometime soon.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2010.

There is a complete difference between Heathcotes and Etsu. I went to Etsu late last Thursday lunchtime and it had obviously been very busy, the difference perhaps that it is much more accessible (and I don't mean physically/geographically) I wouldn't dream of popping into Heathcotes for a quick lunch even tho its possible that the final bill might have been very similar in the end (easy to get carried away in Etsu!) In times of recession I think the more expensive restaurants are going to suffer regardless of Michelin Stars, it inevitable.

AnonymousAugust 26th 2010.

Its a real shame Heathcotes has gone and I hope this doesn't mean the start of more.We should be trying our best to get out and support local independants instead of the Nationalised chains. I think Heathcotes biggest problem was the opening of places like Restaurant Bar and Grill and San Carlo. These places have become 'in' places to go but don't try any where near hard enough to impress with quality food or service.I'm now hoping that little Etsu Japanese restaurant across the Plaza from Heathcotes is safe as this really does have to be one of the best hidden gems in the city.Good luck to the now redundant staff from Heathcotes finding new employment.

Andy MAugust 26th 2010.

I never had a bad meal at Heathcotes - the standard I always thought was rather good (I've eaten in a few so called 'good' restaurants in London and found them distinctly average/poor). It is a shame as I also thought the restaurant was a fabulous space of light and relaxation and the staff were always good. Heathcotes marketing was pretty good too, so it's probably just a combination of recession and competition. Anyway Paul, just open a bloody restaurant in Formby will ya?

dont-mean-to-sound-like-a-snobAugust 26th 2010.

We ate there once on our anniversary. Service good, food fair, but the place was full of wannabe footballers, wags & chavs. One the next table some shaven headed monkey man in a tracksuit, lays out his 3 mobile phones on the table in front of him, and spends the evening issuing obscenities down the phone while the vacuous bimbo with him stares into space. We never went back.

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