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First Look: The Art School

Is Chef Paul Askew's new venture evidence of the game changing again around Hope Street?

Written by . Published on September 9th 2014.

First Look: The Art School

THE last time anyone received tongue on Hope Street, the world was a very different place.

Time, however, changes everything.

The Art School, Paul Askew's new restaurant, opened last week after several years in the planning. It is an ambition which, like many things, was stalled by two recessions. Now it has finally been realised by the high profile London Carriage Works supremo and Hope Street Hotel director, friendly ex of.

There is a hush about the place. Is this because tonight's punters are the well-behaved, take-anywhere sort - or are they simply gobsmacked by the dining room?

The Art School came from Askew's desire to stretch his creative wings, he says, working entirely on his own canvas; an urge to get on with the business of “fine dining” free from the demands of the other side of the job that comes with running a hotel kitchen: 24/7 catering.

The Art School Liverpool Pic Angie Sammons %283%29
His manor is right behind the Philharmonic Hall, the former School for the Destitute on Sugnall Street, a place which prepared poor children for life on the Canadian prairies 100 years ago.

“Any region, any great city, needs a culture of good food and we have a restaurant scene that is developing at an incredible rate of knots,” declares the who-could-argue blurb on The Art School's website.

The Hope Street arrondissement has been the nucleus of that movement for around 15 years now, being crowned UK's urban street of the year in 2012. Who would have thought?

And the appetite for more is sharp. Askew's concept has generated much anticipation among the food media and the dining out chatterati - in Liverpool and beyond.

Trusty Steed Robert The ConciergeTrusty Steed: Robert the conciergeEven Liverpool City Council contributed to the hype – publicly endorsing a young apprenticeship scheme at the venue back in June: “A search is under way for six young apprentices to work at a new world class restaurant in Liverpool,” began the press handout from the News Centre.

All this assumption before anyone had been inside, before even a glass had been polished or the linen tablecloths unpacked. No pressure, like.

Last week, Liverpool Confidential got a first look at the place. It cannot be denied that this is an exceptional space. A bowler-hatted, John Steed lookalike, “Robert”, (definitely, definitely not an apprentice) is there to greet you at the entrance of this Grade II former residence, setting the tone before you saunter through to the bar. This is a sumptuous, Raffles-style affair of French polish and leather – whisky cocktails a speciality. It would be enough on its own. There is, however, more.

Seared scallop with caramelised celeriac puree with spoked pork loin and Sauternes dressingSeared scallop with caramelised celeriac puree with spoked pork loin and Sauternes dressing

There is a hush about the place. Is this because punters are the well-behaved sort or are they simply gobsmacked by the dining room?

 The temptation would have been to continue the gentleman's club theme, play to the building's traditional strengths. Instead we are confronted by a stunning, 50-cover Eden, bathed in natural light from a vaulted, original, Victorian glass ceiling, which, by night, changes colour. Starched white linen; starched, white gloved waiting staff swoop and dart like eager swifts. But they are foiled by a glorious crimson everywhere; the seating, the abundant flora, it is a sumptuous study in scarlet.

Trendy exposed filament bulbs abseil down like an invading SAS squad in this former “Lantern Room”. Elsewhere, Askew's love of slate continues and there he is, working from the exposed kitchen through a rectangular cut-out which occupies an entire wall. He and team, which includes three fledglings, get on with the job silently. It wouldn't do for Gordon Ramsay.

Tongue, sirloin and featherblade, shallot puree, duck fat fondant and brown shrimp butterTongue, sirloin and featherblade, shallot puree, duck fat fondant, brown shrimp butter

There is no a la carte. Menus, instead, are of the set sort. Right now there are two: a Fixe Price (£22.95/£29.95 two/three courses) and a five course Menu Excellence weighing in at £65. The pictures here show the latter. An £85 luxury version is planned, and another at the budget end of the scale.

Featherblade is served with a flourish, there is sirloin from a beast slaughtered by Callum Edge. Tomorrow night's beef will be from a Hereford herd. Or there's Willaston organic Old Spot pork, shallot purees, tangs of tamarind, fat scallops, girolles, themes on caramel and old school Gateau St Honore. There is partridge landed by a gun on the Wirral, and don't be surprised if you discover shot in your mouth. Oh, and on that note, somewhere down its list of favours The Art School does do tongue.

Partridge with Cox apples, cabbage parcel and Claremont Farm spuntasPartridge with Cox apples, cabbage parcel and Claremont Farm spuntas

Askew says he will be “reaching for the stars with the finest Liverpool has to offer. Nevertheless, he is easily pushed to admit that in between the words “the” and “stars” there is a hint of “brackets-Michelin”.

ChefReaching for the stars:
Chef Askew
“But I want this place to be about nothing more than good food and good banter. That will be enough,” he adds.

Judgement on the food and service will be reserved for a later day, so go by the pictures for now.

In the meantime, one cannot help thinking that by opening up spaces like this, Destination Hope Street may be about to change again.

And with Paddy Byrne's "Pen Factory" to come, down at The Annexe, a new Everyman and even newer Philharmonic to pull them in across the region, you can be sure it will never morph alone.


*The Art School, 1 Sugnall Street, Liverpool L7 7DX. Website. Telephone:0151 230 8600. Follow Paul Askew @porkyaskew on Twitter

Angie Sammons @twangeee on Twitter 

Gateau St HonoreGateau St Honore

Theme on caramelTheme on caramel

The Art School Liverpool Pic Angie Sammons %286%29

The Art School Liverpool Pic Angie Sammons %285%29

Pictures by Angie SammonsPictures by Angie Sammons 

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

AnonymousSeptember 9th 2014.

Ok, now this really does look good!

Tongue tiedSeptember 9th 2014.

Very, very nice.

AnonymousSeptember 9th 2014.

Strength to strength, and deservedly so. Look forward to it

mrsmarsaSeptember 10th 2014.

The fine ales they are serving are amazing btw (*smug smile)

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 10th 2014.

Wonder why they don't have them on the drinks menus? Like ale is something to keep under the counter? And one other thing/ the typo on the website is a let down, use of the greengrocer's apostrophe, thus; Chef Paul Askew is a North West Food Champion and is recognized as one of the regions best Chef’s.

SaladDazeSeptember 10th 2014.

The reservations page of the web site currently says: "We are now taking bookings for 2nd of September 2014." Too late for me.

1 Response: Reply To This...
SaladDazeOctober 12th 2014.

But we went anyway and it's fab. Nicest room in Liverpool.

Joe49September 12th 2014.

That is NOT a St Honore - where's the spun sugar for a start? I wish people would not use classic names for dishes which bear no resemblance to those they are named after

John BradleySeptember 13th 2014.

They make some poor sod stand out in the door way wearing a rather silly hat.

1 Response: Reply To This...
TitferSeptember 15th 2014.

I hope he turns away scruffy gets in jeans.

SarahSeptember 14th 2014.

There's nothing 'make' about it and by the way isn't it wonderful to be surrounded and welcomed by that protective yet aloof benevolence - I like very much! And he looks devine as well! Yes all very good in my book!

Paul WardSeptember 25th 2014.

Re pic cap: is the "spoked pork loin" for cyclists?

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