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The Food and Drink Awards 2009

All together now...”Nobody does it better....” or do they? Here's our round-up of the toppermost places we went to in 2009

Published on January 14th 2010.

The Food and Drink Awards 2009

Newcomer Of The Year
LIKE ships, restaurants come and go. And in Liverpool, 2009, it was boom as well as bust, or even both for some establishments – just when you thought one Korova had closed, up it popped again in a different part of the city.

There have been several new names to keep us entertained. The Manchester Thai favourite Chaophraya and Palm Sugar Lounge, in its swishy Liverpool One setting, attracted herds of the the blinged and tanned from the charms of the Newz bar to sweep majestically across Chavasse Park.

The Orchard blossomed from the long-cold ashes of L'Alouette, in the wastes of Blundell Street, and Rosaria Crolla's Italian Club Fish gave the maritime city its only dedicated taste of the sea.

But it was the late 2009 arrival of San Carlo in Castle St that did it for us. Our considered opinion you will find in an overdue review coming shortly but, in the meantime, hold onto the thought that this is exactly the restaurant Liverpool has needed for, well, ages.

Best Service
A packed restaurant frequently spells disaster on the service front and the concept of “waiting tables” can take on unfortunate connotations. But not at the bulging-at-the seamsBistro Franc where service is swift, but not rushed, smiling and courteous without addressing the diners as “guys”, knowledgeable without being patronising.

In the face of hungry punters fresh from a hard slog around Primark and who, like dogs, could turn nasty if it were any other way, one has to tip one's chapeau (while you tip the staff appropriately) to the little Francophile haven in Hanover St.

The Hard Financial Times Award For Keeping Up High Standards
We reviewed The Side Door, Hope St, almost three years ago, and again this year. Two different critics, two different menus and a recession in between. But still Sean Millar keeps cutting the mustard without cutting the corners. If only everything in life were as reliable.

Best Place To Get Lost On A Friday AfternoonYour boss/colleagues may suspect that you are away with the fairies but they will never suspect that you are up in the clouds when you say you're “nipping out for a bit” next Friday lunchtime.

Let's face it, The Panoramic while charming enough at night, is as much about its eponymous view as it is about the food and surrounding WAGs in glad rags.

Do it in the day, then. Panoramic boasts various set lunch deals under £20 to bring the sky high menu within reach of merer mortals.

Imagine: Up the West Tower's 34th floor you go, leaving the mobile on only to take pictures of your Liverpool home. You order a bottle of something, you safely sit back and, like Otis Redding, watch the ships roll in and then a-watch them roll away again before you roll back home to the Dingle, via the Otis elevator.

Best PubWhile hundreds of others, just like it, went under thanks to the smoking ban, Anne Marie Slater and her team continued to make The (Little) Grapes bloom on the vine in 2009.

It's only a basic boozer, on the face of it, but superior staff, a well stocked bar with real ale and 10 choices of gin, and low key music like the late night jazz on Sundays, all ensure a wide-ranging clientèle who give the place a buzz all of its own. Plus the management's obvious love of their pub is infectious.

Go. But, as it's small, perhaps not all at once.

The Michael Jackson Will-We-Ever-Get-To-The-Bottom-Of-This? Award
Given to the vast swathes of people who happily part with good money to eat at Caesar's Palace.

You Could Have Knocked Me Down With A Feather Award....
Goes to the Welcome Break on the M62 at Burtonwood for being that rarity in the land of Alan Partridge: friendly, approachable, with reasonable value food made freshly to order.

In other words, the one service station in striking distance not taking the piss.

Best Main Course
AA Grill says: Piccolino's lobster (£18.95) is “caught in Scottish waters and simply grilled over charcoal. Sweet and fresh, with a gently meaty texture, it was served with rings of squid, a handful of petit pois and lovely buttery scialiatelli, ribbon-like pasta, made in the kitchen that morning.

Maximum flavour achieved with minimum fuss”.

Best Value
HoSt was long anticipated, but got there in the end. Colin and Gary Manning's Hope Street take on Wagamama, which impressed both us and less rarefied beings such as Independent on Sunday critic Terry Durack, squarely circled the last piece of a tiny triangle formed by 60 Hope St and The Quarter (that's enough shapes, ed).

Well executed pan-Asian fusion dishes from Melbourne chef Ashleigh Ritchie will not remotely break the bank. This, combined with relaxed service (“it'll come when it's ready”) and a similar ambience will earn you a gold star if you are trying to impress someone -

whether you can really afford to or not.

Best Pudding
They don't suffer fools at the Maritime Dining Rooms (Maritime Museum, Albert Dock). Instead they put them in a bottle. Chef Nigel Smith's blackberry fool was well worth a trip in the late summer: fresh tangy fruit, a layer of thick cream and then the custardy fool bit all crammed into a kilner bottle.

One straw is all you need for this deliciously different treat. The bad news: it's seasonal and it's off. The good news: there's a rhubarb and custard fool on right now (£4.25). Nauti, naughty.

Best Cheese board
Come on you wannabe Gordon Ramsays charging ridiculous prices for credit-card-thin plastic cheese and grapes in your so-called gastropubs. If Panoramic can do this, so can you.

Most Tolerant Of Bloody Kids
Still down at the Albert Dock (and someone has got to kick the tumbleweed away) at Gusto, children are treated better than royalty - why, almost like they were Hollyoaks cast members.

Their food is brought first (so no bawling), they are addressed and listened to with equal deference, the kitchen does the whole make-your-own-pizza thing with them (a very generous one too) and thank god there's somewhere else other than the (also excellent with kids) Olive Press to hand this very civilised award to.

Best Thing In A Glass
Liverpool Organic Brewery's 24 Carat Gold Ale (£2.50 a 500cl bottle). Confidential got hold of some at a farmers market just before Christmas. Previously only in cask form, it had been bottled specially for the event.

Currently being slurped at Stamps Too in South Road, Waterloo, and the Little Grapes (60 Roscoe St), this is one of a range that Liverpool's newest microbrewery (Bootle-based under Mark Hensby), is responsible for.

Tangy, hoppy and citrusy, it bore all the thirst-quenching, heady hallmarks of that first beer cracked open when you've just got the barbecue going in the first heat of summer. Watch out for it in pubs, restaurants and beer festivals around the city.

2009 Food Hero
Candice Fonseca and chef Martin Cooper for keeping the faith at Delifonseca's excellent shop and restaurant in Stanley St. After being much copied by as many failures, Delifonseca continues to plough its own furrow as a stockist of fine epicurean goods, even making its own raised pies and using Welsh black beef and other free range delights from butchers in Anglesey.

For yes, they know what they are doing in Delifonseca, so it's good luck to them with a planned expansion into Brunswick Dock in spring.

Best Small Neighbourhood Restaurant
Little Pizza Kitchen got the national gong for best independent pizza restaurant, and what's good enough for them is good enough for us. Owner and chef Alex Lawless took a leap of faith when he left Fillini at the Radisson to open this place serving up excellent stone-fired pizzas and rustic delights Italian and British. It's in St John's Road, Waterloo, as, coincidentally, is.....

....the Best Curry HouseThe trio behind Saffron (St John's Road, Waterloo), brought proper good Midlands and southern curries to wimpy northern palates this year. The three met in the swanky hotel kitchens of Dubai and how they came to be in Liverpool is a long story. Try their superb value lamb bhuna, homemade naan, pilau rice and a drink, all for £4.95 any lunchtime, and perhaps they'll tell you.Best City Centre Restaurant: AA Grill“A dead heat between The Side Door (Hope St) for combining the finest raw materials with finely honed talent in the kitchen, and Piccolino for (earlier this year) taking on a chef (Italian) who can confidently conjure simple wonders from simple ingredients.”

Best City Centre Restaurant: Angie Sammons
“Again, too close to call, but purely on the places I have reviewed in 2009, and only on those experiences, it would be a choice between HoSt and Italian Club Fish.Then on the periphery, there's The Orchard to consider.

"All very different, all Confidential certs and all relatively new, so what does that tell us? And don't say it tells us it's a cop out.”

*Now it's your turn – what were your most memorable (for whatever reasons) eating (and drinking) out experiences of 2009? A prize for the best rant, the most entertaining or edifying, whatever, just make it interesting.

. .PS, you don't even have to have liked it either.

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

EditorialDecember 31st 2009.

We are planning another visit to "the Belv" very shortly, as it happens and concur with your learned comments.

GordoDecember 31st 2009.

That lost afternoon we had up in the Panaramic was indeed a cracker Angie. I can still taste that Riesling with some age on it and the food was outstanding. Brilliant. I want to go back. OOOOOooooh

Pasta loverDecember 31st 2009.

Maybe we went to San Carlo on an off day but I was served the pasta with Italian sausage and porcini without any sausage and porcini tasted reconstituted. When I pointed this out the maitre d' tried to tell me that it was minced sausage and the menu was wrong... I was not impressed. Italian club fish is much, much better.

Secret SquirrelDecember 31st 2009.

The Belvedere off Faulkner St has to be the best pub for good ale and totally unpretentious banter! Elif Turkish Barbecue on Lark Lane for food - lovely food and lovely atmosphere! Both places are marvellous!

CheekablueDecember 31st 2009.

Another vote for Saffron - the veggie food is really interesting. I've said it before but Stamps Too is a good boozer and the Liverpool Organic brews are all a good pint. Especially like Shipwrecked, their IPA. And finally (I do get about!) the blackberry fool at the Maritime Dining Rooms is lish - pity it's seasonal but that's also a good thing I guess.

DygDecember 31st 2009.

Don't you mean daffed, Dig? Though must say I have sympathy with the Leffe boy - we must strive to maintain the highest linguistic standards on LC. What do you think this is, the Echo for God's sake!

DigDecember 31st 2009.

I was in The Little Grapes for a bit on new years eve. Very disappointed they aren't doing Hoegaarden on draft ant more. Although I'm happy they replaced it with Erdinger. I will be going back to sample the organic beer soon too.

DigDecember 31st 2009.

Nah I do mene draft. Couldn't be arsed tiping draught. Two menny letters and I woz a bit stuk four thyme. Didn't think anybody wood be petty enuff two point that owt. Ewe must bee the only person hoo didnt know wot that ment. Are you draft?

red foxDecember 31st 2009.

The Blackberry Fool (which becomes seasonal fruits at other times of year and just as good) at the Maritime Dining Rooms (Maritime Museum) could also win next best thing in a bottle! -excepted if you're fan a miniture ships! and good wine of course.

Professor ChuckimoverboardDecember 31st 2009.

You should be broken on the iron maiden, hanged from the yardleg, drawn and three quartered, then made to carry the plank, blueballed, steamed for blasphemy and gassed in the electric chair by lethal indigestion.

Pasta loverDecember 31st 2009.

I'll second the Belvedere. Great beer including organic, and good bar food. Pie anyone?

DigDecember 31st 2009.

I know I know, I really let the side down there. I have been known to have a go at people for poor spelling on occasion so for me to go and make such an easy spelling mistake is unforgivable. I'm putting my head in the stocks as we speke.

GrapeyDecember 31st 2009.

Best pub in the pool by a mile... Biased, me? Nooo.

critchDecember 31st 2009.

thanks for the comments on our beer,im chuffed me! look out for more liverpool organic ales throughout merseyside

DigDecember 31st 2009.

I am extremely embarrassed for not knowing exactly how stocks and pillory works. I must rush home and teach my children this essential information. I shall then give them their gruel and mead.

LeffeDecember 31st 2009.

"On draft" Dig? Whatever does that mean? You should have asked for 'draught' which is what you get in British pubs.

DigDecember 31st 2009.

Where can I go to buy a case Critch?

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