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Three-course sinners or winners

Take a starter, a main and a dessert in three different venues. Heaven or Hell?

Written by . Published on February 10th 2011.

Three-course sinners or winners

NAY a week goes by without another eating place opening – and while we at Liverpool Confidential get to try out plenty of food, much of it we never get to tell you about.

A hurried sandwich in an anonymous caff hardly merits, in isolation, an entire tome of ours or your time.

Yet what if it's the best in the city? Or what if we got a duff deal? Wouldn't you like to know?

So here are a holy (or unholy) trinity of dishes we have sampled in the last fortnight, a starter, main course and a dessert from a compilation of places we wandered into around the city.

Three course winner? Or three course sinner?

The starter: Seafood Bisque, £3.50, Leaf, Bold St L1.

 Bisque: (n) A rich, thick, creamy soup made from shellfish.

Stock: (n) A thin liquid strained from bones, aromatics and other bits and bobs.

True gritTrue gritThe question: Did our seafood bisque remotely resemble the former or latter?

The answer: Sadly, not the former.

It could have been different. We could have ordered one of the delicious sounding regular soups on the Leaf Bold St menu: roast parsnip with bacon croutons, cream of celeriac and almond, white butter bean, or roast tomato and red pepper.

We could have ordered a sandwich, of which we hear only glowing reports.

But no, we fancied none of this. Instead, a protein-packed seafood treat tickled our pincers in the winter cold. We would risk the bisque.

Leaf has endured its own storm in a teacup recently. The one in the Baltic triangle has disappeared, like the bird in the Barry Manilow song, following a row with the landlord.

Powder ChowderPowder ChowderBut its latest venture, in Bold St, is sailing along proper gaily, populated by plenty of young media executive types. Through £200 designer glasses, many peer into designer glasses of Assam for £2.10 a shot, while enjoying a cultural event or two. It is a welcome addition to Bold St in its hour of need.

Our operative ventured to Leaf suitably starving; raging, ravenously hungry, in fact, keen to bite the arm off anyone for this ocean nectar.

Alas, upon the dish's arrival there was not a mollusc to be found. Our taster trawled the tomato coloured waters anxiously, before quaffing it down like a thirsty PG Tips chimpanzee (well this is a tea shop).

Right at the end there was a surprise: a trace of marine life left after all.

For as the soup ebbed from the bowl a bitter tasting, fine black sediment surfaced from the depths. Coal dust may point to the existence of fossils long gone, in this case it was the swirling silt from shellfish long removed from the broth.

“I left feeling distinctly crabby,” our taster later reported. “And don't even think about making a joke out of that.”

2/10: Cruel gruel

The main event – Matador Pie Dinner, £7.50, Pi, Rose Lane, L18.

Pie (n): A baked food composed of a pastry shell filled with fruit, meat or cheese and usually covered with a pastry crust.

Pi (n): Something to do with maths that equals 3.14.

The question: Why does a pie shop call itself Pi.

Answer? In Mossley Hill they enjoy dropping an e?

Bristol piesBristol piesOne couldn't possibly comment, but it's probably got a more to do with sums.

In posh L18, a bar-come-restaurant called Pie just doesn't add up. Imagine putting it in your business plan. So while a Rose Lane by any other name wouldn't be the same, it's different for pies.

Hence Pi, somewhat self consciously shaving off the short and curly e that makes it sound all hairy and northern and lardy.

Pi, the original, is in Chorlton, affluent suburb of Gtr Manchester, making one wonder if some other letters were a factor in the decision to locate in this neck of the woods. Namely ABC demographics.

PiPiIt occupies a small shop front with subdued lighting and wooden furniture, which, on our visit, entirely matched the subdued and wooden young couple, nearby, who exchanged not a word.

Pi serves nothing northern or lardy, but upmarket pies from Bristol, bought in from a company called Pieminister which was started by a furniture designer.

No hydrogenated fats here, but free range fillings, which is all good news. You will still get large, but will pay more for it.

Pieminister fast food is big on stalls on the summer festival circuit. Find them at pubs all over the UK, and for a couple of quid in some supermarkets.

Here they are £4.50 and have names with wordplays like Heidi Pie (it's got goats cheese in it) or Chicken of Aragon (it rhymes with tarragon). For a pound apiece extra you get Desiree mash, a jug of gravy and a huge leaking swamp of mushy peas that are meant to be minty, but aren't - and, frankly, are all the better for it.

Pastry heavenPie chartThe Matador consisted of beef, chorizo, olives, tomatoes and butter beans, exactly the sort of ingredients you would salvage from the back of the fridge on a school night for emergency pasta. It was tasty enough, as was the chicken and bacon version. But let's be honest, the dish was unremarkable, as far as eating out experiences go, and left no room for a planned skinful, sorry, sample of the 80 beers Pi serves.

But we hold our hands up, you see. We did it wrong.

Pi specialises in ales from around the globe. And while you can drink them to your heart's discontent from 6pm on, you can get a pie till 11.

So the way forward is to imbibe, imbibe all night and then soak the lot up with some heavy duty healthy lard and carbs just before closing time.

Trust me. You'll be pie eyed.
 5/10: Steak it or leave it.

The pudding: Raspberry Cranachan, £4.50, Maritime Dining Rooms, Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, L1.

Cranachan (n): A traditional Scottish dessert, typically a summer dish served around harvest time.

CranachanCranachanCranachan tradition (n): This is all about romance. Cranachan is served at weddings. In Scotland, one dessert will have a ring in it, and who ever finds it will be the next to pull.

The question: Why the hell are you eating this on a Tuesday afternoon in Liverpool?

Answer: Maritime Dining Rooms is doing Scotch whisky themed food. Haggis too. This obviously caught our imagination so up we went.

Now while the atmosphere in that cavernous room with a view, can be all Glen Miller and aspic, they do whip up some cracking desserts to sweeten the mood.

Here, porridge oats are toasted, cream is whipped with whisky, honey, oatmeal and raspberries. It is layered up with a coulis and garnished with more berries and mint.

Jings! It was gorgeous and different – and a real surprise.

Served with a light, crumbly and just-baked shortbread finger, none of the ingredients were refined, yet this unlikely named dish really was. A destination dessert.
8/10: Whisky a go go.

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AnonymousFebruary 4th 2011.

You on danger money again, Sammo?

Da brew dat is trueFebruary 9th 2011.

Leaf is overrated. Saw some gushing prose by a shower of herberts about it. It's a cup of overpriced tea ffs, and mine didn't even taste of anything, so not surprised the soup was like water.

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