Free State Kitchen, Maryland Street, July 2016

freestatekitchen.co.uk

For a sunny summer Sunday afternoon in Liverpool, what could be better than sitting out in a garden enjoying the sun? For almost that exact reason (and food of course) we headed to Free State Kitchen. Their garden has a really chilled out atmosphere, perfect for soaking up some sun and cider. As an added bonus their Free State Market was also up and running this Sunday. If you’ve not had a chance to visit, I highly recommend that you do. There are a number of stalls selling all sorts of things from classic vinyl records to cross stitch cards to cupcakes, you get the picture. It almost has the feel of a village fete to it.

Now, onto the food. We can’t resist a good bit of Buffalo Hot Wings, and didn’t here either. It’s a good job we didn’t as they were properly tasty. The blue cheese sauce that accompanied them was great, strong enough to get the taste of blue cheese without being overpowering. Just as I like it.

FSK1

Their Double Deluxe Burger consists of two beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, fresh onion and FSK’s secret sauce. In short it’s a double burger done classically. FSK usually serve their burgers rare, but I’m a bit uneasy about raw minced meat (and not a fan of the taste), so I asked for mine well done which wasn’t an issue. As far as burgers go this was perfect. The burger’s served with a side of rosemary salted fries (according to the menu), I’m pretty sure ours did not. They were anaemic and greasy, almost as if they hadn’t been cooked for long enough, without a hint of salt or rosemary near them! I must admit the chips were a bit of a let down.

We also had The Free State Dog. This is a ¼ lb beef dog that’s been griddled with a good layer of cheese, mustard, ketchup and caramelised onions. The sausage has a smoky taste to it and it all works well together, no complaints there. As mentioned the only let down was the chips.

 

Overall we had a fab afternoon, and will be visiting again to sample some more of their menu. Watch this space.

Advertisements

Elif, Lark Lane, June 2016

eliflarklane.com

Who ever thought that putting a barbecue pit indoors would be a good idea? Elif clearly did, and I’m so glad that they have. There’s something a little bit special about meat that’s been cooked over hot coals. Think of that excitement you get at summertime when it’s BBQ weather (I know it’s difficult with all of the rain over recent weeks). If you ever get a craving for excellent barbecued food, this place more than satisfies that craving.

Elif1

For our starter we shared a Hot Mezze platter. This included Sigara Boregi  (rolled pastry filled with creamy feta cheese and Turkish herbs), Tavuk Kanadi (chicken that has been marinated and grilled over the hot coals) and Kiymali Borek (again rolled pastry but this time filled with mincemeat). The fourth member of the mezze platter was the Sucuk, which is a spiced Turkish sausage. Every dish on the platter was delicious. I highly recommend each plate, either separately or as part of a mezze.

For mains we both had chicken, a Tavuk Sis which is pieces of marinated chicken breast cooked (of course) over the hot coals. My favourite though is the Acili Tavuk, boneless chicken thighs marinated with chilli spices, not too spicy (so don’t be afraid!) but left with the skin on, the meat is just so juicy I can’t get enough of it. All of this is accompanied with a generous portion of rice, salad and flatbread.

Elif also have a restaurant in Childwall, as well as one they’ll be opening on Bold Street soon.  I’m sure that if the food’s anything like the Lark Lane restaurant, they’ll be busy every night.

Almost Famous, Parr Street, May 2016

almostfamousburgers.com

I love this place. I wish they did loyalty cards, because I’d definitely be claiming a free meal by now. You really need to be in the mood for a dirty burger that has more ingredients than Mary Berry’s fridge! Saying that though today we were in the mood, and were very excited for our lunch at Almost Famous.

It takes almost as long to digest the menu as it does to digest the food. Trying to get your head around some of the wacky ingredients like strawberry pop tart, wonderdust hotdog melt or frazzles and how on earth these things managed to make their way into a burger can leave you feeling a bit confused… or intrigued. All I know is that I can’t wait to find out. Safe to say Almost Famous have taken burger toppings to the next level. They’ve also applied this principle to their fries. This is why you need to be ready physically and mentally to take on a meal here.

Here’s what we had;

I’m Crack-ed – Double beef patty, cheese, chorizo, garlic salt shoestring fries, Cholula, salt and vinegar crisps, blue cheese sauce and jalapeno mustard.

Almost Famous3

Buffalo Beach Club – Double beef patty, cheese, streaky bacon, crispy buffalo fried chicken, slaw, pickles, suicide sauce and blue cheese sauce.

Almost Famous4

Phoenix Fries – Skin on and sweet potato fries, bacon bits, frazzle dust, shoestring onions, redneck BBQ sauce, bacon bacon mayo, chillies and JD maple.

Almost Famous1

Mac balls – deep fried balls of macaroni and cheese.

Almost Famous2

Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? Looks like a lot? It is. That day I’d run the Sefton Park 10k (without breakfast), so when the food arrived I was more than ready to take on the challenge. I think that may be the only way to keep my waist from expanding. Although the menu can look a bit scary to a first timer, there’s a reason so many people come back time after time. It’s because the food is awesome, and all of those crazy ingredients come together to make something really exciting.

The burgers here aren’t almost famous they’re famous! Give them a try. I might run 20k and have two next time!

Tea House, Lark Lane, April 2016

Alison Appleton’s Tea House is the perfect spot on the lane for a brunch. Or if you just fancy a cup of tea and a slice of cake at any time of day. On stepping into Tea House the first thing that strikes you is the range of crockery, tea pots and teas that you can buy to take home (Alison Appleton products of course). I must say it’s always rather tempting to pick up a little treat on the way out!

teahouse3

For us it was a lazy Saturday morning, so we decided to pop in for some brunch. We had their French toast with fruits, yogurt and maple syrup. This combination really worked, it’s a perfect dish for 11am. We also had avocado served on brown toasted bread with crispy bacon. These are two ingredients that I love for different reasons; having them both on the same plate is just divine. I will definitely be making this weekend breakfast in my own kitchen in future! At around £6 a dish you may be forgiven for thinking that’s a bit pricey for a breakfast item. Having said that; the portion sizes are good and more than enough to keep you going through the day.

teahouse2

This cute little place has a vast selection of specialty teas to choose from. The Rose Darjeeling is fragrant and wonderful, whilst the Earl Grey I had hit the spot. (The coffee’s pretty decent as well!).

teahouse1

There’s a selection of exciting looking cakes on the counter which we’ll have to come back to sample. That’s if there’s ever a free table! More often than not this little place is packed to the rafters and that’s testament to the exciting tea range as well as the lovely food that they have. I know that every time we pass the Tea House we peer through the window to see if there are any free tables, so that we can enjoy a cheeky slice of cake. I suggest you do the same.

Esteban, Lark Lane, April 2016

estebanlarklane.co.uk

This place is a touch of Spain on the Lane. We’ve been coming here for a while, and the menu has recently changed so we thought we would include it in our blog. It’s not just the fact that it serves tapas that leads me to tell you that when you’re there you could well be in a restaurant in Spain. The décor immediately transports you form the busyness of the lane to a calm relaxed atmosphere. Add to that the fact that some of the waiting staff are Spanish, we’re practically there.

Now, as I said, the menu’s changed. I’d say that it’s been condensed as there isn’t as much to choose from as there used to be, and sadly they’ve stopped serving breaded cheese stuffed jalapenos which we both love. That was the only real negative of the evening. Now that there’s less to choose form it actually makes your ordering easier (especially if you’re indecisive like us!). Even though the menu is smaller than what it used to be there’s still a good variety of dishes to choose from, and if anything the presentation seems to have a bit more finesse.

We had a portion of olives which were decent. Then we shared their queso de cabra (crispy goat’s cheese served with beetroot, apple and walnut). This was lovely, I could have eaten two more portions. Their gambas pil pil (king prawns with onions, chilli and coriander cooked in oil) was tasty, I do like things spicy though so a few extra chillies wouldn’t have gone a miss. Their croquettes are fantastic, they often change the fillings, luckily this time they were filled with chorizo. Patatas bravas are a classic, and we never visit a tapas restaurant without ordering some. These didn’t disappoint.

In the past we’ve had their Mediterranean Paella and their Pollo con Miel (chicken thighs in honey), we’d recommend these dishes as well.

For pudding we shared a disorannomisu, essentially it’s a tiramisu made with amaretti buiscits and disaronno instead of the classic tia maria. Creamy and boozy, it’s a great dessert to finish off a great meal. We’ll definitely be coming back when the sun is shining to take advantage of the decked area outside – and the sangria of course.

HOST, Hope Street, April 2016

www.ho-st.co.uk

HOST is an Asian fusion restaurant with influences coming from all over South East Asia. We visited this place for a pre-theatre meal. Its location and menu are perfectly set up to cater for such an occasion. I’ve been following HOST’s activities on twitter for a good few weeks now and their menus always make for good reading, for example their £8 lunch menu or their vegan evening menu. They even have dairy and gluten free menus available.

For starters we had their crispy chilli chicken, which was divine. Whatever they use for that batter must be kept under lock and key because it’s amazing. The chicken is served on a bed of salad, chillies mango and papaya. Along with the chicken we had their crispy belly pork. This is served on a long dish with three sections, so that you get two pieces of meltingly good belly pork served on a bed of bacon and chilli jam, and as if that pork fix wasn’t enough you get a deep fried ball of black pudding to go with it. It is delicious.

For our mains we had wok fried three pepper fillet of beef, this was served with spring onions peppers, sticky rice and a sweet soy based sauce. The dish tasted fantastic. We also had lamb rump, beansprouts, peas, green beans and sesame seeds doused in an XO sauce all accompanied by sticky rice. I loved this dish, could have licked the plate it was that good!

HOST5

Now, not only were the starters and mains really good, the best dish of the evening hands down was the peanut butter crème brulée with honeycomb, popcorn and salted caramel. It was so good, I could have eaten three. I can’t put into words how much we enjoyed this dish; you just have to try it for yourself.

Their menu is very reasonably priced for what you get and the food is just divine. We will definitely be returning here when we’ve booked another night at the Philharmonic, especially to get some more of that brulée!

Lucha Libre, Wood Street, April 2016

http://www.lucha-libre.co.uk

It was a classic Friday night on Bold Street, and we arrived after 7 with nowhere booked. It was busy and there was no room at the inn. Luckily Lucha Libre is only a street away. There was a bit of a queue, but there’s a bar downstairs to accommodate us while we waited for half an hour, more than enough time to grab a drink.

Lucha Libre is a Mexican restaurant that makes “street food” type dishes. Think small tacos, taquitos, burritos, quesadilla etc. Ideal for ordering a few plates and sharing which we like to do. Think Mexican tapas (almost). If you’re not the sharing type then there are big plates for you to tackle all on your own as well.

LuchaLibre1

 

To start we shared some tortilla chips with guacamole. These are your classic tortillas that have been cut into triangles and deep fried. I really liked them; it’s nice to know that your tortilla crisps haven’t just come from a packet. The guacamole dip was ok, nothing special. But we were hungry so the whole lot was devoured.

We also shared some halloumi and pineapple tacos. I was expecting these to be served in a soft taco shell, like the description, but they were actually just a bit of bland guacamole with deep fried halloumi topped with the smallest piece of pineapple in the world, it’s meant to be a pineapple and chilli jam, there was no chilli and the jam was pretty measly.

For mains we had quesadillas. These are flour tortillas that have been filled, in our case one with chorizo and potato and the other with marinated chicken, then covered in cheese, folded in half and toasted. The chorizo one was tasty, let’s face it you can’t go wrong with chorizo. On the other hand the chicken quesadilla was pretty bland.

To accompany our dishes we had their Dirty veggie fries. These come with a chipotle salsa, melted cheese, jalapenos, crispy onions, chipotle mayo sweet potato and spicy fries. I’m sure that these chips had been stood in the kitchen for a long while before they arrived at our table. Not only were they cold, but the chips had gone soggy as well.  That wouldn’t have been so bad had the kitchen not burnt a good portion of the topping before all of this. Thinking about it now I should have sent them back.

I did enjoy looking at the wall of hot sauce, that’s right a whole wall of shelving dedicated to all sorts of sauces including da bomb, suicide and rectum ripper XXX ½. I’m a big fan of hot sauces and had to slather a fair bit onto my food to get some flavour.

Overall, I’m disappointed. I’ve been to another Lucha Libre in the past (Manchester I think) and had a decent meal. I wasn’t expecting Michelin star food here, but I was left feeling a little underwhelmed. Let’s just say that there’s another Mexican street food restaurant in town that will be keeping my custom in future.

Give Kitchen, Brunswick Dock, April 2016

givekitchen.com

We’ve heard good things about this place. The whole premise of Give Kitchen is that they donate a meal to either a homeless person in the UK or a starving child abroad every time you buy a meal there. So Give Kitchen is already a winner in our eyes no matter what they serve. They also have a really exciting menu of vegan food. Now I know that some of you see the word vegan and immediately think of bland veggies missing some meat. To be honest I sometimes feel that way. One look of the menu here changed my mind. In actual fact their food is pretty exciting and will definitely satisfy the heartiest of eaters. Just thinking about our lunch there has my mouth watering!

We ordered from the buy one give one menu. So we were already feeling good about ourselves. Add in the fact that the food is vegan, so therefore must good for you. Double bonus. We had their butternut squash and sage risotto topped with fried kale and truffle oil. This dish is rich and satisfying. The only trouble is that it’s so filling. Having said that it’s so moreish, you can’t help yourself from having that one extra bite, and then another one.

We also had their sweet pimenton mock duck burrito, spiced rice, tomato & pepper coulis. This again was a huge portion, and was more than satisfying. The mock duck obviously tastes differently real duck, but that’s not a bad thing as the dish as a whole works well. I’d have no hesitation in ordering it again, that is after ordering everything else that they serve! The food served is of really good quality and is presented so nicely.

 

 

 

For our sides we had their courgette fries, which were battered batons of courgette; and a good portion of them too. These were really good, reminded me of tempura battered veggies. The other side dish was a bowl of sesame seed and oil drizzled sugar snap peas. The peas were the first to disappear, need I say more.

Give Kitchen is an awesome little place and was pretty busy when we turned up late on a Sunday afternoon. So, booking is advisable! We were surprised by how busy it was considering that it’s essentially housed deep in an industrial estate. I imagine if this place had a restaurant in the city centre you wouldn’t be able to get a booking for weeks! Needless to say we really enjoyed our vegan lunch and will be returning soon to try some of their puddings which look equally as delicious. We enjoyed this place so much we were even planning our return trip to Give Kitchen as we were leaving the restaurant.

Button Street Smokehouse, Cavern Quarter, April 2016

www.buttonstreetsmokehouse.com

 

Button

We were in town looking for a quick lunch and stumbled upon this place. In the mood for American style low and slow barbecued grub we headed in.

As it was a midweek lunchtime the dining area was pretty quiet. Still the music was good and the staff were really friendly. Already onto a winner.

We decided to take advantage of the £8 lunch menu. It’s pretty limited compared to their full menu, but you do get decent value for money. As well as food you get a free soft drink included in the price. You choose three different items from sections of the menu and the food arrives on a wooden platter with all three selections on there. What you effectively get is two starter sized portions and a side. We opted for burnt ends, BBQ wings and chips as one plate and mac ‘n’ cheese, popcorn shrimp and onion rings as the other.

The burnt ends are great, they’re wafer thin cuts of brisket that are starting to crisp at the edges before being doused in barbecue sauce, delicious. I really enjoyed the wings as they had a nice crunch to the batter and despite being covered in BBQ sauce, the meat just fell off the bones, I could have eaten ten of them. The skin-on fries are exactly what they are, a decent accompaniment.

The Mac ‘n’ cheese is creamy and cheesy, and it tastes even better when mixed with a bit of those burnt ends. I was a bit disappointed by the popcorn shrimp as I was expecting a couple of sizeable prawns, but what you actually get is four rather small (think slightly bigger than a mint imperial ) deep fried shrimp balls. Despite being small they are tasty. They’re accompanied by a chipotle mayo, which to be fair could be much spicier. The side of onion rings were huge, no complaints there.

I must say I was impressed by the value of the menu, a very good deal for a lunchtime snack and secondly by the fantastic service. No doubt we’ll be popping in again soon!

Meat Factory, Lark Lane, April 2016

The other night we were pretty hungry and decided against cooking at home as it was getting late. The purple glow of the Meat Factory’s logo in the window felt like a tractor beam drawing us in. Thankfully they had a table for us hungry souls! We’ve been here a number of times (the perks of living a stone’s throw away). Since our last visit the menu’s expanded a fair bit. It used to be a short list of stacked burgers and exciting topped fries. These options are still available, but now you can get whole (or half) roasted chicken spiced to your liking, steaks and even a proper mixed grill.

The Corn Dog starters are an American classic, with mustard and ketchup dips, you can imagine yourself tucking into one (or two) at a baseball game. We also had their piri piri spiced boneless wings, think small spicy goujons. They’re very tasty.

A while ago I had been told that the hoisin duck fries are out of this world and have to be tasted to be believed. I can confirm that on a previous visit I tucked into a tray and they were incredible! However this time we went for some different options. Their salt and pepper fries have one heck of a kick from the chilli. Exactly how they’re meant to be. The pulled pork fries are traditionally served on plain fries with a BBQ sauce, however there is no issue with having them on sweet potato fries, and let’s face it we all go mad for sweet potato fries.

Then for the Del Torro burger, beef patty, bacon, jack cheese, jalapeños, chilli, nachos and their own MF sauce. It’s a bit of a monster. You know your burger’s huge when it needs structural support to keep it all in one piece. I never know the best way to take on this type of burger, I guess you just have to pick it up and attack it the best you can without dislocating your jaw. The spillages just make it even better.

Finishing the burger and fries is one mighty challenge, walking (or waddling) out of Meat Factory you feel a bit like you’ve just taken part in Man vs Food.

This trendy little place is definitely the place to go for a dirty burger or your meat fix. I only wish it wasn’t so close, so it wouldn’t tempt me in so often.