Recently stripped of its Unesco World Heritage status, Liverpool remains one of the UK’s most vibrant and exciting cities, seemingly having avoided the high rise ‘regeneration’ of some of its neighbouring cities. Streets and bars are buzzing on weeknights, and what’s more, you can explore the centre entirely on foot, giving you more reason to stop and eat at an array of fantastic places along the way.
For best coffee: Coffi
For speciality coffee and a baked morning treat, head to Coffi in the Georgian quarter, situated just a stone’s throw from the Liverpool cathedral. This hole-in-the-wall café offers a damn fine cup of Joe roasted by Assembly coffee, and the pasteís de nata are to die for: crisp, golden pastry encases just-set custard with the perfect wobble. Danishes come from microbakery the Butterholic, and they’re sublime.
Best for Italian food: Casa Italia
For holiday vibes by the truckload, try Casa Italia on Stanley Street. This family restaurant is set across 3 floors and it’s not hard to imagine how bustling it gets of an evening. The Aperol spritz and salumi platter will start things off swimmingly, with hearty cannelloni and spaghetti and meatballs hitting the spot with the mains. This simple fare reminds us of the kind of rustic Italian goodness that Tony Soprano might slurp on, in the best possible way. Don’t leave without checking out the dessert trolley, with its range of freshly filled cannoli, cheesecakes and of course, tiramisu.
Best for tacos: Madre
Our pick of places to eat by the docks would have to be Madre – a taco joint whose menu was so enticing you’ll need rolling out the door post-lunch. The margaritas are the perfect balance of icy and tart, the ideal accompaniment to the hot and spicy tastebud-opening food on offer. The birria – oozing as it is with cheese, encases a soft, juicy meat in a lightly charred tortilla – and is a highlight. Its beef consommé takes things from the sublime to the … messy! But don’t worry, the brilliant staff offer a finger bowl to deal with all that.
By far the most impressive dish was the roasted squid taco (sometimes it’s octopus), which was served with an almond chile salsa and pickled jalapeño. And don’t miss the elote – grilled corn – served with chipotle mayonnaise and a shower of chunky, milky Wensleydale to cool everything right back down.
We loved the salsas – there are five, get them all – especially the salsa verde and macha tatamana. For such a special lunch (service and setting included) the menu is reasonably priced, and there are DJs and live music in the evenings. When you’re done, you can head round the corner to the TATE Liverpool or the Liverpool Museum, and take in as much culture as your full belly will tolerate.
Best for drinks: Bunch, Clockworks
With so many bars to choose from, you’re not going to run short of places to drink in the city. Bunch is a natural wine bar in the back (with a coffee and breakfast joint in the front), and though their no-menu service might not suit all tastes, the drops on offer here really are tasty. You can tell the waiter what you enjoy (rosé, bold reds, etc) and they’ll suggest a drink for you. The glasses we tried were super juicy and very reasonably priced, and come with as much or as little back story as you care to tease out from the staff.
For cosy cocktails, try Clockworks, situated in a 200 year old building in Wolstenholme square, whose Marmaduke Martini of Bombay Sapphire, peach, Aperol, lemon, sugar, marmalade and egg white was a work of art, and proved a suitable distraction from the pouring rain outside.
Best for late night bites: Bundobust, Vietnom
It’s worth walking down Bold Street just for the buzz, but the street also hosts great restaurants, including Bundobust, a vegetarian Indian canteen-style eatery where food is served on (compostable) paper plates. The paneer tikka was order-another good, and the lassi came with candied fennel seeds on top which melted into a gorgeously colourful delight. The curry pots all come with rice underneath, and the dhal was perfectly balanced and warming with a not-too-powerful garlic kick.
Round the corner on Berry Street, don’t miss Vietnom, who offer a range of Vietnamese delights from phở and bún chả at dinner time to their Bánh Mì Club at lunch time. The veggie phở comes with tofu puffs and Asian greens, and there are lots of other vegetarian and vegan options besides. When it comes to sides, the fries with herb mayo, chilli and lemongrass, pickled veg, onions and coriander hit the right spot.
Best for views: Panoramic 34
If it’s fine dining you crave, the crème de la crème of our 48 hours in the city was a trip to Panoramic 34, a restaurant 300 feet above sea level on the 34th floor of the West Tower, soaking up a breathtaking view of the whole city beneath it. The room itself, with its under tabletop lighting, plush seating and panoramic windows is one of the most impressive restaurants we’ve seen, and that’s before we even got on to the food.
Chef Elliot Hill offers a set menu and a tasting menu, and whichever way you go you’ll not be disappointed. The house-made bread kicks things off swimmingly, followed by an amuse bouche which when we visited was a sweetcorn and potato soup, with Yorkshire chorizo – a perfectly balanced textural delight. To follow, we had a sublime steak tartare made all the meatier by its accompaniments of jerusalem artichoke, pickled mushroom and marmite.
Cocktails with names like ‘Berry cross the Mersey’ do not disappoint, coming as they do in giant goblets. The mains were a plump Isle of Gigha halibut with potatoes, seaweed, warm tartare, and caviar and a plushing pink cut of salt-aged duck, served alongside pear, and celeriac. At 2 courses for £55, the experience is remarkably good value. Let it be known that the restaurant also offers both brunch and afternoon tea, that your nan is sure to ADORE.
With so much to see, drink and to eat, give Liverpool a chance for your next city break. It’s as boss as they say.