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Restaurant review: Room for improvement

AA Grill takes a trip to Victoria Street's party central and heads for the food

Published on February 8th 2008.


Restaurant review: Room for improvement

WHERE are we eating? Matty wanted to know.
“The Living Room.”
“Why can’t we go out? he complained.
“We are,” I said.

The Living Room is a bar, and it’s a restaurant, but it’s not a living room. In fact The Living Room is only a The Living Room – there are another 12 of them in England and Scotland.

A great steak is
one of the few things that keeps me carnivorous. This
one was overcooked and underpowered, accompanied by a peppercorn sauce
with a skin on it, and chips which, if they didn’t come from a bag, I’ll eat my hat

The Liverpool branch has attracted a range of opinions. Some people hate the place (“full of pretentious wankers”, growled one); others love it, and there is a sizeable crew of regulars.

It must have something because it is top of all the must-visit lists. And you get all sorts in there: suits, young women on the pull, Premiership footballers (past and present), the odd WAG and, I’m told, the occasional character from Hollyoaks, which, I think, is a psychiatric unit at Fazakerley Hospital.

Apparently, the decorators have been in and it all looks very nice, especially if you like brown. Anyone who spent 1978 in the Maze Prison would feel quite at home.

The Living Room inhabits a handsome space: tall ceilings, high windows, straight on for the bar, right for a drink, or left for comfy chairs and booths in the dining area which features a giant canvas consisting mostly of two naked women. I had the wrong glasses with me so can’t tell you any more than that, although, as Matty observed, “two naked lasses are two naked lasses”. He’s from Yorkshire.

Our hosts were charm itself, although their habit of referring to us, alternately, as “chaps” and “guys” lacked a little spontaneity ('memo to all staff: male customers should be addressed as “chaps” or “guys”, but not “gentlemen” – too formal – and never “lads” – we are not Wetherspoons’).

Live music is a feature of The Living Room, on this occasion a belted-out rehash of popular music classics from the last 50 years delivered by a man on the resident white piano in a way that was not offensive but which I could have done without while I was trying to eat and catch up with my old mucker Matty.

Perhaps the tunes were meant to distract us from the food, which, as it turned out, would not have been a bad idea. Crispy baby squid (£5.95) at least provided my jaw muscles with a workout. The squid was encased in batter, the chief effect of which was to make me feel slightly sick. Great balls of the stuff, fighting for space on a tiny side plate. A bland tartar sauce was never going to rescue this one. Matty was happy enough with his French onion soup with Emmenthal cheese croutes (£4.35) but, as he said, “French onion soup’s French onion soup”.

I was struggling to find a main course that interested me. The sea bass was farmed and would thus – trust me – taste of nothing, roast shoulder of lamb with creamed potatoes and rosemary was as creative as a colostomy bag, while a half Peking duck with pancakes, cucumber and hoi sin sauce as anything other than a starter was just bloody odd.

Matty, who’s a bloody odd bloke, decided the duck was just what he fancied.

“What are you going to have with it?” I demanded.
Matty studied the menu. “Er, fine beans, shallots and Parmesan?”
“With Peking duck!?”
“Well, what would you have with it?” he said, miffed.
“Nothing.”
“Well, why are you asking me, then?!”

In the end, on the waitress’s advice, he had a plum tomato, mozzarella and basil salad (£6.95); not a bad idea, in principle, unfortunately the basil was the only ingredient with anything resembling a personality. The duck pancakes were okay but, as Matty observed, “duck pancakes are duck pancakes”.

Twenty-eight-day-aged British ribeye steak (£15.95) should have been a pretty safe bet. A great steak is one of the few things that keeps me carnivorous. This one was overcooked and underpowered, accompanied by a peppercorn sauce with a skin on it, and chips which, if they didn’t come from a bag, I’ll eat my hat.

In fact, I’d rather have eaten my hat than the side dish of honey-roasted carrots (£2.75), which tasted like a punishment and had such an unpleasant tang that two bites were all I could bear. I forced Matty to try one and, with diplomacy not normally associated with the White Rose county, he said they tasted “a bit funny, the flavour has slightly lost its carrotishness along the way”.

Carrotishness is a word in Yorkshire.

Matty liked his apple and black cherry crumble with custard (£4.95), classic lemon tart with crushed raspberries (£4.95) was adequate but Gorgonzola was a malignant lump which, at £3.75, only made me glad I didn’t order two cheeses for £6.50. It came with grapes, more than a couple of which were black, for all the wrong reasons, a few bits of pointless celery and probably some biscuits but I don’t remember.

I used to hear good reports about the food in this place so it has clearly lost its way somewhere along the line. The Living Room is a fine and dandy place if you are looking to meet friends, make friends, hold court, catch up, bag off, slag off your boss, slake your thirst, to woo or boogaloo, to unwind, or to wine but not, until the kitchen raises its game, to dine.

Rating: 12.5/20
Breakdown: 4.5/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: The Living Room
15 Victoria St
Liverpool
L2 5QS
0151 236 1999

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

Archie AndrewsFebruary 8th 2008.

And all courtesy of the enthralling Russ Conway's stretch. Allegedly.

Liverpool ConfidentialFebruary 8th 2008.

Sorry Stanley Street, we had to take your weblink off, simply because it was busting our page and making strange things happen. But thanks for the post.

Stanley StreetFebruary 8th 2008.

Sorry, Mr. Grill! It was just an Echo report of the gang battle with pepper-sprays, knives and a gun of July 2006 in when several passers-by had to be taken to hospital! You couldn't make this stuff up!

AA GrillFebruary 8th 2008.

Mr Bandage, I find it odd that you should think me in the habit of removing liquid waste matter from contincence care aids. You are right, however, about the efficacy of colostomy bags on ageing pop legends. Indeed I understand since Rod Stewart had his fitted he has produced a stunning new version of one of his old hits, which goes something along the lines of "Urine my heart, urine my soul, urine in my colostomy bag now I've grown old"

Stanley StreetFebruary 8th 2008.

Lured by the glowing reports in the local press (are there any other kind of reports in the local press?) we popped along here to this ‘exclusive’ and supposedly upmarket nosherie to find it full of scals, families with dignified mums, scruffy dads with no idea how to use cutlery cramming burger’n’chips into their gobs and surly children copying their dads. It was depressing. That was years ago.We haven’t been back and we won’t be if we’re going to be addressed as ‘guys’. Guys are what we put on a bonfire.

AndreaFebruary 8th 2008.

I have dined at The Liverpool Living Room and quite frankly the food it S**T. I tend to find that most chain restuarants serve up crap food at unreasonable prices. I dont go to chain restuarants anymore there too uniform for me!

ElastoplastFebruary 8th 2008.

It's a sore point.

Dr NookieFebruary 8th 2008.

Ooh I don't like an overdone steak. I like it when it's red and throbbing.

Not so Angry of AbercrombieFebruary 8th 2008.

Graham Bandage I am shocked at your suggestion that Mr Garner would ever hit a lady! I therefore wave my lacy white hanky in offer of a truce. I applaud Mr Garner's unquestionable success in spite of any perceived academic shortfalls, admire his provision of a forum which allows ranters to post unedited and apologise for the length of my rant…my little monthly visitor must have come earlier. My sincere apologies to the purveyors of all fine medical supplies but your goods will not be required today,..come on now, move along, nothing to see here.

Gaviscon GaryFebruary 8th 2008.

"I'm a regular diner and drinker in the Living Room". Ha ha. God knows why this person is wasting their time spewing such an enormous amount of bile. I can only guess it's a net result of the food.

Angry of AbercrombieFebruary 8th 2008.

Hmmm...how odd!! You've done it to Manchester and now you're after Liverpool. I think the fact the Living Room don't subscribe to Liverpool (or Manchester) Confidential might have something to do with this review and the similar one in Manchester C last week. As I read this review, the offers for the other "paid up member" similar establishments scroll across the top. Nice try Mr or Ms Gill but we're not so easily fooled. Both Living Rooms give consistently good service, great food without pretending to be fine dining. Whilst your review is funny it is painfully obvious that your intention was always to be negative as you sweep dismissively over the positive aspects of your meal, service, music and ambience. I hope this tactic works for your paid up restaurants as I certainly know of two who are intending to drop their subscription with you as they just don't work. 12.5/20 for effort though!

younger than twiggy anywayFebruary 8th 2008.

Don't know about that. My mum, who never followed her own advice, said not to go with strangers. She's been living with one for 25 years! I look into his eyes and all I see is the glaze of a door bouncer. Make mine a large, chilled Sauvignon Blanc...

Inspector CluelessFebruary 8th 2008.

Have i missed something?

that's mr bollocks to youFebruary 8th 2008.

Good one, Grill Boy. I'd rather stick me head in a vat of stale chip lard (which they would no doubt provide) than go back in this paradise for swivelheads waiting for the next non-star to walk through the door.

Stanley StreetFebruary 8th 2008.

A. A. Grill, you're taking the piss.London Road - I dunno, wasn't there some kind of 'exclusive', 'cool and funky' club or 'pre-club' 'chill out' 'lounge' (with the inevitable 'VIP area') opened underneath The Living Room? I guessed as much that it would be filled with usual grunting ape-men and I wasn't at all surprised to see this in the Daily Post eighteen months ago.

SavlonFebruary 8th 2008.

I'd be happy with a minor abrasion or a Chinese burn.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2008.

That's Mr Bollocks to you had it about right, it pains me to say.

Graham BandageFebruary 8th 2008.

My dear Tom Tubigrip, I fear you are labouring under a misapprehension. I receive no pecuniary advantage from the sale of Bandages(TM). Bandages(TM) were named after one of my forebears, Titus Bandage, an apothecary in the 18th century, who invented the non-stick sticking plaster. But the family business has long been sold and the inheritance squandered by my great-great uncle Archibald "Archie the Leaky Bucket" Bandage. I imagine you have a similar story to tell.

Angry of AbercrombieFebruary 8th 2008.

Hi Mark. Phew! I seem to have hit a raw nerve there then. Yes, evidently, you do take criticism very well. However, I'm pleased to have given you an opportunity to provide a healthy dose of, perhaps much-needed, self-promotion. No, I don't think we've ever met. Why, because my comments were negative, do you think that we have? Do you have a negative effect on everyone you meet? Judging from your photo on your website you look like such a lovely bloke, not remotely smug, defensive or self-congratulatory. Congratulations on the award you mentioned, by the way. Unfortunately your imagination, rather than your obviously keen journalistic instincts, has let you down. I am not a Living Room/Living Ventures manager or employee. But thanks, I will pass on your comments to my kitchen team… that'd be me, then. You're welcome to review the food in "my gaff" anytime. Sadly, the extent of my culinary skills stop at an M&S microwavable meal that I can still manage to serve with a side order of salmonella, which is why I eat out most of the time. Subsequently, I'm a regular diner and drinker in the Living Room in Liverpool and last week visited the Manchester version and had a great meal there too. I do know some of the managers and staff in Liverpool though, overall a decent bunch, possibly why I'm a little defensive of one of my favourite haunts. I'm sure they have read the review (given your influence and huge readership, that you mentioned) and taken the comments on board. From what I've seen they seem to do this with most complaints and criticism, even encouraging feedback with the use of comment cards. I hope they'll also get to read your forthcoming apology for your somewhat irresponsible assumption that my comments came from them. You are right on one point, along with the other customers and your readers, I am not a berk.Speaking of apologies, I'm sorry if I suggested that Confidential staff would ever write anything that is irrelevant, less than objective or promotes any sort of self-interested agenda. Again, congratulations on the award you mentioned. Finally, do you really want to open that can of worms by bringing up the festival? "Liverpool F***s up again" was the headline you exclusively served up for your Mancunian readership, I seem to remember. Another example of responsible journalism - about as responsible as your comments here.Surprisingly, I could go on with this rant/essay, but my dinner's just pinged.

Falkner SquareFebruary 8th 2008.

I quite like the living room, but I hate sycophantic reviews that pander to advertisers. You would never know that Liverpool had a bad restaurant at all if you were to go by the Echo,

Lord StreetFebruary 8th 2008.

Ee, young lass! I am old enough to remember that if you wanted a drink after the pubs stopped serving you had to grovel before these fat lower primates whilst they sneered at you and everything you were wearing to get into some awful club such as Chauffeurs, Rumfords, Uglys, the Cabin, Flintlocks, etc. Optimism was born of drunkenness however and 99 times out of 100 you were turned away ignominiously to plod dejectedly to your bus stop.I am amazed that these primitive practices still survive in the 21st century! Ever since the Casablanca opened in about 1976, clubs that charged admission surely had their days numbered! (At least in the 70s and 80s bouncers wore black tie in an effort to look respectable and civilised!)____ Would you care for drink? Perhaps a Red Witch or a Pernod?

Graham BandageFebruary 8th 2008.

I'm glad we're all friends again. There's nothing that makes me sadder than when posters on a heretofore happy yellow-coloured local entertainment website make cross remarks aimed at each other. And, conversely, nothing that makes me happier than when these antagonists extend their pinky fingers and say 'Make friends, Make friends, Never ever break friends.' Right, I'm off to WestbankConfidential.com now, where it's all kicked off again.

SteveFebruary 8th 2008.

The Living Room is a tired format, no matter how they make themselves over. People can see through all the rubbish. I have eaten there recently and too have had a very poor meal. You were lucky to get good service. On the day we went, we sat there for half an hour and no one came to serve us. In the end we walked out and won't be walking back in.

TonyFebruary 8th 2008.

Hmmmm. 'Meanwhile things are hotting up in the West End alright' as Joe Strummer would say. Let's be clear - anyone who spends good money on food at the Living Room must be certifiably insane. Halfway through the second drink at the bar and you want to get off, sharpish. The review was very funny and, I thought, very accurate. It was also incredibly well written. Frankly if AA Grill chose to write about the bus stop outside his front door, I would read every word of it. (Indeed that's my challenge to LivCon writers - write about 'the best bus stop I ever knew', 'my hairdresser', 'the bloke at the corner shop' and 'Why Ford Anglias will never appear on Top Gear'. I am being serious. We need more good writing - who gives a **** about the subject.) I am pissed off reading the cliches and ugly prose that passes for journalism elsewhere. So Liverpool Confidential is an extremely welcome contrast. It is also refreshing that it doesn't patronise or treat its readership like fools - unlike most of our civic leadership. Finally, Mr Garner's proclamation of editorial freedom is hugely welcome in a city where the media appear to have lost both their independence - and their collective marbles at times - in the rush to 'do' Capital of Culture. However, I shall save Mr Garner's comment for the future should the great God profit raise its ugly head in any discernible way.

Tom TubigripFebruary 8th 2008.

Eh up, Graham, it looks remarkably like you are promoting bandages and suchlike as these will be used to dress the spurting wounds of the two pugilists! Myself, I'd be happy with a couple of sprained thumbs or a twisted ankle.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2008.

That's Mr Bollocks to you had it about right, it pains me to say.

younger than twiggy anywayFebruary 8th 2008.

Maybe a bit late to join this rant, but for what it is worth I am 36-24-36 and probably taste better than the food in the Living Room, but they would not let me in so I will never know and now I do not care to know anyway. Members only, I was told by the big, fat, ugly man trying to stand upright at the door. Time: approximately 12.30am, Friday Night, bout a month ago. I looked at the vomit on the doorstep and made a vow "never go into a place with a fat ugly bouncer and green slime on the threshold"

LesleyFebruary 8th 2008.

10 out of 10 for saying exactly what I thought when I went there with work just before Christmas. The Living Room/Piccolino/Bar and Grill all take a bit of a ribbing now and then because they are packed to the rafters most nights. People who got to Living Room probably don't care about the food cos it's the sort of place you go to cop off when you're having a mid life crisis. Same in Manchester. It's not my cup of tea I have to say.

WirralFebruary 8th 2008.

You want a decent Steak go to either Restaurant Bar & Grill or Surfers in West Kirby. The Living Room is now full of so called Wannabee's and low level scallies it also helps to be colour blind, if you want a decent bar try the Metro next door!

Teenage Fan ClubFebruary 8th 2008.

AA Grill's name, seeing it in the email, makes me want to read his work. It is always very clever and funny, while he obviously knows his onions (and shallots). I've been following him since Confidential started and, because I also eat out a lot, concur with his judgement on many, many restaurant related things. Having said all that, I think he got it wrong on the Living Room. It's a shallow, same-old pit for shallow- same-old people and he was way too kind.

Mark Garner, The PublisherFebruary 8th 2008.

A of A, it’s not often that I feel the need to ‘rant’ on my own pages but I am here. We do not sit around all day wondering who to go and give a dig to. We write as we find, regardless of commercial considerations. I recently blew off a £13,000 per month, for eighteen months, deal to promote a well known council’s year long celebration to Leeds and Manchester as I refused to back down over our comments about how poorly they had dealt with a music festival; it is more important for me to give Angie Sammons, our editor, editorial freedom than sell our souls. Our writers are the best in the North West on food and booze and I am proud of all of them, even Fat Git and Gordo. I would imagine that you are a member of the management of the Living Room and that I have met you. As the publisher of the hugely influential Confidential series, with a quarter of a million readers, recently beating Peel Holdings and Urban Splash in the Top One Hundred Brands ‘one to watch’ awards, let me explain my policy on criticism. Bring it on, it makes us stronger. We take all criticism seriously, always have done and always will do. Your reaction will do nothing to ensure your kitchen team pick themselves up and turn out food that is of a standard which enables us, along with our readers, your customers, who aren’t berks, to enjoy the food in your gaff as well as the service and ambience in the bar which Grill has hugely praised. Wake up and smell the coffee.

Big-Hearted ArthurFebruary 8th 2008.

Dear Little Woman,How do you know she wasn't talking about her rent man? Not everyone is a poncey owner-occupier you know! Real life is nothing like Hollyoaks or Deadenders you know!(Though I agree that NSAoA sounds like a bloke). Bye bye playmates! Aye thangyow!

The Little WomanFebruary 8th 2008.

Not that I have any wish to fan the embers but Angry of Abercrombie is clearly a man masquerading as a woman since no female ranter in her right mind would refer to "my little monthly visitor" coming early. Clearly the real Angry of Abercrombie believes any woman displaying emotion must be menstrually unstable which means that not only would A of A not know good food if he fell over it, but he is also a sexist pig

Graham BandageFebruary 8th 2008.

Oi, Grill, don't take the p*ss out of colostomy bags. Colostomy bags are full of creativity. In fact I'm led to believe that Sir Cliff Richard has been much more prolific since he had his fitted.

Graham BandageFebruary 8th 2008.

I think Mark Garner, The Publisher and Angry of Abercrombie should have a proper fight with knuckledusters and knives and guns and that to settle whether the Living Room is any good or not. Although I shall avert my eyes, as I abhor violence in all its forms.

Doctor NookieFebruary 8th 2008.

I'd be happy with a sore point. Ooh Matron!!

MattyFebruary 8th 2008.

I'm AA Grill's mate. Eeh bah gum etc etc as we're supposed to say in Yorkshire. The food was a bit rubbish, no bull****. But after we went for a pint at the Poste House round the corner. It was grrreat. A good pub is a good pub.

London RoadFebruary 8th 2008.

Says it all really.

London RoadFebruary 8th 2008.

Stanley Street is right. Do people do that awful "networking" in here, and are they the same people who go back to their tiny flats for rich bastards? People who get the 18c back to Croxteth at night should note. The bus stops right outside the Living Room, so don't try to wander in by mistake. You won't get in.

Mark Garner, The PublisherFebruary 8th 2008.

A of A; eh love, isn't it great that you can put your (sort of) case forward without being edited? I only have one o-level, so i will have to steal a bit: I think the bird doth go on a bit much... Thats willie shakespeare dontchaknow?

Chef in another lifeFebruary 8th 2008.

I dunno. I haven't eaten in the Living Room in Manchester or even know what you are talking about, but I do know it's good to see a publication speaking out constructively about a restaurant, for a change. I used to be in the trade in Harrogate and know that restaurants welcome a proper criticism as it gives them a chance to put things right.

GraceFebruary 8th 2008.

We had our Christmas night out there it was nice and i enjoyed my steak although we were totally rushed through out the meal and kicked us off the table in the end. As there was about 30 of us and being the Christmas night out you would think that they would book that table for us for a longer time then book other customers just 2 hours after us!

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