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Restaurant review: The Orchard

Angie Sammons finds something fruity has sprung up on Blundell Street

Written by . Published on July 7th 2009.


Restaurant review: The Orchard


WE have a no-steak-and-chips rule here in Confidential land and, in every sense, it is rare treat to break it.

The rule follows that thou must not become a bovine bore by taking every opportunity, when reviewing a restaurant, to tell the dear reader, again and again, how we went straight to the sirloin while dissing the duck, filled up on a fillet or fancied a bit of Diane while saying shucks to the oysters. Yes, it's easy for us, and whoever we've dragged along with us, to placate them with a plate of what they actually want, but it's just not juicy copy after a bit.

By the time it came to the table it was more rested and more tanned than Tony Blair on a comeback campaign

And that's why reviewing restaurants is not like it looks.

“I'm not going THERE!” otherwise charming guests retort.

And: “So, I can't have the steak? Is that what you're saying?”

Then crestfallen: “Oh, you tell me what you would like me to have, then. No, that's fine.”

There are many other dos and dont's, and I won't. Not here. But you'll never see the phrase “I opted...” in a Confidential review for one, or indeed the gushing adjective i*onic, not anywhere on this site, ever. No, not the “ironic” word, the one with the c.

But there is a blue moon at the minute, meaning that steak and chips is on. And The Orchard does 'em good. The ribeye (£16.95) was so well executed last Monday that I wanted it back all day Tuesday, and in the nicest possible way. It had been thrashed to within an inch of its life (God help the kitchen porter if Chef has a bad day) and by the time it came to the table it was more rested and more tanned than Tony Blair on a comeback campaign.

It had melting texture, it had been caramelised by a seething heat to render its marble of fat sweet, while the good raw material remained pink and succulent in the depths of a satisfyingly dark, flavoursome casing. Something that quite a few speciality grill restaurants in the city are incapable of.

I wanted to like The Orchard but feared the worst, that only two months into opening, the promise of this cider-tavern and 150-cover restaurant might not bear fruit.

It sits on Blundell Street in the Baltic Triangle - which makes builders disappear. Furthermore, it is on the site of “Blundell Street”, for years, and until recently, a well-known spot for Las Vegas style crooning where the Cole Porter classics were torn apart as nice 'n' easy as a bag of ready-prepared mixed leaves.

But now they've gone to that big casino in the sky. Or a pub in Park Road. Chris Welford has taken over and has pulled in Dave. Not any old Dave, but Dave Roberts who used to run the kitchen in L'Alouette, in Lark Lane, whose long-lostness we will not lament again.

Now The Orchard is all white-panelled beams and porcelain-tiled terracotta floors. The cider tavern (closed on our visit) does 30 different varieties and Mangers are about to sponsor comedy nights there. Still, there is a pleasant dry Aspalls on draught in the upstairs bar, an excellent companion with which to take the evening air out in the car park with tables.

Our waitress appears to have attended the Lily Allen finishing school of silver service waitering, but she should wear that as a badge of honour if anything. A splash of colour on the starchy white linen.

There are no major surprises on the mod-Brit menu. Hake in beer batter, sausage and mash, roasted lamb rump and rainbow trout among the familiar. On the starters, pan fried sardines (“they're proper sardines, you know. With bones.... if that's what you are into”), and an asparagus and spring onion tart which might have been a bit heavy going for some, apparently, but other people....erm, might not let that worry them....

Crayfish cocktail (£5.95) was far from heavy going. A completely unselfish portion of plump and meaty shellfish, Atlantic-caught and served with Weetabix lookalike slabs of springy brown bread and butter. It was doused in freshly made sweet and tangy retro Marie Rose sauce.

Chicken liver pate (£4.95) was smooth and delicate, served with a very good, thick and abundant home-made red onion marmalade and ample slivers of bread, toasted, which were so thin that it appeared the chef had got carried away with the apple peeler. Core blimey.

The Jenga presentation of thick, square cut chips that both mains came with, I have an aversion to, but that's probably just me, and there was nothing wrong with the way they were cooked. A portion of Vichy carrots (£1.95) was generous and sweet. Green beans (£2) not bad and completely without squeaks.

Expertly prepared roast duck (£15.95), a big hefty chunk of breast, was moist meat underneath a good crisp skin, and with a very good sage and onion and Cox apple Orchard "stuffing", plenty of tasty buttered spinach and a jus that was uncomplicated and all the better for it.

Puddings: I had summer fruits set in Pimms Number One jelly and vanilla ice cream (£5.25). Perfect sounding for a sultry summer evening with Wimbledon sound effects, yet it lacked the fruity flavour I had hoped for.

It was chosen because Queen of Puddings was, sadly, off, as was the first choice of wine, an English something or other.....

“We sold the last bottle last night. There's a sparkly rose version...”

“Oh?”

“But we haven't got that either....”

Strawberry tart (£5.25) hit the spot with the friend though. An inelegant looking rabble of soft fruit and a comforting sweet pastry crust with tart apricot jam to slice through it all and a big jug of cream to add yet another layer. Yummy, said he.

So let's hear it for The Orchard and its fortunes, to which we will raise 30 glasses of cider and a bottle of English white something or other. And a Queeny pud. But not the steak and chips on a work night.

Those forbidden fruits will just have to wait for another time.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: Fine dining against the best fine dining, cafés against the best cafés etc...Following on from this, the scores represent: 1-5: Saw off your leg and eat that; 6-9: Get a DVD; 10-11: Only in an emergency; 12-13: If you’re passing; 14-15 Worth a trip; 16-17 Exceptional; 18-19: Verging on greatness; 20: Perfection

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

JayneyBabyJuly 7th 2009.

just discovered LiverCon, having spent a week in our Liverpool office. Angie, you can give Gordo a run for his money, you made me giggle for ten minutes. I am telling everyone in the office to read you.

AnonymousJuly 7th 2009.

I miss Blundell Street.

AnonymousJuly 7th 2009.

Don't people under 30 appreciate food Lovely? I do.

GeggerJuly 7th 2009.

Not for the food surely, Anonymous!

Full of ideas meJuly 7th 2009.

30 ciders eh? Uou can see that big red crane from there. Fabulous installation for our Year of the Environment. Soon they will be cropping up all over Liverpool for children to paint.

LovelyLassieJuly 7th 2009.

Perfecto!Just right for that special hen night or mums 75th birthday.Under 30? Forget it.

Shaun PJuly 7th 2009.

I can only concur, Ms Ed!

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