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Best of three: Winter soups

Warm the cockles with a cup of homemade, takeaway cheer. But who had pots of magic and who felt the wooden spoon in our <i>random</i> test?

Published on January 12th 2010.


Best of three: Winter soups


WHEN it's cold – and it is – there's no better comfort. When you've pigged out on rubbish for a month – and yes, you have – it puts you right. At least it feels like it.

Yes, we are talking soup, and right now is the time to savour as much of it as you can. Big ungainly British root veg is everywhere: swede, carrots, celeriac, parsnips, leeks, turnips and all, just waiting to be chopped, churned and whizzed into creamy, unctuous concoctions to warm the cockles and all your fuzzy bits.

Like tough cuts of meat, which have the most flavour when slow cooked, all kitchen wizards know that hard root vegetables take on new delights after a long, slow bubble in a cauldron. Chowders with chutzpah, broths with brio.

So here's three random takeaway winter soups we tried in Liverpool city centre yesterday. The only criteria was that it must have been made from scratch on the premises, which was harder to find than we anticipated.

Winter Vegetable Soup, £2.99, 300ml, Pret a Manger, 2 Derby Square, L2.

Appearance and texture: Want to know how many calories in this number? 225. It says so on the website. So, if you subscribe to the maxim “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, you'll love this one. Why? It's thin, it's unblended, the components, various, having been finely chopped first and contained in a thin, milky liquid. Overpowering aroma and taste of sage.

Sip or spoon: Spoon, unless you are a dog.

They say: “All of our soups are 100% natural and are made with organic stock. All made in our kitchens on the day”. What doesn't sell gets given to the homeless, which all sounds fair enough to us.

We say: The most expensive of the bunch from a chain part owned by McDonald's. A thin slick of oil separating out from the liquid on the surface was hard to stir away. In isolation, this soup is satisfying enough on a cold day; nevertheless, if your friend had either of the other two and you had this, you might be forgiven for major resentful soup envy kicking in.

Best for: The (teeth) chattering classes; An emergency.

Verdict: Veggie-might, but only might. 5/10.

Celeriac Soup, £2, 360ml (price includes slabs of homemade bread and butter). Cafe Tabac, Bold Street, L1. 0151 709 9502.

Appearance and texture: Pale, almost completely smooth, with tiny flecks of veg giving a hint of what's gone into this.

Sip or spoon: Both.

They say: Nothing much. Tabac is currently pushing its tapas, not its soup. Not only was this the best priced soup that we tried, but chef Alan threw in two thick slabs of his dense, homemade, half and half bread to go with it and FOUR butter pats for free, when the others wanted 50p. Oh dear.

We say: For the 15th time today, celeriac is not celery. They are from different plants. One is a thick comedy root vegetable with a potato-like texture and makes excellent soup. The other does for stock and anorexics. So if anyone else wants to say “yuk, celery”, and dismiss this nectar in a cardboard mug, here's some Batchelor's Cup-a-Soup. Here's a kettle. Goodbye.

We also say: Another careful eye has been kept on this excellent, thick, creamy concoction whose flavour was subtle and restrained, helped by good seasoning. Could have been served warmer and we had to zap it in the microwave for a minute back in the office. Nevertheless, it left us, like 1970s disco diva Andrea True Connection, wanting more, more more.

Best for: Soup connoisseurs; The bargain lover; Anyone up that way.

Verdict: Souper size me. 9/10

***WINNER***

Parsnip and bacon soup, £2.85, 473ml, Philpotts, Exchange Passage East, L1. Tel: 0151 227 9099:

Appearance and texture: Surprisingly un-parsnip like in colour, this had taken on a warm, ruddy hue from carrots. A coarsely blended, thick brew, it contained an abundant suspension of mixed sized bits of smoked streaky crispy bacon .

Sip or spoon: Both are possible. Just.

They say: “Philpotts soup is made daily by professional soup chefs on site and changes daily. While shops will swap recipes between each other, each soup will differ slightly according to the individual technique of the soup maker in whichever shop you may be visiting.”

We say: This was delicious, and lots of it. The sharp smoked bacon notes ensured that the parsnip flavour was a mere co-star in what could have been a sweet goo in less expert hands. Thus, dense flavours, seasoned to perfection with myriad undertones of other aromatic veggies long since whizzed up and away.

A note on the blackboard said today's soups were made by “Anne Marie”. Anne Marie, you can come over and put a spell on our fridge contents any time.

Best for: Soup dragons.

Verdict:: Ladled with love. 9.5/10

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

Soup supperJanuary 12th 2010.

For great soup try Soupernatural (Rumford Place) or Franklin's Deli (St Paul's Square). Both come with delicious bread too.

soupertrooperJanuary 12th 2010.

Always fancied trying Philpotts but at £2.85 without bread included I'd have to go without rent for a week to make this a meal.How they can charge this for what looks like a styrofoam cup of soup (and not a particularly big cup at that) is beyond me. Even if the chef is one of the Nolan Sisters.

EditorialJanuary 12th 2010.

To be honest, folks, haven't had a reason to go up Rumford Place for years, and this three, as we always say, is entirely random. But we will single it out for special standalone scrutiny soon. We like our soup around here.

Liverpool WagJanuary 12th 2010.

Nice one! I got a bout of edit *** about two and a half years ago, and ended up losing a stone and a half. Terrific result.

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.

Philpott's soup is beautiful. Mmmm.

Pop TartJanuary 12th 2010.

I got ***edit***, it kick started the diet though! x

martJanuary 12th 2010.

omg you didnt even goto Souperfood on Rumford Street? this little family business has multiple various steaming homemade soups on offer and at a snip of the price of some competitors!

Liverpool LouJanuary 12th 2010.

You should have tried the cafe in Blackburne House in Hope Street. Their soup is wonderful and comes with a hunk of home made bread. Yumm

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2010.

The people who own Souperfoods are going to have to stop this, Editor

Kronstadt1921January 12th 2010.

The butty shop on Parliament St is doing takeaway scouse for £1.99. Can't arue with prices like that.

Nigel SlaterJanuary 12th 2010.

I'm starting to go off Soupernatural already.

DigJanuary 12th 2010.

My favourite is Mario's on Hanover Street. £1.70 for a decent size bowl with bread. They only have one soup a day on but it's always lovely and filling. Usually ham & lentil or chicken & sweetcorn or vegetable. Soup, sarnie and drink always comes in under a fiver, even with one of those monster sarnies they do which do for 2.

NishJanuary 12th 2010.

Soupernatural / Souperfoods are by far the best for soups. The best soups I have ever had never mind just in Liverpool.No contest.

JMTJanuary 12th 2010.

Well done Editor - for deciding to go and see for yourselves what Souperfoods has to offer. The soups and other things they serve there make the other lunch-time chain places nearby seem pretty pointless.

EditorialJanuary 12th 2010.

Apart from the quality, it's almost half a litre, the Philpotts one, which is what just about winged it by half a point. You will see that we have included quanties in the descriptions, with Pret's being the smallest and most expensive. A tough call though!

Soup supperJanuary 12th 2010.

Soupernatural is not far at all from either Philpotts and a far souperior choice. Why even bother with the likes of pret a manger when you can support local small businesses?

SteJanuary 12th 2010.

Soupernatural on Rumford Street is miles better than Philpotts! Their lentil daal and Thai vegetable soup are some of the best i've ever had. One of these with their smoked cheese sandwich is absolute heaven!

Enoch DitovJanuary 12th 2010.

I got a job in Diggles the Jewellers and lost seven stones. But I also got five years when somebody found them again.

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