Damon Fairclough gets a branding lesson, but is it a place to remember?
Coming up with a great brand name takes imagination and lots of hard work. I know this because in my life as a copywriter for hire, I’ve successfully failed to create great brand names on any number of occasions.
I slog away at my notepad with thesaurus, dictionary and Google close at hand, then after a couple of days’ labour I hand over the results. I may strike it lucky, it’s true, but on rather too many occasions I’ve practically seen the recipient’s crest falling right in front of my eyes.
Our side dishes are a mixed bag, with some good crispy kale that my accomplice describes as “farty”
At 109 Allerton on Allerton Road however – it’s at number 109, I think – it seems the naming task was easily swerved.
“What’s the address?” they said. “That’ll do.”
Job done. And another copywriter slung on the scrap heap.
When scanning Allerton Road’s suburban strip, it isn’t a venue that makes a leap for the consciousness. Sandwiched between a Chinese takeaway and a place that mends broken zips, 109 Allerton’s tasteful grey exterior seems to hide in a self-made shadow.
It’s been open just over a year and draws custom throughout the day – there are often bodies to be seen brunching in the window – but it’s hardly a name that springs unbidden to locals’ lips. In light of this, I want to discover whether its food is equally anonymous, or if it deserves a little more love.
Inside, it’s smart, gleaming, a little clinical perhaps. On an ice-topped winter evening, its white walls and tube-station tiles don’t deliver the snuggliest of welcomes, but our server seems alert to this fact.
“Are you warm enough? I’ll turn the heating up,” she says as we enter, and with the help of subdued evening illumination – the light shades resemble spun sugar, a copper wire affair seemingly designed by Spirograph – our table is a surprisingly toasty haven in no time.
109 Allerton’s menu is brunch-based through until teatime, but we’re here for the evening offerings, served Wednesdays to Saturdays.
There are small plates and hearty-sounding mains such as steaks, a couple of burgers, an ‘aubergine stack’ and vegetable jambalaya. There are hefty ‘superfood’ bowls too, with a long list of possible vegetables, berries, carbs and proteins to choose from, but they’re not built for an arctic night like this.
From the small plates list, the mini avocado bites (£5.95) have an unseasonal look of summer, but some good, basil-heavy pesto and oil adds a welcome heaviness that suits the conditions. Served on discs of toasted sourdough, the slim avocado wedges aren’t as creamy as they could be, but the sun-dried tomato toppings have a wrinkled sweetness that makes the plate easy to demolish.
A serving of roast beetroot and hummus (£4.95) is similarly summery. Sourdough soldiers parade alongside carrot and celery batons – a little dry, as if they’ve been out for a while – and a generous portion of garlic-lite hummus. The beetroot cubes aren’t roasted as advertised though, so lack the earthy intensity that the oven would add.
Fortunately the main dishes deliver the ballast required on such an evening. Chargrilled butterflied chicken (£12.95) is a fair old feast, with two flattened pieces of moist breast meat sitting on a mound of potato pieces and out-of-season asparagus. There’s a rich and savoury gravy-ish sauce that suits the unsophisticated but tasty dish.
Grilled salmon (£14.95) is good too. It’s charred just enough, and served with some crunchy tenderstem broccoli and flaccid spinach. The accompanying bed of quinoa, however, is drenched in a salty soy-heavy dressing and most of it gets left on the plate.
Our side dishes are a mixed bag, with some good crispy kale (£2.95) that my accomplice describes as “farty”, which she definitely means as a compliment, and halloumi fries (£5.75) that are simply scorched halloumi strips. They seem expensive for what they are.
Desserts lack variety, being a list of various cakes plus sorbet or ice-cream, although when it comes, the lemon and raspberry sponge cake (£4.95) is a decent surprise. What looks on the plate like an off-cut of something desiccated turns out to be light and moist, and with a dollop of excellent vanilla ice-cream snaffled from my friend’s three scoops (£4.95), it rounds the meal off well.
A bottle of ever-reliable Love Lane pale ale (£4.95) and a berry-bursting glass of ripe Hugonell Rioja Crianza (£8.80 for 250ml) succeed in warming our cockles, while a full-to-the-brim bucket of potent Americano (£2.60) propels me back out into the icy wastes with a heart pumping nineteen (at least) to the dozen.
As we slip and slide our way home, the venue seems to fold back into its own shadow, and we wonder whether the food had enough personality to tempt us to return. We’re non-committal, but it would be worth trying brunch there we decide – and finally, that name thing falls into place.
It’s called 109 Allerton we realise – virtually a grid reference. So there’ll be no problem finding our way back.
Maybe it’s a quiet kind of genius after all.
109 Allerton, 109 Allerton Road, Liverpool, L18 2DD
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Avocado bites 7, beetroot and hummus 5, butterflied chicken 7, grilled salmon 6, crispy kale 7,halloumi fries 5, raspberry and lemon sponge cake 7.5, ice cream 7
Warm not wintry