Steph Whalley discovers a hidden Liverpool gem down Queen Avenue
AS I sit here penning this piece (sounding like I’m about to deliver a Carrie Bradshaw-style monologue), I’m minutes away from kicking off an interview with one of the big-wigs behind Abditory bar when something occurs to me - I don’t know what "abditory" means. As a copywriter and self-confessed logophile, this irks me. A quick Google later, I learn that it means, "a place for hiding or preserving articles of value." Suddenly, it all makes sense.
We just want everyone to have a good time, it really is that simple.
Abditory is the name given to a bar in Liverpool that you’d easily blink and miss. In fact, you could have your eyeballs pinned open Clockwork Orange-style and still be none the wiser because it’s the epitome of a hidden gem.
True to its name, Abditory is a clandestine little nook, tucked away beneath Queen Avenue - a secret cobbled street that not everybody knows to seek out. It’s an intimate affair, seating 55 people inside its blue 'n' yellow bar and a further handful of guests in its discreet outdoor terrace. Paradoxically, it’s easily missed but certainly not one to be missed.
What articles of value is this particular hidey-hole home to exactly? Like Aladdin rubbing on the genie’s lamp, I set about interrogating Steven Burgess, managing director of Lucky Penny hospitality and retail group, to find out.
To get things warmed up, I asked Steven to imagine him and I were in an elevator together and he had a few seconds before we reached the next floor to give us the Abditory pitch.
"A friendly neighbourhood gathering place focused on standards, service and old school cool."
I like it (especially as a logophile with a penchant for rhyme) but now I want to dismantle it by going back to the beginning of the Abditory story (serendipitous rhymes are even better). It seems that the crux of the Abditory philosophy comes down to good old-fashioned fun.
"We wanted to offer a concept where everyone, whatever age or class, felt comfortable sitting down with one of our menus, not feeling like they were out of their depth with unusual ingredients or egos of the dreaded barman menu”, Steven tells me.
"We just want everyone to have a good time, it really is that simple."
The Abditory experience is as high on the priority list as the quality of what’s going down your gullet.
It’s "staffed by people who care that you’re there," embracing "elements of old school glamour and the essence of a private member’s club" by honing the "fine art of hospitality, where care and craft is key."
All seductive descriptors from the horse’s mouth but what exactly is Abditory bringing to Liverpool that the city doesn’t already have?
"Abditory is the antithesis of venues where customers queue at bars ten-deep, with personable service being the order of the day," Steven tells us like a proud parent recalling a glowing school report.
"Plus, we do have the coolest toilets I've ever seen - everyone loves the mirror ceilings and 80s, full-length, print artwork", he adds.
Okay, so, what actually came first - the symbolic name or the covert venue with its legendary disco bogs?
"We took the office space next to the site first and then realised we could do something with next door. So it was a case of site first, concept after," Steven recounts.
"Once we found the name, everything fell into place. People do struggle to pronounce it but that's part of the fun," he adds and let me tell ya, after a few Whiskey Highballs, he ain’t wrong.
Speaking of Whiskey Highballs, I wanted to get to the bottom of what makes the Abditory cocktail menu so different from the hundreds of other expertly-curated drinks lists across the city.
His answer: "The quality of ingredients, the strength of the prep behind the scenes and not having too many [cocktails] on the menu," as well as “getting the right product in, rather than filling the bar with too much noise."
Abditory OGs include the Pink Queen and the Banana Bread Old Fashioned but the seasonal offering introduces a White Alpine Negroni with Suze & Creme de Menthe, a Chocolate Sazerac with Hine, Creme de Cacao & Absinthe and an "astounding" new Espresso Martini that trashes tradition.
Non-cocktail options include the frosty frothy Paulaner on tap, Moretti, Beavertown and Guinness, along with various spritzes, fine wines and Champagnes sourced from around the world and even some bottles from shores close to home.
Credit for the allure of Abditory’s signature drinks list is owed to "the legendary scientist turned bar expert, Matty Ball" who heads up (not props up) the bar but what says Steven about the food vibe?
"As part of our underlying 80s theme, we want to deliver some great bar snacks, so we developed some new-age Breville toasties. Menus change throughout the year but they’re always stuffed to the brim with Swiss cheese."
Okay, back in the room. My final question for Steven - because I’m a nosy bugger - was to find out what industry legend he’d want to meet for a drink and why?
"Michael Simms, the sommelier in London. I met him briefly in Sartoria in Mayfair and was so intrigued by him, the places he has worked, the people he has served and I would love to spend the afternoon with him."
Steven tells me they’d go for "a long boozy lunch in Rules Restaurant with plenty of oysters, steak and kidney puddings and too many bottles of Gevrey Chambertin."
I bet if you asked him though, Michael Simms would be well happy with an Espresso Martini and a Roastie off the Breville. I know I would.
Abditory vouchers are available via the Confidentials app. Terms and conditions apply.
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