Stephanie Whalley on the rural Wirral town that’s a firm fave for foodies
I might be a biased local but it hasn’t escaped me that the Wirral - yes, the Wirral - hasn’t exactly had the coolest reputation historically. However, history can most definitely be rewritten and for the paradise peninsula, the narrative is in full swing. What was once a sleepy little town full of old dears and charity shops, is now a burgeoning hive of hip ’n’ happenin’ hospitality (still full of old dears and charity shops).
So, whether you’re in Heswall visiting your Nan, heading to the coast to escape the city, or you just fell asleep on the 472 bus and forgot to get off, here are the best places to eat, drink and indulge a little in this quaint-but-cool hot-pocket of activity.
107 Dining Room describes itself as “one of the finest restaurants in Heswall” and to be fair, I’d have to agree. It’s not particularly trendy and it doesn’t really have many Instagrammable credentials, but like a good old Nokia 3310, you can always rely on it to deliver a solid experience. That said, the outdoor seating area, under the veil of well-preened foliage and twinkling fairy lights, is alluringly inviting as you stroll down Heswall high street.
An extensive menu spans elevated classics from a homemade steak and Guinness pie, to fish and chips, and a halloumi and cashew stir fry. Vegans and gluten-dodgers won’t be leaving hungry either. Flavour combinations are foolproof and service is a key ingredient in the recipe of its success. The other great thing about 107 is that they’re hella generous with their deals, which leaves you with plenty of cash to splash on an expertly curated wine list.
If you’re after something more fancy for a special occasion, or if you want to indulge in a spot of fine dining, Nova is your golden ticket. Having recently moved into a larger venue down the road from its OG stomping ground, Nova’s long standing popularity is a testament to the culinary experience it offers.
“Artfully-crafted British cuisine in a bijou, candle-lit restaurant with a calm and refined vibe” is what it says on the tin and it does just that. There’s a menu for every occasion; lunch menu, a la carte menu, a set menu, a tasting menu, a children’s menu, a Sunday lunch menu, a dessert menu, and even an afternoon tea menu. *Pause for breath*. Nobody leaves Nova hungry.
If you’re a craft beer boffin, this one’s going to get you all hot under the collar for sure. In fact, you’ll probably need a long, cold pint of IPA to cool you down. The Beer Lab is a micropub with a well-stocked bar and even more well-endowed online beer store. Dubbing themselves "craft beer specialists", these guys set the bar high and have proceeded to swing off it with ease like Olympic gymnasts since opening.
The popular watering hole, with its signature monochrome facade, has off-road parking to take advantage of, but with more than 200 different craft beers to choose from, I’d recommend a taxi. From pale ales and IPAs to porters and stouts, the repertoire marries old favourites with new kids on the block, from breweries near and far.
A perfect day for a #coldbeer in the garden 👌#lovebeer #belgianbeer #wirral #pub #micropub #thebeerlab pic.twitter.com/hgfZUOtTRw
— The Beer Lab (@TheBeerLab1) July 19, 2021
Wittily named with the acronym for ‘Born Up North’, Bun is a bloody marvellous by-product of Wirral’s younger generation. Started by a couple of local lads, Bun’s all-black exterior and grungy interior have brought something fresh and new to the dining scene here, with both indoor and outdoor seating regularly booked-up around the clock.
Burgers include the Dutty Blue (beef patty, blue cheese, red onion marmalade, grilled bacon and pear chutney on brioche bun) and the Seitans Cheesesteak (seitan patty, plant-based applewood cheese, jalapeño salsa, pickled cucumber and chilli jam on a vegan pretzel bun). The Bun brunch menu includes runny poached eggs, seasoned smoked salmon and tangy hollandaise on a soft toasted muffin, contending with a juicy, oozing sausage and egg muffin with melted cheese and breakfast sauce.
Head here for premium pub food and a well-stocked bar offering champagne, a plethora of gins, cocktails, fine wines and craft beers, all alongside the classic drinks menu contenders. From the edible menus, we’re talking baked camembert, pil pil prawns, seared scallops, dirty cheese burgers, panko chicken Milanese, rotisserie pork belly, 16oz chateaubriand and a selection of healthy plates and nourish bowls.
What The Devon is arguably loved most for though, is its large outdoor courtyard and garden; a real sun trap during the summer but roaring fires and baskets of blankets make it a cosy drinking den during the colder months too.
I’m a bit of a Wylde fangirl if I’m being honest. There’s nothing that hikes my dopamine levels up quite like a trip to this little Scandi-style cafe for an oat milk chai latte, a locally-fermented kombucha and a caramel pretzel cruffin. So millennial it’s nauseating. Inspired by the wilderness and reconnecting with the great outdoors - evident in the biophilic backdrop of the minimal interior - Wylde provides a sustainable way to get your caffeine fix.
This isn’t just any old caffeine buzz though; on the shelf is a roster of specialty coffees and alternative lattes, crying out to be paired with a pastel de nata or the Wylde bacon butty. I know we’re all sick to the back molars of hearing about banana bread now but if you’re in the market, these guys do a mean one, complete with natural yoghurt, fresh berries and a drizzle of honey - *chef’s kiss*.
Tapas shmapas, right? I know the whole small plates thing has been done to death but these guys are knocking it right out of the park. Read our full review of Vegan Tapas for all the gory details but I described the plant-based small plates here as “one powerhouse flavour after another,” and I say that with my whole chest. As the name suggests, this place is all about the shared dining experience, centred around meat and dairy-free ingredients and it’s a must for your edible bucket list, herbivore or not. Don’t leave without trying the tempura broccoli with red pepper and hazelnut romesco, or the homemade gnocchi with wild garlic pesto and sweet onion puree.
If cocktails are your poison, Franklyn’s will be your kryptonite. There is some decent bar food here - even a Sunday roast - but the star of the show is the drinks menu. Both midweek and weekend revellers are like moths to a flame when it comes to Franklyn’s cocktail and wine list. The roster is so extensive, in fact, that it’s split into eight different sections, from timeless classics and frozen cocktails to en vogue and sharing drinks. Don’t see what you’re after on the menu? Mixologists behind the bar will be more than happy to muddle together your favourite tipple.
This place is the absolute definition of "off the beaten track" but that’s what we love about it. Heswall is a hilly old place with plenty of gorgeous greenery to meander around. When you’ve worked up a bit of a sweat, this is the perfect place to plonk yourself and zen out. Yøt is a cafe and independent shop, run by a local couple with epic taste in coffee and baked goods. Grab a picnic bench, rattan booth or striped deckchair and sink your teeth into a locally-baked cinnamon bun or sausage roll, and wash it down with a cup of Crosby Coffee or a gelato. Pick up a treat for your favourite humans or four-legged friends from an array of independent brands while you’re there.
Every town needs a great pizza place. That’s the law. I don’t make the rules, I just eat them. Heswall’s version of dough-based heaven comes in the shape of Paolo’s Pizzeria. Artisan wood fired pizza pays homage to classic Neapolitan techniques and recipes, serving up glorious, misshapen discs of dough, with bubbling crusts and bases so fresh and thin they flop onto your chin and leave you with cheese-degree burns. Each pizza is fired at 430°F, cooking the three-ingredient dough in just 90 seconds. Paolo’s also serves stellar gelato so you can get a real taste of the Italian dream from a curb side restaurant in sunny Britannia.
Set along the main drag with its synonymous royal blue threshold and name up-in-lights, the Blind Pig is intimate and cosy, clocking up +10 style points for the checkerboard floor. Guests often sprawl outdoors year-round and it’s the perfect setting for gossiping with pals or playing footsie with a date. If you’re still riding that gin bandwagon like a bucking bronco, there’s a roster of more than 100 classic and flavoured distills to choose from. Cocktails come in all shapes and sizes too, from old favourites to experimental specials. While you’re there, spot the vintage vending machine stocked with retro sweets, and Blind Pig’s cuddly mascot, Streaky Bacon.
Blink and you’d miss it but this teeny tiny little coffee shop on the corner is a must if you’d rather invest your hard earned cash into an independent brand than the usual franchised suspects. The trendy cafe shot to Insta-fame for it’s photogenic drinks menu featuring a whole lotta lattes, from beetroot to turmeric, and a selection of technicolour iced teas. This is the kind of place your coffee order turns into a bit of a tongue twister. Iced macadamia nut oat milk flat white, you say? Sister’s sweet and savoury bakes are popular on social feeds too, from HobNob Nutella donuts and stuffed cookie pies to tomato & pesto pizza rolls and cheesy babka buns.
A hot spot for pub grub with knickers and a fur coat on; classic food with bells and whistles. Light bites, sharing platters, mains and small plates have every appetite covered, from grazers to hungry hippos. Not feeling particularly peckish? You’ll still love this pub-restaurant-hotel for its utterly gorgeous surroundings, neighbouring gardens and outdoor decking area. Local folklore says it’s haunted by the spirit of a dog so if you see it, make sure to chuck the ghostly good boy (or a girl) a Scooby snack.
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