Great expectations are realised at Dickens-inspired Bridewell
PREVIOUS incarnations of this bar have come and gone over the last 15 or so years, from Colin’s Bridewell, to the Jalons undertaking and then the short lived Liverpool One Brewery, but somehow the proposal has always been, well, arrested.
Currently, the Bridewell building, located on Campbell Square, in the Ropewalks area plays host to a Victorian themed cocktail establishment.
For context, the Bridewell was once a Victorian police station and jail, which hosted a certain Charles Dickens as a special police constable for his own research purposes. For those who wish to dig a little deeper into that context, Furnival’s Inn was a place that Dickens himself rented rooms at, in London, and was the transposed name of lodgings for a character in Martin Chuzzlewit.
Lovely bitter orange hints and gentle wafts of prosecco invite the next mouthful and the finish lingers like a cloud of marmalade
It was described as: “...a shady, quiet place, echoing to the footsteps of the stragglers who have business there; and rather monotonous and gloomy on summer evenings. ... there are snug chambers in those Inns where the bachelors live, and, for the desolate fellows they pretend to be, it is quite surprising how well they get on.”
Back in Liverpool, and building on the Dickens foundations, Furnival’s Well has been given some TLC by the team behind Berry and Rye; the cells and front desk area have acquired some softer edges, applied since its time as a venue for food and drink.
The once-oppressive cells have been fitted with softer leather bench seats, dark wood tables and plush velvety curtains; the latter of which work excellently at keeping conversations from echoing around the bare-brick walls and give a rather lovely hint of menace to sharing a cell space over drinks.
The combination of bare brick work, candle-light and well dispersed soft furnishings give something of a stripped back Victorian opium-den feel, which, given the remit of the bar, is excellently judged. New complements the old incredibly well.
Service at Furnival’s Well all takes place at the table, preventing overcrowding and keeping the atmosphere to a pleasant simmer.
Water is provided to every patron upon taking their seat (a simple touch, but one often overlooked, sadly) and the serving staff are more than happy to discuss, at length, the many choices on the drinks menu.
This is on the expansive side, with four main themes for the cocktails: Seeking Fortune, Rich and Prosperous, Compounds and then, finally, the Common Grasps, such as gins and tonics, of which there are many to choose from.
There are non-alcoholic cocktails, such as the aptly named Temperance Serves, and a few beers along with a sparsely populated wine section. Choosing your poison here could potentially take a while, so making use of the staff’s affability and booze-smarts is certainly recommended.
Following some discussion with both my accomplice and our patient server, the first round was selected, with a Gigglemonk (possibly a hybrid of giggle water and old monk cocktails) and a Butter Upon Bacon.
The Gigglemonk (£9.00) is a blend of sharp lemon and earthy but complementary spiced notes, straying from a tangy bittersweet to the savoury; the aroma is of bitter lemon, vanilla, lavender and grapefruit, leading into an earthy and white chocolate with rosemary finish which only hints at the alcohol therein.
The Butter Upon Bacon (£8.50) provides more citrus, but from a burnt orange angle. The aroma is pure orange zest, with the cocktail drinking like a very grown up Fanta – lovely bitter orange hints and gentle wafts of prosecco invite the next mouthful and the finish lingers like a cloud of marmalade on the palate.
For an attempt at the other end of the cocktail spectrum we follow the lighter combinations with something darker, something with more body and more decadence. We both had Great Expectations for the Toast to Pip (£8.50) and the Exhilarating Escape (£7.00) given the list of ingredients; plenty of sweet fruit, chocolate, heavy roasted cereal and rich spirits between them.
The Toast to Pip was actually, on reflection, an odd combination, which really should not have worked; pineapple and chocolate are not the easiest of bedfellows. This speaks volumes of the mixology skill on display at Furnival’s Well that each fruit note and earthy sweet flavour was complimented and contrasted excellently throughout the aroma and structure of the cocktail. The stout float of the Exhilarating Escape was a very thick and ruby coloured monster, reminiscent of the jelly-beer sweets people of a certain age may remember.
Refreshing and filling in equal measure, this was a very clever concoction.
Time will tell how long the Victorian charm will continue to exude from this former corner constabulary, but it deserves to experience some longevity as the concept is solid, the surroundings engaging and the drinks mixed and served with gusto.
Even Dickens would enjoy this Old Curiosity Shop for what it has become.
All scored Confidential reviews are paid for by the company, never the venue or a PR outfit. Critics' opinions are completely independent of any commercial relationships.
1 Campbell Square,
A lovely menu for the cocktail lover, although perhaps may benefit from being pared down a little
Brilliant atmosphere and background music perfectly judged, plenty of room thanks to the seating only policy and table service.
Knowledgeable, helpful and friendly staff twinned with briskness is always very welcome
A lovely play on the Dickensian theme with great use of the existing space