Stephanie Whalley gives into FOMO for small plates and cocktails in Oxton
When something is surrounded by hype, the first thing I wanna do is play devil’s advocate and go pick holes in it. It’s a toxic trait but I guess that’s why I feel like I’ve found my people here at Confidentials. You’ll never find us straddling a bandwagon or pandering to majority opinion without conviction. If you’re going to stir up a buzz, you’d better be the bee’s knees.
A two-page cocktail list extended to multicoloured alcoholic beverages in a teapot. What more could you want?
Elixir is a popular bar and restaurant in Oxton on the Wirral “portraying the very essence of exciting dining and drinking” (their words, not mine). It has gathered the kind of local social media fever that makes you think “fuck this FOMO, I’m off to find out what all the fuss is about” (my words, not theirs).
So in the words of Peter Kay, that’s precisely what I did - booked it (a table for two), packed it (my face mask) and fucked off (hopped in the car to Oxton).
The menus on the fancy-pants Elixir website had set the bar high. Sat at our window table for two, I ordered an Alabama Slammer, seduced by a promisingly potent recipe of Southern Comfort, sloe gin and amaretto with iced orange juice.
The cocktail was a Slammer by name and a slammer by nature. It put hairs on the chest without being too strong and was quite clearly made by a bar person with mixologist magic at their fingertips.
My accomplice was one of those annoying fusspots that wanted something they couldn’t see on the menu, despite a two-page cocktail list that even extended to multicoloured alcoholic beverages in a teapot. I mean, what more could you possibly want? An Old Fashioned apparently.
This was our first taste of the gold-standard service we received at Elixir. My partner had barely even enunciated the last syllables of her off-piste request and our host was hurrying off to the bar to arrange “one of the best” examples of an Old Fashioned she’d ever had. Copy and paste that situation later on with a knockout, not-on-the-menu espresso martini.
We sipped our cocktails in the airy space, filled to the rafters with the golden light of a late summer evening. If you prefer a bar or restaurant to be grungy, moodily atmospheric, seductive in vibe and lit only by a handful of flickering candles, I’m not sure you’d feel entirely at home here.
Elixir is all white marble, pink peonies and spotlights - beautiful but not for everyone. The energy in there was great though, a cacophony of laughter and clinking cutlery. I was slightly distracted by the duo of burly doormen lingering by the main entrance though. A foreshadowing of a far more raucous establishment post-dinner perhaps?
Our fabulous host recommended we order six small plates between us and didn’t even flicker one judgemental eyelid when we maxed out that suggestion with an additional side of sweet potato scratchings and cheesy mayo. Nuggets of crispy, deep fried sweet potato were elevated to heavenly heights when dunked into a glorious cheese-laced mayo. This plate hit that sweet ’n’ savoury spot right where it should.
Other highlights from our ample spread were the seared king scallops with sweet pea puree and pancetta crumb; the macaroni with slow cooked prime rib of beef and spicy nduja; and the roasted honey and harissa lamb shank with fresh mint and coriander salsa. Each of these plates were generously portioned, expertly flavoured and cooked mostly to perfection.
The macaroni pasta could have been a little more al dente but the tender scallops were a thing of beauty and the lamb meat literally collapsed right off the bone.
Dips in the rollercoaster ride came with the saffron spiced vegetable risotto, which only really resembled something a couple of notches up from an Uncle Ben’s rice pot sadly.
The buttermilk salt & pepper chicken fillets were adequately tasty and fantastically crunchy, but lacking in even so much as a whisper of salt or pepper. Gressingham duck leg tacos with plum sauce and gremolata tasted delicious but were lacking in colour, and a taco just ain’t a taco without technicolour garnishes in my opinion.
We finished on a high with a stack of sugar coated churros with rum spiced salted caramel and Chantilly cream that certainly left a sweet taste in our mouths in more ways than one.
Elixir is most definitely a positive dining and drinking experience. The vibe makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, the cocktails make you feel even warmer and fuzzier; the food is decent in parts, delicious in others. Worth the hype? There’s certainly still room for improvement, but a few tweaks here and there and Elixir could be a contender for 10s across the board.
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.
Saffron spiced risotto 4, buttermilk salt & pepper chicken fillets 5, macaroni with spicy nduja ragu 7, seared king scallops 9, duck tacos 6, honey and harissa lamb shank 9, sweet potato scratchings 8, churros 7
Even sweeter than the sugar coated churros
A delight by day but not so sure by night. Jury’s out