Vicky Andrews is less than impressed by the Beatles-themed hotel’s restaurant
YESTERDAY, all their troubles seemed so far away. Smack bang in the Cavern Quarter, the world’s first Beatles-inspired hotel opened in 2008 during Liverpool’s turn as a European Capital of Culture. In 2015, it was sold to international hotel chain Millennium Hotels & Resorts.
There’s nothing like the perfect fish and chips – and this was nothing like it
I had high hopes for my visit, but first impressions in the hotel lobby were a bit Fawlty Towers; a lone concierge surrounded by a mass mob of wheeled suitcases. Replace the petrified porter with a bumbling Bradley Walsh, and you’ve got a great script idea for the next series of Doctor Who. I was hoping for a nice cocktail in Bar Four before our meal, but it was like walking into a doctor’s waiting room, so it was a hasty U-turn back through the battle of the bags and straight into Blakes. I’ll never understand what it is about hotel bars that can make them so sterile.
Still, the hotel must be doing something right to have so many guests booked in at this time of year. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to include promoting their own restaurant. Even with a ‘1964’ menu deal of three courses for £19.64 (see what they’ve done there?), we were one of only three tables at 7.30pm.
I still wanted to try a signature cocktail, so we ordered a Long & Winding Ice Tea (£12.65) and – recommended by the barman – a Corpse Reviver (£10.65), quite appropriate as the restaurant had all the atmosphere of a morgue. Nonetheless, the staff were warm and chatty and I remained excited to try the brasserie’s best of British seasonal classics and comfort food.
The hotel is housed in a lovely building and the sparkling dining room displays artwork by Sir Peter Blake (after whom the restaurant is named) alongside various Beatles’ memorabilia, without being too gauche. The obligatory Fab Four playlist had us tapping our feet to a few lesser-known album tracks alongside some more best of the Beatles stuff, and the music wasn’t nearly as irritating as I’d imagined it would be, although I think I’d lose my mind if I worked there day in, day out. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
You’d think your waiter would give you a bit more time to ponder over the menu if they weren’t busy and you were obviously still undecided, but not this fella. Despite the lack of covers, staff seemed set on whizzing us through at warp speed. I’d planned on ordering wine with the food, but starters arrived even before the cocktails. If you’ve ever wondered whether a long island iced tea goes with ham hock terrine and piccalilli (£6), I’ll tell you now: it doesn’t. Hollandaise sauce doesn’t really go with gin, vermouth, triple sec and absinthe either, but the grilled asparagus (£8) was green, fresh and fork tender and the poached egg was perfectly runny.
On to main courses, and the haddock (£15) floundered on an assault course of overcooked chips; the beer batter crisp but too thick. Mushy peas were uninspiring and the tartar sauce (like the earlier piccalilli) was run of the mill. There’s nothing like the perfect fish and chips – and this was nothing like it.
The marinated lamb shank (£20) was tender but it looked as if the chef had planted it in the creamed potato in a fit of rage, and the surrounding thick brown gravy masquerading as red wine sauce didn’t fool anyone. Neither did the chopped chives which found their way onto both of our mains, like magic sprinkles of invisibility. Nothing to see here.
The aspiration for outstandingly average continued with a sticky toffee pudding (£5), featuring dry sponge, cheerless ice cream and a butterscotch sauce that had separated out into glistening beads. Caramelised bananas and rum parfait with pistachio (£5) was an unusual burst of fruit and cream, but it bore a strong visual likeness to the sort of thing you might find on the pavement round the corner at four in the morning.
Four lads who shook the world. The most influential band of all time. Worldwide album sales topping 600 million. People from across the globe visit this place; imagine if they went home thinking this was the best that Liverpool’s restaurant scene has to offer?
Total meal time: one hour. Total price for two: £92.59 with tip added. Can’t buy me love.
Blakes Restaurant, Hard Days Night Hotel, North John Street, L2 6RR
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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.
Ham hock 5, asparagus 6, fish and chips 6, lamb shank 6, sticky toffee pudding 5, bananas and rum parfait 5.
While my guitar gently weeps.