Jade Culver chats with the owners of Down The Hatch about everything from homemade soul food, to running one of the most successful vegan restaurants in the city.
Down The Hatch is celebrating its SIXTH BIRTHDAY today, after opening their doors for the first time on this day in 2017. The plant based joint, based on Duke Street, serves up some incredible homemade food including burgers, wings, and mac and cheese, to more boujee dishes like risotto and moussaka.
Owned by three siblings, Rikki, and Jay Baker, hailing from London, and brother-in-law, Conrad Sharp, from Liverpool; the restaurant stemmed from a brainstorm idea to provide a variety of fun and inventive vegan food options to the hungover people of Liverpool.
Now, six years later, Down The Hatch has made a massive name for itself, serving up a variety of vegan big plates to fun and inventive junk food light bites, as well as being the new home of Woo Tan Scran.
Our ethos is to provide good food, and a good inclusive, and welcoming environment
Tucked away in a basement with church like pillars, Down The Hatch opts for chic yet simplistic furniture and minimal decoration to show off the historic stunning brick walls and the solid metal framework. The space makes for a cosy spot to chow down on some incredible food, served to you by welcoming staff with fantastic personalities. Despite its minimalism, the restaurant boasts a love for its customers through displaying gifted artwork such as a handmade rug, and a burnt wood piece.
Most of the restaurant's framework has been built by hand by the trio, from the booths to parts of the bar, and there are even art pieces dotted depicting scenes and animals made entirely from fruit and vegetables, which have been expertly created by the Baker's father.
Finding a moment in their busy schedules to chat, the trio talk about everything from the idea that sparked their successful business to their favourite menu items and Down The Hatch memories.
Rikki says: "We've all come from a background of working in the hospitality industry, so it was always a dream to open places of our own someday. Down The Hatch was the boy's idea, as they saw a huge gap in the market for vegan hangover food. As a meat eater, it's always been super easy to get stodgy food to fill you up after a heavy night out, but for the vegan community, it's always been rather lacking.
"A lease actually came up back in December 2016, and the boys pitched their idea to the landlords, despite being up against some huge competition, and somehow, less than six months later, we opened up our doors. In 2016, I was working and living in Australia at the time and had come back for the Christmas holiday to spend time with family when the pair of them told me all about it. I was intending to go back to Australia afterwards but ended up staying and have worked at Down The Hatch ever since."
Jay continues: "Despite it being a niche business, we've always had a constant stream of customers coming in, whether it be regulars who come here often, new people, or people who have been once and are introducing their friends and family to the food we serve. We pride ourselves on serving up solid, good food, and with the customer base we've had, they would seem to agree. We even get a lot of meat eaters coming here and just being absolutely amazed that it's all vegan or vegetarian food options, but they thoroughly enjoy them regardless."
Jumping back into the conversation, Rikki laughs: "We always get the usual 'oh is there no meat in this?' from the dads who have come on their child's behalf and would still prefer a meat dish over the items we serve. But as soon as their plate is popped in front of them, it's usually always returned empty, with a comment of 'that was amazing' or 'we'll come here again' and they end up leaving satisfied."
Conrad adds: "Seeing customers leave that way, with a smile on their face and full stomachs, it just makes us feel like we're doing something really good here, the repeat customers have always been phenomenal."
Being open for six years, Down The Hatch has had a variety of menu changes, whilst always keeping true to their hangover veggie food beginnings. Their latest menu boasts everything from mouth-watering small bits of cauliflower wings, sweetcorn ribs and garlic mushrooms to big plates including hefty burgers and even kebab loaded fries. There's even monthly specials and deals for you to tuck into, with this month's being 241 ice cream, from their banging dessert menu.
Rikki adds: "Our ethos is to provide good food, and a good inclusive and welcoming environment. By mixing up our menu, we'll always draw in a fresh crowd which is lovely. Since opening, we've beefed up the menu with bigger and more exciting plates, which a lot of older people really love, whereas younger generations opt for the smaller bites or burgers. The wild mushroom risotto is new on the menu and is one of my favourite items on there. There's been a huge push for mushrooms in the vegan world, and we use it in a lot of our dishes like substituting it for our take on calamari. "
"It's like we've gone from quite a junky menu over the years to adding a few more boujee bits for people's grandparents."
Jay continues: "My favourite is probably the zinger burger, which is a crispy seitan patty topped with hash brown and topped with our famous zinger sauce. Although the menu changes around every six months or so, the zinger burger has always been a staple here. We actually recently upgraded to the flaming zinger, which is a much hotter sauce with lots of extra chillies."
With Eurovision just around the corner, the team at Down The Hatch plan on emphasising some of their European themed dishes in celebration of the event and to draw in overseas visitors, and with warmer weather on the horizon, will soon be introducing some frozen margaritas (although these can definitely be enjoyed in any weather situation).
Despite having a stunning menu of its own, Down The Hatch's patronship has doubled since the instalment of Lark Lane's late Woo Tan Scran, which is also owned by Conrad and Jay. The vegan take on classic Chinese dishes like salt and pepper fried 'chicken' or 'sliced pork belly' can be ordered on Deliveroo for delivery, or you can scran down in the basement restaurant itself.
Jay chats candidly about how having Woo Tan Scran works better in Down The Hatch, "Having Wu Tan in Down The Hatch has made my life a lot less stressful to be honest. With the last year being so difficult and having to close, in hindsight I wish I'd trialled the concept first! Both eateries just work so well together. People are still a bit confused or aren't aware of the fact we're still in business, but we're still serving up our signature dishes."
So, with the Down The Hatch turning six today, what plans do the restaurant have in store to celebrate?
This Saturday (29th April), the restaurant will be open late for customers to enjoy and celebrate the restaurant's achievement with staff, but today? Well, that's for the trio to celebrate their achievements and for getting this far.
Rikki explains: "Over the years, we've enjoyed planning huge events for the anniversary, and it's a running joke that we've not all killed each other yet as we basically see one another every day. This year, we've decided to take a bit more of a laid-back approach and are just going to celebrate with family and friends. The past three years have been an odd one with the pandemic and then coming out of it and trying to find our feet again, it feels nice to be able to have this celebration as a reward for our team, together."
"The three of us are also going to celebrate our own way, by going to grab a few Guinness' and sharing memories."
Here at Liverpool Confidential, we wish Down The Hatch a very happy birthday, and we can't wait to see what the future has in store for them.
If you'd like to pop down to feast on some pretty impeccable vegan scran, you can find Down The Hatch here: Basement, 62 Duke St, Liverpool L1 5AA
Or, if you fancy ordering some Chinese goodness, check out Woo Tan Scran on Deliveroo here.
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