Celebrity branded restaurants have more cheek than a baboon’s arse
When news of The Queen’s death broke, my first thought wasn’t “can I still go out for dinner tomorrow night?” but it was definitely up there in the top three. Bread Street Kitchen might have one of the blandest names in the history of all restaurants, but anything has to be better than watching blanket TV coverage of Balmoral Castle.
Is beef wellington for two worth the £99 price tag? Not on your nelly, wellie.
Gordon Ramsay Bread Street Kitchen & Bar Liverpool (to give it its full SEO optimisation) opened earlier this year in the Liverpool ONE unit previously occupied by Jamie’s Italian. The end was nigh for Oliver’s restaurant chain when people realised they could pay much less at Bella Pasta, albeit without the name of a famous chef above the door.
Celebrity branded restaurants have more cheek than a baboon’s arse but still the allure is undeniable. There are more customers in BSK tonight than I expected during a period of national mourning; mostly tourists judging from the shopping bags and weary demeanour.
Things are looking up as our dinner party of three slides into the cushioned-booth with a lengthy wine list. Next to the bar is a whacky multi-coloured statue of a beefeater guard. We’d better contain our laughter, just in case we’re being watched...
It’s smart brasserie style, a fancy feel without being stuffy. The open-plan kitchen illuminates the dining area and desk lamps are dotted around so you can double check that the prices written on the menu aren’t just your eyes playing tricks on you.
Second from the top of white wines, Mohua Sauvignon Blanc is £9 a glass (125ml), so Sandra and I share the carafe (375ml) at £27 while Jen gets a 175ml of Bodegas Santa Ana Malbec Reserve at £13.50. Forty quid spunked before we’ve even got onto the food. Blimey.
Caesar salad, cannelloni, chicken curry and steak and chips - the menu here reminds me of Caesar’s Palace. Not the one in Vegas but the one on Renshaw Street that closed in 2008; a pretty low benchmark to beat.
It’s not all classic "British" fodder here. Jibbing off potted salt beef brisket and roasted pepper and tomato soup, we veer towards the more exotic starters. Sandra goes wild, ordering the smaller version of the crispy duck salad (£9.50).
The description reads like a shopping list; watercress, mooli, chilli, radish, ginger, sesame seeds, mixed seeds, orange and soy dressing. It’s basically duck meat in a bed of mixed leaves with the five Asian flavours, but Sandra gives it a big thumbs up and reckons it’s probably worth coming back for the bigger main course at £13.50.
The £14 spicy tuna tartare is the perfect texture and temperature with flamboyant splodges of creme fraiche and avocado, nudged next to wonton crisps with a satisfying crunch. The prawn cocktail is bang on too (£12.75), a tossed bundle of plump prawns with cucumber, pink grapefruit, dollops of avocado, tangy marie rose sauce and salty pearls of tobiko. You wouldn’t get orange flying fish roe at Caesar's Palace, that's for sure.
For mains, there is, of course, beer battered haddock at £17, a BSK burger for £18, and dry-aged sirloin steak for £38, excluding fries or chips. Gluten-free options are limited and Jen gets stuck with a butter chicken and cashew nut curry (£18.50) which is as bland as a supermarket ready meal but five times the price.
Ramsay’s signature main course at Bread Street Kitchen is beef wellington for two made with a chunk of beef fillet, flaky pastry and duxelle. It takes 45 minutes to make. The wellie is nicely presented, the meat pink and tender and the mushroom paste is rich and herby.
Mash potato does its job and bone marrow gravy passes the test, but the sides (erm, some green leaves) are a bit stingy for a meal that costs £49.50pp. The hispi cabbage side at £5 is a bit of a piss-take. Is beef wellington for two worth the £99 price tag? Not on your nelly, wellie.
And this is the problem with Bread Street Kitchen. The decor is nice and modern. The staff are efficient, polite and chatty. It's all very pleasant but it’s missing the wow factor that you expect for top dollar.
There’s another long wait for dessert - a suited front-of-house fella wanders over to murmur his apologies for the delay. Our regular waitress tells me that my chocolate fondant (£8) exploded. I admire her honesty and am glad Ramsay isn’t here to scold anyone with expletives. Fondant version II is voluptuous and fluffy, but even with the salted caramel ice cream, too heavy for me to finish.
Pineapple and kiwi carpaccio (£7) looks like the kind of plate only its mother could love but is light and refreshing, with thin layers of fruit, a big dollop of coconut sorbet, a flicker of passion fruit and a squeeze of biting lime.
Jen gets some gluten-free crackers to go with her selection of British cheese (£11.50), a no-frills trio of Burt’s Blue, Mrs Kirkham's and a goats cheese, plus your standard grapes and pickle. It’s a shame we all had to wait so long for pud. Our meal clocks in at two and a half hours and as we get the bill I’m already thinking about getting back to the telly to check if Nicholas Witchell is okay.
There are now six Bread Street Kitchens in the UK. Looking around, you could be sitting anywhere in the world. But why would you want to be anywhere in the world when you can be in Liverpool? Come for the Ramsay name if you’re impressed by that sort of thing. Otherwise, head for a local independent instead.
Gordon Ramsay Bread Street Kitchen, 45 Paradise St, Liverpool L1 3EU
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
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.
Duck salad 8, tuna tartare 8, prawn cocktail 7, beef wellington 6, chicken curry 3, chocolate fondant 6, pineapple carpaccio 6, cheese board 5
Not sure why they had so many blokes in suits but our waitress was great.
Not bad considering The Queen is dead.