Who scooped the coveted prize for highest scoring review of the year?
It's been another batshit bonkers year on Planet Earth, but throughout the horrors of the Russia-Ukraine war, the Queen dying and Matt Hancock's mug on I'm A Celebrity, we took some solace from our continued reporting of hospitality news. We hope you did too.
In strange times, we need normality. Part of our job is visiting restaurants and letting you know which ones are worth spending your hard-earned money on. We've always prided ourselves on being one of the very few media outlets that actually write honest restaurant reviews and we think it's important you get a good experience for your money.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by us and completely independent of any commercial relationship.
Enough faffing about. Here are our top restaurant reviews of 2022...
“We’re going to tell the food cultural story of Liverpool, through its maritime history," Paul 'Porky' Askew told Confidentials in November 2021 when The Art School's chef patron revealed his plans for the new gaff inside Duke Street Market.
Vicky Andrews' experience at Barnacle started with a boozy Dockers Umbrella cocktail from which she never came down. "I bloody love margaritas and this one was special," she wrote of the tongue-tingling salty rim. Oo-er.
"Field to Fork is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in restaurants, but here you believe it. Earthy but elegant dishes that pop with different flavours with each mouthful."
Old Spot pork belly, chicken terrine, ox cheek, salt-aged Cumbrian duck, Guanaja chocolate fondant, and custard with poached rhubarb were all winners.
"Barnacle isn’t just teaching us the culinary history of Liverpool here; it’s rewriting it for the future and putting Merseyside on the map," said Vicky, scoring Barnacle a whopping 18 out of 20; the highest review score of 2022.
Well done, Barnacle. Read the full review here.
2) Sōlō, Aughton
Gordo's review might have started out with a ramble about Michelin stars, tasting menus and incest, but eventually he got to the point.
"What I’m trying to say is that I want something different," he pleaded.
"Three or four courses, with big strong flavours, a well-handled protein at the core, two or three flavours across the dish, giving you the opportunity to match one bottle of wine without having your palate assaulted like a canvas being splattered by Jackson Pollock."
Enter Tim Allen, a chef who has spent 20-plus years honing his skills in some great restaurants down south with Michelin stars. Gordo struggled to find something to grumble about. "Well, hang on, another spoonful of those immaculate shrimps, maybe." Also the cheese biscuits were "a bit boring." But 17.5 is a cracking score from The Gaffer, no doubt.
Read Gordo's full review of Sōlō here.
After eight years on Bold Street, Paul Durand and Charlotte Jones decided to say their goodbyes, promising something exciting for the future. That venture is Manifest, a slick looking contemporary British restaurant which opened in the Baltic Quarter in March 2022.
Our reviewer was very impressed with the "Punk as f*ck" wine list, split into three categories; All the young punks, We can be heroes, and Stay free. Any excuse to get stuck into wine of every colour...including a German "Bullshit Grauburgunder".
Asparagus from Claremont Farm was "peaked by a confit egg yolk that melts into the cassoulet when popped like a mountain sunset." Beef tartare, roast halibut, heritage leg of lamb, dark chocolate delice and an apple and calvados terrine all had the wow factor, securing Manifest a solid 17 out of 20. Since our review, they've gone on to get a mention in the Michelin Guide and clocked up Two AA Rosettes. Well deserved.
Read the full review of Manifest here.
Viva la Deva
Chester swept in to take two spots in our Top Five. Reviewer Simon Richardson had an unforgettable beef experience at The Forge, describing the menu as a "Who’s Who of 'things that will make me do an embarrassingly loud faux sex noise in a public place'...every mouthful producing gasps or occasional mutterings of 'Jesus Christ' as I shake my head in disbelief and chuckle like a smug medieval king."
"It may well be the most superb piece of beef I have ever tasted", said Simon, scoring The Forge 16.5 out of 20 and securing it the Number Four position in our highest scoring restaurant reviews of 2022.
Reviewer Sophie Rahnema was equally smitten with Chester's Covino on Northgate Street, "the quietly confident wine bar that I’m sure residents would prefer everybody kept a secret."
The chatter was intensifying and the wine was flowing, but it was the pork scratchings with taramasalata and dill oil that had Sophie hooked. "I wonder how many people’s eyes light up when they see pork scratchings. A few in our office I should imagine." She's right, you know. Covino scored 16 out of 20.
The best of the rest
Inside of the top ten, Doux Chaton in Liverpool city centre and Luca in Allerton both scored a very respectable 15 out of 20.
Kelly Bishop had a warm, fuzzy moment with the pho at Doux Chaton Vietnamese on Renshaw Street; "The 24-hour beef bone broth is the main thing and it did what it should: made me feel like I was putting on a warm, kitten-soft cardigan."
On the other end of the temperature scale, Vicky Andrews was looking to cool down on the hottest day on record with Luca's Italian small plates.
"Did Luca bring us the romance of Venice? Not exactly, but at least we avoided the rip-off prices and the stink of the canals. Eating out should be an escape from the everyday and on that note Luca is buonissimo."
And some that failed to impress
Some dishes made our reviewers want to go running for the door, including a soggy veal Milanese, a bicky burger and coffee as murky as the Mersey.
Confidentials grew out of a passion for championing the food and drink scene in the North West. Why do we publish critical reviews? Because we want our readers to be able to trust our reviews. There's no point in us being here if we're not honest in what we write.
See you in 2023...
Read next: The hottest new restaurants and bars to visit in Liverpool
Read again: ‘A nautical food journey to be treasured’ - Barnacle, reviewed
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