We count down the top ten highest scoring restaurants of the year

DESPITE another “unusual” year for food and booze, Merseyside’s restaurant scene continued to boom in the face of the big C. At the beginning of 2021, the Confidentials team were back on the delivery meal kits, with Churrasco Steakhouse, Lu Ban, Six by Nico and Lunya, all getting the cook at home treatment. 

Second to all those Zoom meetings, the worst thing about lockdown was having to slave over the hob and wash the dishes every damn day. So, we were made up to join the revellers grabbing their sunglasses on 12 April to celebrate the reopening of outdoors hospitality.

14042021 Castle Street Liverpool Bars Restaurants
Castle Street was busy as hospitality reopened on 12 April Image: Confidentials

The winners

It was great to be back in the dining seat and over the next nine months the Confidentials review team had a great time - sorry, we mean, worked very hard indeed - visiting as many restaurants as we could.

Liverpool Confidential notched up more than 20 reviews this year and the average overall score was 14 out of 20, which suggests that either restaurant standards here are pretty high or we’re not as mean as some people say we are. 

Two chefs can celebrate joint first place with a score of 17.5 out of 20. Take a bow, Elliot Hill at Panoramic 34 and Tom Caldwell at Mustard & Co. 

Panoramic 34 Liverpool Sky Restaurant Best Views Lunch Afternoon Tea Liver Building
The view from Panoramic 34 - the food's pretty good too Image: Confidentials

Gordo had one word for Liverpool's tallest restaurant - spectacular. His favourite dishes at Panoramic 34 were the “unctuous” chicken terrine and a lemon, mascarpone and sorrel cheesecake affair. 

"This is a restaurant that should be visited from all over the region," wrote the Gaffer, after his knee-trembling experience 34 floors up.  

"I think the chef has Escoffier’s cookbook from 1903 stuck down his whites. It is fabulous in every way."

Read the Panoramic 34 review

Panoramic 34 Liverpool Sky Restaurant Best Views Lunch Menu Chicken Terrine
Chicken terrine at Panoramic 34 Image: Confidentials

Over in Crosby, Vicky Andrews discovered exceptional food at an ordinary neighbourhood bistro. 

“Since COVID-19, we’ve been asked to tolerate average food and slow service. Mustard & Co proves that even in these times, perfection is possible,” wrote the Liverpool Confidential editor.

"The menu reads a bit like the Encyclopedia of Food Chemistry. Caesar salad - poached chicken breast, chicken thigh and pancetta terrine, quail egg, gem lettuce sauce, anchovy emulsion and parmesan crisp. On the plate, elegant sculptures of meat and crisp spiral around a green pool like the throne of Zeus on Mount Olympus."

The statuesque pavlova (pictured top) with Lancashire rhubarb and green apple sorbet was pretty special too, scoring a solid ten out of ten.

Read the Mustard & Co review

Mustard Co Crosby College Road Restaurant Chicken Caesar Salad Gem Lettuce
Chicken caesar salad at Mustard & Co, Crosby Image: Confidentials

In third place in our top ten is a seven-course vegan tasting menu with a remarkable 16 out of 20. That's a lot of numbers, but it all adds up to the write stuff for The Pen Factory with its plant-based guest menu. 

“It’s not often while stumbling our cobbled streets you find a vegan menu like this,” said our reviewer Ebony Ashcroft. 

“It’s safe to say we can nickname the penultimate dish Levi’s because it is a belter…the celeriac and buttery girolles are melt-in-the-mouth delicious. This is vegan comfort food on crack.”

Read the Pen Factory review

Pen Factory Liverpool Hope Street Celeriac And Buttery Girolles
Celeriac and buttery girolles at The Pen Factory Image: Confidentials

The best of the rest

Three Wirral restaurants made it into the top ten, including Elixir (15/20) and Tasting Bar & Kitchen (15/20) but it was Vegan Tapas in Heswall (15.5/20) that most impressed Steph Whalley.

“Pillowy mouthfuls of fresh fried gnocchi tossed in homemade pesto, toasted pine nuts and roasted tomatoes, on a smear of sweet onion puree. It was as divine as it looked, with flavours packing punches Mike Tyson-style,” wrote our part-time vivacious vegan.

Read the Vegan Tapas review

Vegan Aubergine Sticky Bao Buns At Vegan Tapas Heswall On The Wirral
Sticky bao buns at Vegan Tapas Image: Confidentials

Hot on the heels of Vegan Tapas comes meaty treats from Fat Hippo (15/20) which this year expanded into the North West with a new burger joint on Bold Street.

“Good food, messy fingers, juicy burgers. If that tagline doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will,” said reviewer Chris Grundy. 

The Born Slippy burger was up there with one of the best burgers Chris had eaten in Liverpool. 

“I had to ask for an extra napkin (or four) but it was totally worth the mess I let myself in for.”

Read the Fat Hippo review

Fat Hippo Burger Restaurant Bold Street Liverpool Born Slippy Fries
Shouting burger, burger, burger - the 'Born Slippy' with fries Image: Confidentials

With another very respectable 15 out of 20 is Mamasan. Inspired by the flavours of Southeast Asia, Mamasan's menu impressed our reviewer with tuna tataki, monkfish curry, and two spectacular desserts that "pull off elegance and absolute filth at the same time."

"Does Mamasan live up to the hype? Most of the time, yes. The prices are steep, but not stupid, so book a right royal visit for your next pay-day and bring your own cushion."

Read the Mamasan review

Mamasan Liverpool Southeast Asian Restaurant Chocolate Delice Gluten Free Edible Flowers Chestnut Cream
Mamasan's chocolate delice Image: Confidentials

The final two reviews in our top ten pick of the pops both achieved a score of 14.5 and are both Italian restaurants. There must be something in the spritz.

“Run by two Sicilian brothers, Carlisi describes itself as a ‘modern, Italian-fusion concept bar’. It’s nowhere near as wanky as that sounds,” wrote Vicky Andrews.

“If Gino’s is a Maserati, Carlisi is a Fiat 500 - a bit cramped, a bit noisy, but loads of fun and effortlessly cool.”

Read the Carlisi review

Carlisi Italian Restaurant Liverpool Dale Street Sicily Bresaola
Bresaola with parmesan shavings at Carlisi Image: Confidentials

Meanwhile, over in Allerton, it was L’Olivetto that had our reviewer pining for a holiday.

“Sea bass came draped across sauteed potatoes like a pair of naked twins sunbathing on a pebble beach…yellow heritage tomatoes bobbed in ripples of balsamic dressing under a lemon sun.

“Simple, fresh ingredients made with ladles of love and a sprinkle of alchemy.” 

Read the L'Olivetto review

Lolivetto Rose Lane Allerton Italian Restaurant Seabass Fillets New Potatoes Tomatoes Balsamic
Very gluten-free friendly - L'Olivetto, Rose Lane Image: Confidentials

And some that failed to impress

At the other end of the scale, some dishes made our reviewers want to go running for the door, including a lacklustre seafood medley, greasy pork rillette, and a tight and tepid bowl of meatballs

Confidentials has always prided ourselves on being one of the very few media outlets that actually write honest restaurant reviews. But in a tough period for hospitality, not everybody shared our viewpoint. 

“Need to tone down the negativity and maybe just review the positive,” said one Facebook user on the review for Akasya

“Another f**kin' wannbe A. A. Gill. Stick to making the office brews!” commented another, in one of many personal attacks on the review author.

"At at a time like this when the hospitality industry is at its absolute worst I would like to think that 'reviews' would maybe take a back seat," read one comment on Gordo's write-up of Bouchon.

Akasya Bold Street Liverpool Turkish Seafood
Seafood sizzler at Akasya Image: Confidentials

Confidentials grew out of a passion for championing the food and drink scene in the North West. All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. 

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.

And in the words of Gordo, “We’re not f*cking Olive magazine.” 

That’s this year’s review of reviews done and dusted like Delia’s Dover sole on match-day. We’re taking a break until January, when hopefully things will be back to normal and we won’t need to hold our breath every time Chris Whitty comes on the telly. 

Read next: 15 new bars and restaurants in Liverpool that you must try

Read again: The ultimate Liverpool Christmas (or any time) pub crawl

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