David Adamson sits down in a sixteenth of the Italian Quarter

What: Hey, Farina!

Where: 24 Tarleton St, L1 1DS

Food/Drink type: Bakery, pasta and salad bar with aperitivo

When: Mon to Sun: 9.30am to 9pm

Independent or chain: Independent 

2024 03 15 Hey Farina Exterior
Outside Hey, Farina! Image: Confidentials


When you think of Italian cafe culture you probably picture something along the lines of a Caffe Nero; dark, muted and comforting colour schemes, the constant hiss of an espresso machine, and the odd picture of a vespa: the English angle on Italian.

The reality is probably closer to what we see in a greasy spoon; slightly brash interior, overhead lighting that could wake the dead, and comforting food made with machine-precision regularity. 

Hey, Farina! has all that and more, including a wall-mounted telly showing a carousel of calming Mediterranean beach scenes, a welcome and slightly kitsch addition to make you forget the world outside or - in the case of many of the diners on the tables around me - remember where you've come from. Considering this cafe is on the corner of the shabby and underused Williamson Square, maybe a bit of escapism isn't such a bad thing.  

There's a concerted effort underway to create what's being called the Italian Quarter, and outside of Hey Farina! and its immediate neighbours Gran Caffe and Antonietta Gelato, it's fair to say that despite the valiant endeavour it's a fraction of the way there. But if the MO and, more importantly, the menu of Hey, Farina! is rolled out across this corner of the city centre, then that slightly contrived dream could become a reality. 

After all, the journey of ideas like the Italian Quarter starts with a single shop.

2024 03 15 Hey Farina Interior
Inside Hey, Farina! Image: Confidentials

The Main Event

I ordered at the counter and took a seat under the serene white sands and blue seas, of sorts. While the option of a bowl of pasta was hugely tempting (and averaging a very reasonable £9), I didn't that day have what you'd call an Italian appetite. So I went for the Focaccia Hey Farina! (£5.80), enticingly described as "mozzarella, fresh Italian sausage, grated potato, parmesan and rosemary", which, for me, just about ticks every box. 

A very generous slab of focaccia, suitably oil-soaked and dried to give it that beautifully sweet undertow to match the salty tones, was the foundation for a fantastic focaccia sandwich. The sausage was perfectly peppery, not shy about imbuing the crumbly, fatty sausage with plenty of fiery swazz, a welcome counterpoint to what is effectively bread, potato and cheese. The mozzarella was added as an accent rather than as a molten dairy landslide that can so often be the case. Less is definitely more. The grated potatoes gave an earthy dose of starch and substance and the sprigs of rosemary added a fragrance to the whole thing. Now that's a sandwich. 

If you find yourself in the city centre and want a quick sandwich and something crisp to accompany it, a pint of Birra Moretti is £5.50, competing comfortably with most establishments whose sandwiches wouldn't come close to those of Hey, Farina!

2024 03 15 Hey Farina Focaccia
Focaccia Hey Farina! Image: Confidentials

Judgement Day

The city centre has more than enough Greggs and sports shops, and the invention of the Italian Quarter won't come from the Sergio Tacchini section of JD. Give Hey Farina! a go and spend a very reasonable fraction of your well-earned money on a very well-made sandwich. Or if you've got it in you, a bowl of pasta. Sod it, try a cocktail while you're at it. 

If more had the quiet quality of Hey, Farina! then Williamson Square would start to take on the feel, if not maybe the look, of those Mediterranean scenes washing across the wall-mounted telly. 

Hey, Farina! 24 Tarleton St, L1 1DS

2024 03 15 Hey Farina Sign
Hey, Farina! Image: Confidentials

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials.com 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.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 8.5/10

    Focaccia Hey Farina! 8.5

  • Service 4/5

  • Ambience 3.5/5