Vicky Andrews finds a bit of je ne sais quoi at this authentically Parisian jazz bar
I’LL always remember my school careers adviser asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “Marine biologist,” I grinned. His stony face said it all and my dream of swimming with dolphins was quickly brought down to earth with a loud splash. “The Channel Tunnel is going to change everything. It’s all about Europe now,” he said. “If you want to be successful, do a degree in French with Business Studies.”
It was the perfect soundtrack for food, wine and revolutionary talk
It was 1988. I loved the song Joe Le Taxi but was crap with numbers so I ignored him and everybody else and went down the path of Media & Cultural Studies instead. I don’t know if I made the right choice, but at least today I can sit in a bar contemplating Foucault as the world burns around me. Britain may be a divided nation but if you’re still drowning your sorrows over Brexit then I can’t think of a better place to do it than at a French jazz cafe in Liverpool.
Petit Café du Coin is somewhere I’ve walked past a thousand times and raised an eyebrow at the window signage - Cocktails, Vin, Jazz - it seemed a strange USP and almost as if they were winging the Frenchness un petit peu. Neither was I convinced that you could create a lovely ambience on one of the city’s busiest road junctions. Have you ever been stranded at that pedestrian crossing waiting for the little green man so you can get across safely? Never mind the Bold Street timeslip, this crossroads is a definite glitch in the matrix.
You probably remember the giant Banksy rat emblazoned on the front of the derelict building on the corner of Berry Street. When the property was sold, the iconic street art disappeared under scaffolding with the promise it was being preserved, but somehow ended up at the Rat Bar in London. While our furry friend played hide and squeak down south, the Grade II-listed White House pub became first Yardbird and then, in 2017, Petit Café du Coin.
Looking at old photographs, they’ve done a decent job of preserving the exterior features, notably the green tiled facade and chequered doorstep. Inside is now a little corner of beautiful France. Drawing on a rustic Parisian bistro, Petit Café could have been plucked straight from the back streets and alleys of Bastille; a bijou space with a shadowy warmth, packing 30 or so patrons inside a twinkling caveau filled with lamps and candles. Let your eyes adjust gradually but don’t drink too much or you’ll never find your way out again.
Behind the bar counter is a wall of every imaginable alcohol and some savvy staff who are only too happy to mix up a Boulevardier or a Sazerac or suggest something lovely from the wine list on the wall. We slid into our seats and ordered some nocellara olives (£3.50), the meat and cheese board (£14.90) and a bottle of Salento 2018 Primitivo Doppio Passo (£25), recommended by Pez, our quick-witted and considerate host for the evening.
I’m no jazz cat, but I loved The Manouchetones, a three-piece group playing ‘gypsy manouche swing’. It was the perfect soundtrack for food, wine and revolutionary talk. A big bowl of buttery nocellara olives quickened the drinking and the Primitivo was soon sinking faster than Venice. Pepper salami, serrano ham and chorizo slices on the main platter were a bit run of the mill but the fromage supplied by Liverpool Cheese Company featured four piquant chunks of Petit Brie, Kick Ass Cheddar, Bleu d’Auvergne and, my favourite; Villa Verde, a green Gouda made with pesto, pine nuts and fenugreek. We also had tangy homemade chutney, red grapes, figs, balsamic dressing, and plenty of fresh crusty bread and crispy crackers to slap it all together. Ooh la la, sweet dreams are made of cheese.
The live music is obviously the main attraction here and the bar was packed out from the minute we arrived until we finally gave up our table after a long-drawn-out Sidecar (£8) and Espresso Martini (£9). What I love most about Petit Café du Coin is that it’s uncomplicated. Sometimes cocktails, vin and jazz are all you need. Just go, man, go.
Petit Café du Coin, 60 Berry Street, L1 4JQ
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. 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.
Nocellara olives 6, meat and cheese platter 6.
Tour de force.
Je ne regrette rien.