Confidentials reviews the fine dining restaurant in the Baltic Quarter
If there’s one thing that Liverpool knows about it’s reinventing itself. Being able to adapt and change is what life is all about. “I am a work in progress” as Will Smith said when he apologised for bitch-slapping Chris Rock into next Wednesday at the Academy Awards.
I suppose (White wine) in Hammersmith Palais is a bit of a mouthful.
Paul Durand and Charlotte Jones are a case in point. They started out with East Avenue Bakehouse on Bold Street, then rebranded as The Little Shoe to incorporate more of Paul’s skill in fine dining. He’d previously worked at Gary Usher’s The Sticky Walnut, and Michelin-starred Moor Hall, so he definitely knows a thing or two about cooking.
After eight years on Bold Street, Paul and Charlotte 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.
It’s a little off the beaten track, and I wasn’t even on the right side of Jamaica Street when I tried to sniff it out after getting out of the taxi. But despite its hidden location down Watkinson Street, the former warehouse building is stunning.
Industrial grit meets contemporary wit; rough red-brick walls, rugged cast-iron pillars, and a sink in the WC that looks like a tree trunk. My only quibble on the decor is the light above our table which hangs directly above my head and makes me feel like a contestant on Mastermind. I’ve started so I’ll finish.
The menu is simple enough - snacks, small, large and pudding - with a separate gluten-free hard copy available. There’s a very capable wine list, split not by colour but by three tiers going up from old favourites to the more interesting and unusual; the headers are All the young punks, We can be heroes, and Stay free.
This works well but it does bother me that they didn’t just pick three songs by The Clash. I suppose (White wine) in Hammersmith Palais is a bit of a mouthful.
We order a glass of orange Postopoma kerner/riesling, 2021 Slovenia (£7, 125ml) and Sigurd grenache/carignan/syrah, 2020 Australia (£9.50, 125ml) with “still warm” salt and vinegar crisps (£2) for nibbles. The house sourdough with Lancashire whey butter and Colchester oysters on the next table look fit, but here we are with some warm crisps.
The crisps are okay though and keep us nibbling until the starters arrive.
Some people get put off by the idea of raw steak but beef tartare (£11) is top quality ex-dairy rump cap, soft and tender and served at the perfect temperature. It’s been blended with capers, pickled shallots and chives, dotted with a mustard emulsion and finished off with a trio of elegant crisp breads.
Head chef Paul is very big on his local produce and the asparagus starter (£9) comes from Claremont Farm over on the Wirral. It’s simply grilled, and then served on top of a bright green, white bean cassoulet.
This chap likes his colours too, and the dish is peaked by a confit egg yolk that melts into the cassoulet when popped like a mountain sunset. Salted almonds mix up the textures nicely.
Still ruminating over the greatest hits of The Clash, we’re steered towards a glass of Opta tinto blend, 2019 Portugal (£5.50, 125ml) and the Emil Bauer "Bullshit Grauburgunder", 2020 Germany (£7.50, 125ml). Punk as fuck, this wine list.
The wine fella is brilliant by the way, as are all of the staff, and even Paul gets hands-on with the plates bringing over the main courses complete with a little introduction. I like that.
Claremont’s asparagus pops up again with roast halibut (£24). Perfectly seasoned, the fish falls apart with the fork, and although the translucent middle has only had a faint whiff of cooking heat, it’s all delightful with that vibrant sauce gribiche.
Heritage leg of lamb (£24) is a really lovely cut of meat and a big portion, but my dining partner feels that it either needs a bit more oomph to its veg accompaniment (anise carrots, potato puree, capers) or the option of some extras to bump it up. Bang some sides like posh chips, creamed spinach or buttered greens on the menu and everyone’s a winner.
Desserts are hotly anticipated. Dark chocolate delice with ice cream (£7) lives up to the hype but pressed apple and calvados terrine (£7) isn’t quite bold enough against the luscious scoop of apple marigold sorbet. A big boozy shot of Akashi Tai umeshu plum-infused sweet sake (£8) is a happy ending.
As we get up to leave, Paul approaches us at the door. “Is it Vicky?”, he says. I assume he’s recognised me from my notorious reputation as a food reviewer. No, it turns out that he remembers me from DJing at the Krazy House 20 years ago. I guess we’re all a work in progress.
Manifest has only been open for a month or so and I’m excited to see how it develops when it really hits its stride. Should I stay or should I go? Go, immediately.
Manifest, 4a Watkinson Street, Liverpool L1 0AG
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.
Beef tartare 9, asparagus 8, halibut 8, lamb 8, delice 8, terrine 7
Dim the lights a bit