Christina McDermott's very long wait is compounded by an ordeal of chickpeas
IF one was of a superstitious bent, you could say that the unit which sits on the corner of Bold Street and Ropewalks Square is somewhat bedevilled.
In the past few years, various cafes and bars have appeared there only to rapidly disappear again. Now, granted, it is difficult for a Friends themed coffee bar (Central Perk) to compete against landmarks like Bold Street Coffee, but it’s notable that so many have tried, only to move swiftly on.
It feels like all the worst cliches of vegetarian food on a plate and, eating it, we found ourselves getting quite annoyed on behalf of all of our non-meat-eating brethren
The latest contender is Love Thy Neighbour, a pastel pink coloured brunch spot which looks as though it was created solely to feature on hip Liverpudlians’ Instagram feeds. It has a neon light in the shape of the heart in the window, palm tree wallpaper and a giant piece of artwork on its outer walls declaring that “Avocado is Bae”. There’s a whole lot of style here, but is there any substance?
Initial signs seem promising. Despite the Deliciously Ella vibe, the menu seems designed to appeal to everyone, featuring a wide range of vegetarian and vegan options. Wholegrain Buddha bowls and green machine smoothies cosy up next to full English breakfasts – well, black pudding does contain all natural ingredients we suppose – and a rather impressive cocktail list.
But what stands out most are the chickpeas. Chickpea pancakes. Chickpea fritters. Roasted chickpeas on toast with chickpea hummus. If such a thing existed, we’d think that they were being sponsored by the Royal Society of the Chickpea.
Perhaps it’s a good thing. After all, Bold Street is littered with places which can throw a good full English together, while it takes a certain sleight of hand to make legumes flavoursome. A chai latte (£3.70), Cali toasts and plate of chickpea fritters with beetroot, sweet potatoes and spiced rice is ordered. We wait.
The service (although no fault of the delightful, apologetic waitress who was run off her feet trying to see to everyone) is the first disappointment.
We find ourselves waiting 20 minutes just to order our food and watch one woman with a buggy and small child wait in vain to be seated, only to walk out and find somewhere else. They’re later spotted tucking into a big box of noodles in Wok & Go and we come to regret not joining them.
Take, for example, the Cali toasts (£8), upon which the customer is invited to pick three different toppings from a choice of six. I don’t know much about how they take their toast on the sun drenched beaches of California, but I’d bet it would be a damn sight less depressing than this.
The first, baked aubergine, confit cherry tomatoes and crushed basil, is a lump of bitter, flavourless sponge, dumped onto a piece of under toasted sourdough. You wonder if they’re being ironic with the “toasted” chickpeas which feature with the “hummus, paprika, toasted chickpeas and parsley salad” which taste as though they came straight out of a tin.
Chickpea, grilled halloumi and smoked chilli was the best of a bad bunch, but only because it’s impossible to screw up halloumi. The smoked chilli appeared to have gone missing in action, or perhaps it was just soaked up by the wan, limp piece of sourdough it was smudged onto. You’d get a far more satisfying experience by spending £2 on a baguette and a tub of hummus from the Tesco across the road.
Nevermind. Perhaps Love Thy Neighbour would redeem itself with its chickpea fritters (£9.50) from the Bigger Plates. After all, this is a place which prides itself on its delicious vegetarian dishes.
It’s difficult to convey in words quite how bad this was, a cornucopia of bland stodge. Everything appeared to have had the flavour surgically removed from it, from the dry, claggy, chickpea fritters to the greasy sweet potato wedges, undercooked rice and cold chunks of beetroot. The piece de resistance are the five minuscule dots of dressing on the side which appear to have been placed there as a joke.
It feels like all the worst cliches of vegetarian food on a plate and, eating it, we found ourselves getting quite annoyed on behalf of all of our non-meat-eating brethren.
It’s not hard to make delicious vegetarian - or even vegan - food nowadays. Indeed, you only have to go across the road to Maray to experience some of the best in the North West. And, while it’s important to support our local independents, it’s difficult to do so when faced with poor service and food.
If I were being charitable, I’d dismiss Love Thy Neighbour’s issues as teething problems. However, a quick look at TripAdvisor reveals that our experience was far from unique.
Bold Street is swamped with brunch options but this wasn’t brunch so much as an ordeal.
Seriously guys, what did sauces do to hurt you so much?
Deliciously Ella meets Instagram hip
Oh so very slow