Damon Fairclough braves the storm on a cross continental journey to Beetham Plaza
SILK was once one of the world’s most treasured textiles and its trade routes are the inspiration behind this new tapas and mezze restaurant. Not that silk’s transcendent beauty was top of my mind when I visited. Having been sliced through by Storm Emma’s icy blasts on the way there, antiquity’s finest fabric seemed a great deal less appealing than my Damart Thermolactyl vest.
However, even with Beetham Plaza’s famous Bucket Fountain frozen solid and a fierce wind blowing in from the beastly east, Silk Rd’s warm lighting and sun-bleached hues managed to thaw out my heart.
After opening their first in Heswall last summer, Silk Rd has now taken a second venue, occupying the curvy Beetham Plaza unit that originally housed Simply Heathcotes. Between its well-dressed city-facing frontage on one side and terrace views across to the Three Graces on the other, the site clearly has potential, even though it still feels like the business district’s hidden zone.
Inside, the venue combines cosy bar-hugging corners with a light and airy restaurant. The menu throws together Asian, Greek and Mediterranean dishes “from the Pacific to the Med” with curries and noodles, fish, salads, ‘garden’ dishes and a long meat list. Our server was keen to stress “everything goes with everything else”, so if you fancy pad Thai with your Greek salad, go ahead, no one will judge.
Silk Rd’s small plates range from £4.50 for some salads to around £8 for meat dishes. Two to three per person is what they recommend and modest prices make this a manageable route.
Some dishes are heartier than others. A bowl of Colombo tamarind curry (£5.50) served with pitta bread was rich and warming with a spicy punch, though the distinctive sweet and sour flavour of tamarind was tricky.
...although we never experienced a truly memorable dish, the venue still succeeds in turning this previously troublesome space into a reasonable place to spend time
Chinese pork (£7) was satisfying, served as two sharks’ fins of pork belly swimming through chilli oil bound for an island made of Asian slaw. A garnish of homemade crisps alternated between successfully crisped potato slice and soggy disc. The dish was saved by gooey and yielding meat.
Imam bayildi (£4.80) was marred by a scattering of leaves limper than you’d find on Aldi’s ‘reduced to clear’ aisle. The scooped out aubergine was soggy rather than sumptuous, although its silky-smooth, garlic-heavy tomato filling was pleasantly pungent.
Alas, more miserable leaves accompanied the four spring rolls (£4.50). The tucked and folded tubes gave way with an impressive crunch, but the interior was overly soft and there was little flavour to be found.
The tempura vegetable batter (£5) was more successful, leaving behind a carpet of crumbs that resembled the scraps doled out by fish and chip shops of old. Peppers, broccoli and spring onions were all good, although the courgettes were too slug-like, dispensing an unsettling tepid juice.
Silk Rd dispenses with its cross-continental trade theme at desserts, preferring to play safe with cheesecake, chocolate cake, Eton mess and the like. Two discs of panna cotta (£5.50) were just firm enough, with autumnal fruits and an intense berry coulis propping it up with a tart edge. The sticky toffee pudding (£5.50) delivered a decent butterscotch flavour, but was too dry. Its thrifty side of vanilla ice-cream was far too small to assist.
The venue also operates as a bar with decent gin and cocktail menus. Monkey sloe gin with tonic (£8) was very good, with a not entirely unpleasant medicinal bitterness and density of a kids’ antibiotic. But best of all was the Jaffa espresso martini (£7.50), served like a bedtime milky drink in an earthenware cup with a couple of Jaffa Cakes on the side. It might have looked like a mug of soporific Horlicks, but it was powered up with a dose of potent coffee that kept me ticking over for the rest of the night.
Staff were chatty and informative, and although we never experienced a truly memorable dish, the venue still succeeds in turning this previously troublesome space into a reasonable place to spend time.
Food may have veered towards reticence where there could have been vigour, and flavours may have been mostly under powering and tame, but there was a warmth and radiance to the atmosphere that meant, despite the fearsome chill on the other side of the glass, Storm Emma stopped at the door.
Silk Rd, Beetham Plaza, 25 The Strand, Liverpool, L2 0XJ Tel: 0151 345 3536
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.
Colombo Tamarind Curry 7; Chinese Pork 7; Imam Bayildi 6; Tempura Vegetables 6.5; Spring Rolls 5; Sticky Toffee Pudding 6; Panna Cotta 7
Always ready to chat
Cool and cosy