Vicky Andrews’ heart goes all aflutter over this flight of fancy
Solving a riddle before you piddle or decoding abstract drawings of genitalia seems to be part and parcel of using a public loo these days. “Do you identify more with a butterfly or a grasshopper?” my other half asked me after a trip to the restaurant’s lavish lavatory.
Heaven does exist and it’s a gin bar
“Grasshopper,” I said, picturing a wise and cunning creature, ready to spring. Only when it was my turn to take a tinkle I realised that she’d been referring to the toilet door signs. I ditched the urinals for the butterfly stalls; I didn’t choose bug life, the bug life chose me.
It’s a dichotomy that plays through The Butterfly & The Grasshopper, the stylish bar and restaurant that moved into the old Roscoe Arms on Renshaw Street. (Not to be confused with the brilliant Roscoe Head on Roscoe Street which is still the only Merseyside pub to appear in every edition of The Good Beer Guide since first published in 1974.)
Inspired by William Roscoe’s famous poem, the Butterfly’s Ball and the Grasshoppers’ Feast, this little pub has blossomed from a chrysalis after a £750k investment. Just like its sister venues - The Dovey, Newington Temple, Lodge and Lion Tavern - the design and branding are spot on, keeping the history intact but scrubbed up, reborn and freaky-cool.
Roscoe’s enchanting characters are embedded in many of the features. Grasshopper vibes on the ground floor are modern Victoriana with Thonet chairs, dark colours, dim lighting and surreal artwork. The top floor restaurant is Butterfly, a bright indoor sky garden with peacock chairs, light globes and a cosy fire pit.
The Butterfly cocktail (£8.50) with Empress Gin was elfin and nectarous, disappearing in the blink of a gnat’s eye. The Grasshopper sounded every bit as delicious, a foamy fusion of creme de menthe and white chocolate liqueur. It’s not all woodland fun and you can also get all your usual classic and contemporary cocktails, local beers, gin and wine. Both the Fiori Sul Muro Catarratto Pinot Grigio (£6.05 for a large glass) and Sangiovese (£4.25 for a small) were easy drinking and pocket friendly.
There are flashes of brilliance on executive head chef Dave Gale’s menu and the chilli fried duck egg (£3.50) is the best thing I’ve eaten so far this year. Dead simple but with a spicy kick, I cleaned up the last of the runny yolk with a portion of skinny fries (£3.50) that were as tasty as my ma’s home-made chips in the fryer.
From the small plates menu I enjoyed honey glazed crispy chicken thigh (£5.50) which was skillfully butterflied into rectangles, served with gem wedge and some stonking blue cheese dressing. Grilled salmon (£5.50) was another perfect presentation, the tender flakey fillet lounging casually over a posse of new potatoes, dotted with creamy horseradish and tangy pink hoops of pickled shallots. A classic dish remastered.
My favourite was minted lamb chops with cumin (£8.50), served with super-smooth hummus and pomegranate seeds. Knife and fork were followed by a clean sweep of the bowl with crispy flatbread and then a messy finger finale to get the last scraps off those juicy chops. I thought I might have over-ordered but finished the last crumb on every plate.
They specialise in steaks and mussels here but my guest decided to test out the grilled hispi cabbage (£8.50) from the ‘Earth’ section of the menu. Marinated with harissa and honey and garnished with a skin-on baked onion, watercress and cherry tomatoes, it was tasty enough but needed two sides to make it a proper main course.
Gluten-free sticky toffee pudding (£5.95) was much appreciated, light and delicate with creamy vanilla ice cream and a side of caramel sauce with crunchy pecans. A dessert menu without a chocolate brownie just isn’t cricket and this particular version (£5.95) was a landslide of geometric genius, a white chocolate curl balanced on a boulder of ice cream and square brownie base. It might not have made it into my all-time brownie hall of fame but could easily have been framed on the wall next to the Kafkaesque wallpaper.
A rainy January Monday was never going to be packed but the Butterfly was as dead as a dormouse on our visit. Seated in the downstairs restaurant, I sneaked up to see the roof bar after my visit to the toilets. Never mind talking to God on the big white telephone, imagine ascending through the pearly gates to find that heaven does exist and it’s a gin bar. It was enough to make my heart flutter.
Renshaw Street feels like a lost highway these days, dotted with hidden gems that remain defiant; Curly Music, Eighty One records, Outpost, 69A vintage, the Olive Tree, Damas Lebanese and Yukti. I really hope the Butterfly & the Grasshopper finds its wings. With creature comforts for all seasons it could be just what the neighbourhood needs.
The Butterfly & the Grasshopper, 1 Oldham Street, Liverpool L1 2SU
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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.
Food and Drink
Fried duck egg 8, skinny fries 7, chicken thighs 7, salmon 7, lamb chops 8, hispi cabbage 7, sticky toffee pudding 8, chocolate brownie 8
Patience grasshopper, patience