Jonathan Schofield and a restaurant that needs to embrace its ‘seafood’ name with more enthusiasm
Seafood restaurants are among my very favourite food and drink establishments. Seafood is exciting, fresh and visceral in all that snap and crack of shells. Liverpool should have a whole platter of them, it’s by the sea after all. Unfortunately nobody can claim it majors in them.
So, the idea of Cargo Seafood restaurant on Prince’s Parade by the Mersey was enticing. The arrival at present is anything but. The building is shrouded in scaffolding, Heras fenced off with another temporary fence close over the estuary.
Apparently some cladding fell off and the building is being sorted. That’s not Cargo’s fault but its location in the never-never land north of the Malmaison and the Crowne Plaza doesn’t help. How come the large plot of wasteland next to the restaurant hasn’t been developed? Very odd.
The menu needs to include more of the vast roster of seafood these islands offer
Inside the restaurant has a light nautical theme, bits and bobs of shells and ropes with shades of turquoises and blues between pale walls. There’s one big mural which features a submarine seemingly crossed with a fish. It feels more like a seaside café than a restaurant.
The menu is fishy but not in the way, say, a Spanish seafood restaurant would be. There are no mountains of lobster crab, clams, whelks, razor clams, mussels you name it, but there are individual dishes of scallops, tiger prawns and so forth. There’s also sirloin, lamb cutlets, chicken fillets and beefburgers.
Six oysters at £21 came adorned with fish eggs which hadn’t been described on the menu. Three were good and three were mean. That’s often the way with oysters but I wish they had come just unadorned and natural which is the way they should be in my opinion.
The seafood platter (£65 and technically for two) comes with monkfish, seabass, prawns, calamari and chips. This was generally good and filling. The star was the monkfish with that really meaty texture and slightly sweet flavour that isn’t a million miles away from lobster.
The seabass was beautifully cooked. This is often the blandest of fish, over-used in British kitchens too, but here it was perfectly delicate with the gentlest of fishy flavours. I have a friend who considers seabass an entry level fish as it never has too much of a fishy aroma. It never offends, it’s easy.
The calamari needed a crispy batter, the prawns were fine and the chips were proper chips that a good chippy owner would nod along with. The various sauces didn’t add much, the tartare being insipid. A bottle of Fiano (£25) went very well with the platter.
On the next table were two elderly ladies who’d come up from London. They’d never been to Liverpool and were loving it. “Everybody’s very friendly and totally charming,” they declared in patrician tones.
This was certainly the case with the staff who were fabulous and all smiles. In some respects they were the best part of the visit.
Cargo is ok, nothing more. It needs to live up to its ‘seafood’ name with more enthusiasm. The menu hedges its bets, there’s lobster and scallops and the like, but it needs to include more of the vast roster of seafood these islands offer. It might look to relocate as well, the lost location at present is a barrier to visiting.
Do I recommend Cargo? Yes. Just. The platter was a mighty £65 but it was good enough to justify the journey.
Cargo Seafood Restaurant, Alexander Tower, 19 Princes Parade, Liverpool L3 1BD
Oysters 5, monkfish 8, calamari 5.5, seabass 7, prawns 6, chips 7
Fabulous staff, who were in some ways the best part of the visit
More of a seaside cafe feel