NEVER go back, the saying goes. But what if you never really went away?

Many were the tears when the old Everyman Bistro closed nearly two and a half years ago. It was, said those lucky enough to get through the door on the last night, the end of an era.

43-Penfactory_0077_Edited-1But out of the old Bistro has sprung not one, but two successors. There's the shiny new establishment underneath the theatre, and the not-so-shiny but even newer Pen Factory, open in the basement of the former theatre annexe door under the watchful eye of Paddy Byrne.

Paddy, for those who've been on planet Mars since the 1970s, was co-founder of the original Bistro over 40 years ago and is now father-figure to just about every informal cafe and bistro in the city.

The Pen Factory is a team effort, but it's very much Paddy's project and in the eyes of the HSVs - that's Hope Street Veterans - the true successor to the Bistro of old.


Which is why the buzz on Wednesday night was along the lines of 'Did the last two and a half years really happen?' Had people really woken up and discovered they had been moved from one basement to another while hibernating? It felt like it.

Ah yes, the buzz. Close your eyes and listen. The background hubbub of conversation, more than anything else, is exactly the same. Open them and the room is much the same shape as it was, but with added windows.

Close them again and sniff the air. Nothing's changed. The tempting aroma of fresh food and real ale. What more does Liverpool want?

Barely a single official invite went out. But word of mouth was enough to ensure that on Day One the place was heaving. It's good to be back.

Now, Freedom of the City, anyone?