Jonathan Schofield gets his ears battered but appreciates getting the chop

What: Hardware Coffee + Kitchen

Where: Renshaw Street

Food/Drink type: Wholesome cafe/restaurant/bakery for the urban dweller 

When: Seven days 7am-5pm ('brews and bakes' after 3pm)

Independent or chain: Independent Wholesome cafe/restaurant/bakery

2024 02 20 Hardware Liverpool 4
Tools as decoration Image: Confidentials


Guess what sort of retailer was the previous occupant of this site? Yes, Hardware's own moniker tells you what was here previously while showing how city centres are changing. Retail units become bars and restaurants in 2024's UK. 

Hardware Coffee + Kitchen plays it hard and soft, exposed brick, judicious greenery and tools on the walls and door handles fashioned from hammers to emphasise what was here before. However with only a few cocktails and one beer as booze you'll fine it hard to get hammered yourself.

The interior design on two levels also includes clean modern lines for the bar and counter. It's a comfortable and welcoming space, complete with long tables which you might have to share.

On my visit to the busy venue this friendly table sharing was an unexpected issue. 

2024 02 20 Hardware Interior
Hardware: the interior Image: Confidentials

The Main Event

There was a young woman on my table who appeared to be dressed like Alice in Wonderland was scrolling through her phone pictures with a young man. She was talking at ear-shattering volume about rolling joints at a party. Her voice was so loud and the tone so grating the flowers on the table were leaning away weeping, lightbulbs were exploding at the aural shock, the salt and pepper cellars were cuddling each other moaning. 

I scrambled for my ear phones downloaded some Deep Purple and turned the dial to ten and took a big swig of my Bloody Mary. When my food arrived I turned down the volume just enough to say thanks but long enough to hear Alice shout while speaking: "I'm numb to death ever since my pet rabbit was slaughtered by a fox.'

This is the first time I've eaten in a bar or restaurant wearing ear phones. 

Fortunately the food was distractingly good. The pan-fried bacon chop (£10) was excellent, lots of piggy flesh and a good layer of fat (main image above). The flesh itself was for bacon almost cultured, if that isn't too odd a description of dead meat. It was, forgive the cliche, melt-in-the-mouth flesh and it worked a treat forked together with bits of its fried egg cap. 

The meat and egg came on top of a potato and parika mash which added substance and heat and was all tangled up with a nutty romesco and herby chimichurri. 

No marks for aesthetics though. The dish looked a total mess. This is food inspired by Australian notions of presentation, or maybe Californian, and is commonplace in fashionable coffee shops but it isn't pretty.

A carrot cake (£3.85) was a lovely homemade sweet thing with a cracking icing top yet big and strong underneath with that delightful crunchy nuttiness and a good spicy character. 

The bloody Mary (£9.50) was pricey but acceptable and made for a good recovery after attending the launch for Founder's Hall in Manchester for way too long the day before.  

2024 02 20 Hardware Liverpool 3
Bloody Mary bloody good Image: Confidentials

Judgement Day

This was a thoroughly enjoyable lunch in a modern and handsome space. Hardware Coffee + Kitchen is popular and deserves to be, the decor is entertaining and the food very good. It very much captures the mood of the moment in British cities, a youngish crowd, some with laptops, talking quietly to each other. 

Except for Alice on my table. She was still talking at a volume of a Boeing 747 taking off as I gathered my things. I couldn't help hear her telling her friend she had John Lennon's sister's phone number. Some people in Norway probably heard that as well. 

On the way out I passed jewellers coming in. They quickly surrounded Alice and used her voice to efficiently cut and shape diamonds.

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 7/10

    Bacon chop 7, carrot cake 7, Bloody Mary 7

  • Service 3.5/5

  • Ambience 3.5/5