Jonathan Schofield has an exceptional meal at Vetch and wants you to go

“Interesting choice of music,” we said to Christy who was looking after us. It was sixties to eighties music and quality stuff. “Since we’re quiet today you can have your own choice,” she said with a smile. We chose Ace of Spades by Motorhead but after a minute or two we decided against it: it wasn’t quite matching the excellent food and wine.

I jest. After her kind offer we remained with Christy’s choices. She was part of a service team, with her comrade Andy, who looked after us magnificently. Charming chef-proprietor Dan McGeorge joined us for a chat but more of that later. 

Vetch is only three weeks old but if you like finer food in the North West has instantly become an essential visit

Vetch is only three weeks old but if you like finer food in the North West it has instantly become an essential visit. It’s situated in one of those handsome Georgian townhouses Liverpool does so well on the epicure’s delight that is Hope Street. 

There are two dining areas, an upper and lower one. They have a mellow and cool beauty which would have suited the interior design of the period when the building was built. The simple elegance of the rooms is one thing, the cutlery and crockery another. Every course on the £85 tasting menu of five courses comes with beautifully custom-crafted (it seemed) equipment. The Studio William cutlery is exquisite. 

Oh and the glasses. Do a "cheers" with someone and before drinking put the glass to your ear and hear the tuning fork resonance. Again the quality of the glassware shows the attention to detail. 

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Vetch is on the right with a striding man in the foreground Image: Confidentials
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The cool interior Image: Confidentials

And so does the food which was described by Andy as a Scandi-Japanese-Brit mix. Unsurprisingly doesn't have a category in which to fit this on our listing of cuisines. 

Space precludes mentioning everything in detail so here are the some standouts from the menu shown below. I'll focus on four dishes which got 10/10 for me and I'm a right miser when it comes to dishing out maximum scores. My view is that nothing can be that good in this fallen world. 

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Vetch menus - wine and food Image: Confidentials

The scallop, turnip and dill was not the best looking dish on the menu but a total success. It was delightfully engineered. And who would expect that white, fleshy tap root, the humble turnip, would mix so well with the scallop but it bloody did? The dill was a good addition. 

Now I can take or leave a scallop in any of its forms and often kitchens sear them for flavour and the interior turns to cotton wool. Not here, the poached scallop was gloriously refined and consistent in texture. 

The main enhancement was the seaweed sake broth. Bringing things down to earth I suggested the broth was in some ways akin to a good Bovril watching Rochdale Football Club back in the day. This may not seem a compliment but as Andy pointed out the broth really is like a 'beef tea'. A beef tea and then some. 

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Scallop, turnip and dill Image: Confidentials

The cauliflower chawanamushi is like a cracking fine dining version of cauliflower cheese. It looks grand too, sitting in its little pot; a lively spectable with its dabs of green. But I'm getting ahead of myself because I hadn't the faintest idea what chawanmushi was. Turns out it's a particular form of egg-custard mix used with savoury dishes. 

We were told to stick our spoons into the bottom and drag the beautifully balanced kaleidoscope of flavours out to the top. 

We were wondering about a quality of chawanamushi we couldn't put our finger on. "It's the umami character," said Christy and ye gads she was right (weirdly whenever I hear the word umami a Geordie voice appears in my head saying 'Toon Army'). 

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Cauliflower Chawanmushi, onion and Parmesan Image: Confidentials

I've often wondered why the English equivalent of 'savoury' doesn't quite work as well as 'umami' in certain situations. So for this piece I did extensive research lasting several seconds and in a rather marvellous article by Yuki Noguchi found this which sounded right.

'On its own, umami doesn't taste strong or particularly good. But when combined with other foods, umami punches up flavors of protein and salt, while also weaving in other tastes, like sour and sweet.'

She quotes Oxford Uni's Charles Spence who studies taste perception. He says about umami: "All the tastes interact with one another, sometimes suppressing, sometimes enhancing the other tastes." 

In these two dishes Dan McGeorge of Vetch had shown he is an 'umami' master.

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Cod, Kohlrabi, sake, pak choi Image: Confidentials

For goodness sake the cod, kohlrabi, sake and pak choi dish was good. The cod was extraordinary. Dan McGeorge later in the meal described some alchemy with salt where he rids the cod of its built-in slimy white residue. His steamed version flaked beautifully but was so light in texture and flavour, it was King Cod, a thoroughbred of the seas. If cod were land-based, this would be the finest wagyu.  

And with that let's move on to the beef, aubergine, nasturtium and bone marrow. The meat was at once juicy, complex, substantial yet delicate if that's possible. It had a certain fleshy sweetness, or perhaps the perception of sweetness. The bone marrow was a booster in adding richness, the jus was simply delicious and added even more punch. Other elements were welcome especially the nasturtium but really this was all about the beef.   

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Beef, aubergine, nasturtium, bone marrow Image: Confidentials

The taste tickling trio of starters all had their virtues and were especially easy on the eye with their rich colouring, and although it was perhaps the least visually appealing it was the aebleskiver (Danish pancake ball) with Paremsan and Wiltshire truffle that came top for me. I wasn't sure about the sweetcorn and miso-cultured butter that came with the Shokupan (milk bread) as it lacked clear definition. 

The palate cleanser and the dessert, one a blueberry, liquorice, yoghurt and the other milk chocolate, miso caramel, tuile, rice, were artfully put together and pretty as a picture but seemed a little muddled, especially the milk chocolate one: too much going on, too sweet. 

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Up for starters and there's a lot going on Image: Confidentials
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Milk chocolate, miso caramel, rice Image: Confidentials

The drinks are part of the whole occasion and we were guided by Christy. A Brut Cuvee from Whiston Estate, Sussex was a great start, refreshing, appley. Nothing failed in the choices, the Vermentino being lovely as well. 

The Bethany Old Quarry Fronti dessert wine was extraordinary, I've never tasted anything like it. This is the description: 'Predominately Muscat Petit Grains, Muscadelle, and Semillon, the grapes are harvested late in the season to achieve rich and intense flavours. Fortified with brandy spirits, these individual wines are aged for an average of six years in oak casks. The finished wine is deep golden, amber colour and displays a rich, fragrant nose of orange marmalade, hints of honey and treacle.' It gets you royally pissed as well at 18.5%. 

I loved it but really it was overpoweringly rich and was all the dessert I really needed.

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Sweet wine bonanza Image: Confidentials

Dan McGeorge had a chat with us before we left. He's a lovely gracious man. He explained a little of his background although modestly he refrained from mentioning he was crowned the Great British Menu Champion of Champion's in 2021. He's spent the last six years hoovering up awards at Rothay Manor in Ambleside in the Lakes where he gained three AA rosettes. 

"It was time to come back to Liverpool, my home town," McGeorge said to us. "I wanted my own place. It was great at Rothay but it's different being part of a big team in a hotel and I really wanted to branch out and experiment. This gives greater freedom."

And greater risk of course. 

It's not an easy time for hospitality. But when word gets round of how superb Vetch is, how it ticks all the boxes with great food, excellent staff and an elegant dining room then here's hoping that on Hope Street it thrives. It truly deserves to do so. Aesthetics and wonderful flavours is a grand combination for a restaurant. 

Vetch, 29a Hope St, Liverpool L1 9BQ

Lunchtime menu £35. Evening menus £85 for five courses, £105 for seven courses. Optional drinks pairing £65.

Vetch is on Confidential Guides

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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 8.5/10

    Small starters 8.5, bread 7, scallop 10, cauliflower 10, cod 10, beef 10, Blueberry 7, Milk chocolate 7

  • Service 5/5

  • Ambience 3/5