The act of discovery is one of life’s simple joys. Stumbling across novel places, interesting experiences, fascinating individuals or breath-taking landscapes all provoke an unrivalled reaction, one that is tinged with ecstasy and anticipation. Certainly, when it comes to food, there can be no greater joy than falling into a restaurant which results in a sensory adventure. With that being said, you would be right in assuming that this very thing happened to me. Well, sort of. I rarely write in the first person, but I felt compelled to in order to fully describe the accidental culinary experience that I indulged in very recently.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself roaming the old docklands of Liverpool, prior to watching rock royalty in the form of The Rolling Stones. Encouraged by the ever-increasing pangs of hunger, I casually browsed the various eateries that dotted the quayside. With nothing capturing my attention, I was on the verge of giving up and heading into the city centre. However, after continuing a little further, I caught sight of an inviting glass fronted restaurant, that ignited my curiosity. After a brief conversation with the waitress, both my family and I were enticed inside. We had unwittingly stumbled into ‘Lerpwl’ (that’s Welsh for Liverpool). With three different menu choices: the tasting, capricious, alongside the snacks and small plates, we were spoilt for choice, however since a tasting menu before going to a concert seemed inappropriate, we decided on the snacks and small plates. It was certainly a difficult decision since the other two menus were offering a variety of indulgent dishes.
However, prior to mentioning the food that was to be served, it would be foolish of me to not describe the brilliantly balanced interiors. With hints of industrialism, accompanied with subtle traces of homely details, Lerpwl manages to create both an intimate, atmospheric, yet artistic landscape within which their food is enjoyed. Without doubt, the chic, stylish open area kitchen, is the centrepiece, allowing guests to both engage with and watch the chefs, whilst they go about their business. It is this that helps set the ambience, a bustling, energetic atmosphere that feels electric, with the chefs and guests enjoying a synergy. The large glass windows allows one to view the striking dockyards, whilst also ensuring that the restaurant is still light and airy. This serves as a perfect juxtaposition to the dark, romantic, mysterious bar area at the back of the restaurant, where a barman lurks creating alcoholic treasures such as the Pink Vegroni, an expertly mixed combination of Tio Pepe Sherry, Cocchi Aperitif, Nectarine, Almond Syrup, and Lemon. Lerpwl has succeeded in creating a stimulating environment in which to enjoy food, that is neither pretentious nor eccentric, rather a setting that oozes both style and understated aesthetics.
After settling in, and taking in the bustle of the restaurant, we caught our breaths, and began to peruse the snack and small plate menu. This was quite a lengthy process, as none of us were able to decide on any of the mouth-watering options. However, after some time and a large amount of deliberation, we managed to pass on our order to the highly attentive waitress. First on the agenda was a simple appetiser of Homemade Focaccia, and a bowl of fat, succulent, Gordal Olives. Both highlighted from the beginning just how important freshness is to Lerpwl’s ethic and story. The focaccia was soft, warm and delicious, whilst the olives were sharp, packed full of flavour and meaty. Having polished these two light bites off fairly quickly, we were then advised to order the Sourdough Bread with Pork Fat and Chive Butter. This turned out to be a wise decision because what arrived, especially in the way of the pork fat butter and the chive butter, was sensational, regardless of its relative simplicity. Without doubt it was a most impressive start.
As a consequence of our own indecisiveness, we had agreed to order all of the snacks, and what a brilliant decision this turned out to be. A train of food emerged from the kitchen, consisting of Duck Quackettes, Lerpwl Fried Chicken, Cheese & Truffle Doughnut and a Krispy Krab Doughnut. The names of these dishes sound simple and basic, but do not be fooled. Within these humbly named morsels, are expertly crafted flavour combinations. Through my own unpreparedness, I did not jot down the exact descriptions and structure of each dish, which was eloquently explained by one of the chefs, and as such I cannot give a full breakdown of each dish for all your hardcore foodies out there. However what I can say is just how excellent each course was.
The Fried Chicken was phenomenal, with the flavour of the chicken being so strong and punchy, unlike anything you would taste from both supermarkets and many other restaurants. It had a gamey undertone, that made it rich in both flavour and texture, which certainly led me to change my outlook on how chicken should really taste. Both types of the doughnuts were light and fluffy, whilst providing a novel approach to a normally sweet treat. The flavours that penetrated through the dough were subtle, and you could taste the freshness of the crab, whilst the cheese and truffle used were clearly of superior quality. The Quackettes meanwhile were filled with succulent strips of duck, encased in a perfectly fried layer of crumb. All four dishes were excellent, however, they were just the prelude for what was to come.
Having ordered from the small plate menu alongside the spread of snacks we had just enjoyed, we waited in eager anticipation for what was to arrive next. Between the four of us, we had chosen two Rhug Estate Lamb dishes, as well as two Mussel and Lamb Cawls. What occurred after their delivery to the table by one of the young, but clearly talented chefs, was an explosion of flavour. The Mussel and Lamb Cawl is a type of Welsh stew, and whilst this sounds heavy, wintery and hearty, the plate that arrived could not be further from that image.
A small reduction sat in an ornate bowl, with tender slices of lamb lying delicately within the reduction. The taste that cut through the dish were a mixture of both shellfish and meat that worked in perfect harmony, which certainly was helped by the immense flavour of both the mussels and the lamb. The saltiness of the mussels helped balance the relatively sweeter flavours that burst through the reduction. To put it simply, it was delicious. I would also have liked to describe the Rhug Estate Lamb as it looked stunning, however, I did not get the chance to try it, as I was too caught up with the dish in front of me!
After taking some time to let the experience of the small plates settle, we all pondered the idea of dessert. Realising that it would be a waste to not adventure down the sweeter road, we all decided that dessert was non-negotiable. This time the choices were made slightly faster, with the Mon Las, Toasted Milk Bread, Truffle Honey, Pickled Walnut and the Lavender, Honey, Anglesey Sheep’s Yoghurt being the two desserts ordered across the four of us. Similar to the small plates, I did not manage to try the Mon Las dish, however when it was laid upon the table, the presentation was elegant, yet minimalist and by all accounts it was a phenomenal dish that again was a perfect example of its complementary flavour profiles. The Lavender, Honey, Anglesey Sheep’s Yoghurt was presented in a similar fashion and it exuded extravagance in its flavours. Rich, yet gentle, sweet, whilst bitter, it was a brilliantly constructed dessert that made use of various textures, incorporated into a wide tasting palate that made for a superb dish.
The most ironic element of discovering Lerpwl, as I realised relatively soon after sitting down, was that I was actually familiar with the restaurant. I had already written a short summary about Lerpwl over a year ago, although I had not actually visited the restaurant. However, stumbling across it on the dock yard was by pure chance and I am bloody glad that I did. This was unquestionably an accident, and it was through this coincidence that made the experience at Lerpwl even more enjoyable, as it was totally unexpected. Head chefs and brothers Liam and Ellis Barrie have established a truly special restaurant in Lerpwl, and rest assured, any visit there will leave you speechless, for all the right reasons. I guess you could say the moral of the story is that go out, explore, locally and further afield, because you never what you may discover around the corner!
Photos: Lerpwl Website