Welcome to my first blogpost of 2018. After a short hiatus I’m pleased to announce I am back and ready to bring you some of my favourite places as the year unfolds.
I was lucky enough to have the first week of the year off so booked a ticket to visit a friend in Liverpool. It’s a city I’ve visited in the past with work, so sadly had seen very little bar the inside of a hotel room and the University campus.
This time I had the luxury of being shown round by a born and bred Liverpudlian who like me shares a love of good food and wine.
Following a lovely trip to the Liverpool Philharmonic to watch a film, we popped round the corner to a restaurant called Oktopus. Hidden away in a courtyard behind the Old Blind School, it feels like a place only those with their noses to the culinary ground would find it, and I like that.
The restaurant has only been open since April last year after starting out as a pop up at the Baltic Triangle – a thriving area which I also visited on my trip.
The restaurant is not huge – an open kitchen one end and at the other a canary yellow dresser housing the beer taps from the Black Lodge Brewery who run the joint alongside several other venues in the City.
It’s got the classic industrial vibe – bare brickwork, copper lights and exposed vents etc. However little potted plants, chairs reminiscent of schooldays, tealights and the aforementioned dresser give it a cosy feel rather than feeling stark and generic.
Menus here change weekly and offer simple dishes focusing on seasonal high quality ingredients – in particular seafood. The dishes are classed as small plates which come to the table as and when ready.
Being a somewhat greedy eater with a reluctance to share I’m pleased that small dishes aren’t actually that small – increasing in size and price as you go down the menu, ranging from £6.50 up to £18.
We went for four dishes and not one disappointed.
Firstly we picked a salad of white cabbage, chervil, crayfish and capers. It was light, fresh and zingy with a generous portion of plump sweet crayfish.
Next up was another salad this time braised beetroot, forced rhubarb and Blacksticks Blue cheese. I’m not a fan of the mouldy stuff so let my friend crack on with that, but the rest was delicious – I love golden beetroot and would not have thought to pair with rhubarb.
Again another pairing that I wouldn’t have expected was fresh grilled Cornish sardines with harissa butter. I love sardines which always evoke memories of summer holidays, and the harissa added a new punchy dimension without being overpowering.
Finally onto the standout dish for me. Lamb rump cooked with preserved lemons, butter beans and mojo verde. We enquired what was in said mojo verde and were told the herbs change but on this day it was fresh cumin and coriander.
I’d forgotten how much I loved butter beans and cooked with the lemons they lost their blandness that beans can often be if you don’t jazz them up a bit. I’ve actually recreated this base since I’ve been home, adding leeks and a piece of fish. Delicious and healthy.
The staff were chatty and friendly and more than happy to answer our questions. If you like beer it’s great to have some craft ones to choose from. I had red wine but forgot to note what it was, so sorry I can’t share that with you. It was very nice though if that helps?
In a rare display of willpower I opted out of dessert but instantly regretted it when I saw what was put in front of my friend. She said she would be returning for this pudding alone – buttermilk panna cotta, brandy prunes and pecan praline. It did look ruddy lovely.
Oktopus is great. You could pop in for lunch or a light meal or go full on 3 courses if you wanted. The standard of cooking a was great – unfussy letting the ingredients speaking for themselves.
I’ll definitely be visiting again on my next trip and this time I’ll not forgo dessert.
Oh and if you like your gin and/or whisky pop to Berry and Rye down the road. It looks like a closed up shop, but seek and ye shall find.