~A Birthday Day Out~
Back in January this year, my husband and I took a day off work for his birthday and went to Liverpool. I actually work just across the Mersey on the Wirral but I might as well be a million miles away for all the notice I take of the big city next door. In fact in over four years working on the Wirral I'd never been into Liverpool during the day time unless I was in a taxi going to the airport. I'd been for dinner a couple of times and to a carol concert at the cathedral but I'd spent no time at all looking around. Hubby wanted to see the Tate so we spent our day wandering around the attractions of the Albert Dock.
After visiting the Tate we were ready for lunch. As part of our rather 'cheapskate' day out in Liverpool, we decided to take up a great offer at the Pump House, one of the heritage buildings in the Albert Dock which we had noticed on the way to the museum. The chalk board outside was offering a bargain lunch of sandwich, chips and a drink for a fiver which sounded too good to be true. We thought it would probably be a bit of a manky sandwich for that but we were willing to give it a go.
The Pump House is a gorgeous red brick building which I'm guessing based on the name must have been used for pumping water around the docks. It was built in 1870 at a time when the docks would have been thriving with maritime trade but today it's been converted into a surprisingly attractive pub and restaurant. The most striking feature of the buildings is the tall round chimney which rises high above the rest of the building.
~The King's a Long Way from Home~
The Pump House is a Green King pub which surprised me. We used to live near Bury St Edmunds, home of the Green King brewery, and I hadn't realised they had properties so far north. Based on the cheapness of the deal I was expecting the place to be a bit 'spit and sawdust' inside but I was impressed at how nicely it had been renovated. The interior is spacious and airy with a lot of exposed brickwork, old stone floors and wooden furniture although in some areas away from the windows it can be a bit gloomy. The place was nearly empty when we went in but it was a damp weekday in January and we were quite late for lunch service so that wasn't surprising. In the summer months when the tourists are out in full force, I should imagine it's teaming with people.
We took a table near the window and had a good look at the menu. We'd seen the sign outside with the £5 lunch deal but I hadn't expected anything too fancy - just a bog-standard two slices of bread with a slice of something in between. Consequently when we saw the list of rather exotic sandwiches on the menu, we were confused about whether these were included in the deal because they just looked to good. My husband went off to check with the bar staff who confirmed that all the sandwiches were included and then we set to the task of picking from the options.
My first instinct had been to go for the fish finger sandwich. Truly there can be few things better than an FLT (fish finger, lettuce and tomato sandwich) but it's something I can easily knock up at home. I don't eat meat so a few of the sandwiches were not possible for me but surprisingly there were some really excellent vegetarian offers. It was a tough choice between a grilled halloumi ciabatta and a hummus, pesto, red pepper and rocket flatbread. I'd been expecting something rather more down to earth - cheese or egg - so I was really delighted with these. I eventually chose the halloumi ciabatta and my husband went for the fish finger sandwich. We both ordered large diet cokes.
The food arrived after about 15 minutes and we were both really surprised at the quality and the quantity. I'd assumed that the fish fingers would be frozen ones but instead they were hand cut and battered and served with lemon mayonnaise and a heap of freshly cooked chips. My halloumi ciabatta had pesto spread onto the bread, sliced tomato and red onion on top and then a very large amount of gorgeous salty grilled cheese perched on top of that. There were more chips than I'd expected and a small side-salad. The biggest challenge was going to be working out how to eat it as it was far too big to hand hold.
Halloumi is a wonderful squeaky cheese but the portion was a bit too generous for me. Perhaps the gap between my expectation of something dull and rather mean and the actual generosity of my enormous sandwich meant I had taken on rather more than I needed and I wasn't able to finish it, even though it was excellent. That's really not like me and I'm more typically the sort of person who'll finish something even if I don't like it. My husband liked his fish fingers so much that he took care to polish them off before I could attempt a 'swap' which was probably very wise.
Ten pounds for two generous sandwiches with fries and two large cokes was a real bargain. If we go back to the Albert Dock we'd eat here again. Looking at the more general menu for the Pump House, I could see plenty of great dishes to choose even if we were there outside the lunch hours. The pub serves food from 11 am right through to 9 pm and I was impressed by the number of vegetarian and fishitarian options on the menu which go beyond the normal pub approach of 'veggie lasagne - take it or leave it'. If anything I'd suggest the veggie dishes represent a very international flavour with Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian options to balance the more conventional choices.
If you find yourself in the Albert Dock, looking for somewhere to eat that won't break the bank, and isn't a museum cafe, then the Pump House is a good choice. Drinkers rather than diners will have to make their own decisions whether Green King is a good brewery or not - I have no idea - but it was perfect for what we needed.
The Pump House