My wife and I are expat Merseysiders, living in London but returning several times per year to visit family. The Foodstation is a small restaurant and wine bar close to Hamilton Square station in Birkenhead. We’ve eaten there twice in Aug/Sept 2002. They have a short seasonal menu and a blackboard of daily specials. Food is good. You have to wait while they cook it, which is reassuring – this is not cook-chilled stuff in a bag from a factory. My loin of veal with herbed tagliatelli and shallots was especially good, and my wife enjoyed grilled haddock with green pea risotto. They also do a nice paté with truffle and bacon, which is a bit sloppy in texture but excellent in flavour. Bread is good - they have their own bakery and deli next door. The wine list is short, and generally good value. Service is attentive, staff are friendly and happy to recommend wine. Most starters are in the £3.50 to £5 range, main courses from £7 to £15. Above the restaurant and deli is a small hotel, called Sleepstation. Rooms are nicely refurbished and very well furnished and equipped. We stayed on the top floor, in a two-level room with a superb view over the Mersey to the Liverpool waterfront. This is not the cheapest hotel in the area, but if you’re looking for value for money rather than lowest possible price, it’s good. Address: 24 – 28 Hamilton Square, Birkenhead Phone: 0151 647 1047 Website: www.sleepstation.co.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Far from being a culinary wasteland, Liverpool (and its satellite towns)now boast several very good restaurants that will cater for most tastes and won't break your bank either. If you are staying in one of the new hotels (marking the city's booming business culture) that have sprung up in the City Centre and docks area, consider Ziba (0151 708 8870) for your dinner arrangements. This is the best value for money eating I have experienced anywhere in the UK. The quality is exceptional and if you find something that tickles your fancy on the Table d'Hote menu then a meal for two and a bottle of wine will set you back no more than £50. The atmosphere is chic / youthful and the service is excellent. Slightly more expensive is the Left Bank on Smithdown Road. This has recently opened an upstairs section, which has overcome the problem of fumes from the kitchen wafting into the main dining area. Choice is extensive, not only from the menu itself but from the vast array of 'chefs daily specials'. Red meat comes with very rich sauces (don't plan on having a dessert unless you are Mr Creosote). Going out of town on Smithdown, there is a variety of tapas / bistro joints, the best one of which is Pods. Tapas eating is fun and casual here. The atmosphere is lively and six or seven dishes plus wine will come in at around £50. Seafood fans are served by Jennys on Fenwick St, in the city centre. This has a 'gentlemans club' feel to it. The cold platter for two is recommended. Not cheap but plentiful and for the heartiest of appetities. Bechers Brook on Hope St caters for 'expense account' diners. The proprietor, David Cooke, has now set up a bistro and tapas bar in Birkenhead and works over the water at present (October 2000). His presence was missed on my last visit, where the food lacked its usual flavour. However, it has to be said this was not par for the course here. In five years eating at B echers Brook, this was the first 'off night' my girlfriend and I have experienced here. L'Alouette in Lark Lane offers good French cuisisne. They have also opened up a secong 'Allouette en Ville' next to the Marriott Hotel in the city centre. I've always found the food here to be heavy on the salt, but for a lunchtime business meeting, both places fit the bill to a T. Lark Lane has a number of bistros, wine bars and restaurants. The Tex-Mex and Italian (Maranto's) are both recommended for diners on a budget. The docks area has undergone a transformation in the last 10 years, with top-of-the-range flats attracting wealth and glamour. Head for 'Blue' for good value food in a buzzing atmosphere and then go downstairs to Baby Blue for aperetifs with Hollyoaks, Brookside and sundry footballers. For those prepared to venture further afield, try Thornton Hough Hotel on the Wirral. This is not cheap (bank on £100-plus for three courses and a bottle of wine) but the venison (if it's on the menu)was superb the last time I was there. Save soom room for the Orange Chocolate Box dessert too. Even for those without a sweet tooth, this one has to be sampled. With new restaurants springing up all the time, especially in the City Centre, this review will be out of date within days of posting it. A good sign of the resurgance of faith, confidence (and good eating) in Liverpool.