I grumble often about not being able to get to Liverpool often enough. It’s one of those places, that whilst physically big, like Manchester it’s a place where everybody knows everybody else. A conversation whilst perched at a bar, or chatting to a member of restaurant staff can reveal a linked history of people and places.
So back when the Wreckfish dinner was announced, myself and a fellow Liverpool blogger hatched a plan. We’d both sit, laptops at the ready and book. We’d worked out possible dates, we knew how many of us we needed to book all we needed to do was press buttons and tap keys.
Sadly, it was not to be. Within moments everything was gone. Done. Booked up.
Saddened – not only at missing out on the dinner, but also on the opportunity to meet up again, my co-conspirator spotted another opportunity. A pop up by chef Steve Burgess at a coffee shop in Aigburth.
And that’s why Friday saw me and Mr GFB shivering our way by train across to Space Coffee in Liverpool.
I’m tempted here to mention something about supper club and pop up etiquette. And that perhaps by the very nature of these events you often share tables and spaces with people you may not normally sit with. And that often you can become friends with these people – as I can attest to. Once a couple of glasses of wine are gone, everybody gets on with everybody else.
I could perhaps mention that it might be felt a little rude, if a fellow guest arrives to discover they are on a shared table, say with you, and protest very loudly at not wanting to be seated on a shared table. And it might also be considered such, when told this isn’t possible, that said guest physically moves their spot on the table into the aisle and into the path of the servers. Because she doesn’t want to share a table.
But that would be churlish of me. And in truth, any such experience could not detract from the food we were about to experience and the absolutely lovely staff looking after us.
Wine was poured and soon our senses were to be teased by warm brioche with mushroom, chicken and Gruyère brioche. Soft, buttery, warm, rich with flavour and the top delicately dotted with crisp chicken skin. It was quite clearly just a hint as to what was to come.
I love snacks at the start of a meal. Not just because, let’s face it, I love my food – but because it gives you a taster of the style of the chef. And these were no exception. The mackerel topped fennel with orange was classic, but well done, the cauliflower cup was incredibly moreish – warm, creamy and just enough to leave you wanting more. But it was the duck remoulade with blueberry compote and pine nuts sitting on top of a sort of duck skin peanut brittle that was something to behold. Biscuity, salty, sweet, fruity, meaty all at once. Our side of the table fell silent in contemplation.
But not for long. More wine was poured and our next dish appeared. A green salad with peashoots and nasturtiums (a feature of Steve’s cooking I’m led to believe) gave us crisp sweetness, while the beetroot remoulade gave us earthiness, crisp onions gave us crunch and cured egg yolk grated atop gave us hints of seasoned creaminess. A palate cleanser for what was probably my favourite dish.
How can you tell it was my favourite? I took so many bloody photographs of it, and yet still I can’t do it justice. Cremy, sweet white crab meat with apple, cucumber, crème fraiche and Yorkshire rhubarb. the apple added sweetness and acidity, the crab meat was just perfect, the dried apple added crunch and a softer sweetness, the cucumber gave us freshness and then astringency from the sour rhubarb.
I wanted to bury my face in it. I didn’t want it to end. The freshness of the crab was for me all intertwined with memories of trips to Whitby and cracking open crab claws.
But it had to end. And it ended rather well.
For next came suckling pig pie with mead, turnip, truffle and shallot. Again our table fell silent. And again Mr GFB proved that everybody else can cook cabbage to suit him, but me, as he repeatedly dove into the beautifully charred side of hispi cabbage.
Our final course arrived and I have to admit I struggled.
The tonka bean brownie was beautifully flavoured, but defeated me, so whilst I handed most of it over to Mr GFB (what else are husbands for?) and sated what little greed I had left with the honeycomb, rich caramel foam and the toasted rice ice cream. A slew of toasty, sweetness.
I’m a bit of a believer in things happening for a reason. And yes, I’m gutted that we didn’t end up going to Wreckfish in Liverpool. But you know what? This was one hell of a consolation.
So, er, where’s the next one please?
This meal was paid for by ourselves.