Restaurant Review: Oktopus, Liverpool
Last weekend, me and Mr GFB spent a lazy night in Liverpool.
I don’t get to Liverpool often enough – especially given it’s not actually that far away from home. So as ever, when Curve Fashion Festival rolled around, we made a little fuss. Booked a hotel, booked a dinner (after asking friends for recommendations) and made big breakfast plans.
Dinner came in the form of Oktopus over by Liverpool John Moores University. Of course, we managed to time our visit directly after a certain lady reviewed it for the Guardian and I’ve never been more relieved to have booked in advance. Of course avoiding the review in detail was a challenge, but I wanted to form my own opinions.
The space is light, airy, bare brick, meets almost school style tables and chairs. A modified yellow dresser holds beer taps, the bar is small, the wine (and beer list) small but well formed – as discovered through Mr GFB’s beer choices, and my wine picks.
The menu is made up of a range of plates, varying in size, contents and flavour – the style is one we’re seeing more often and I love, a sort of casual dining meets fine dining techniques, but for all that, you could eat the entire menu between two and still spend under £50 each.
No we didn’t. Not quite anyway.
While we were eyeing the menu, we of course went in for nibbles. The popcorn mussels were perfect – crisp outer, just done mussels, spike of chilli and a rich spicy ketchup. Very moreish – no sooner had you popped another morsel in your mouth were you reaching for another.
The sourdough and beer butter were something else. The sourdough was that perfectly soft, chewy sourdough that makes you greedy for the second slice and not want to go halves with your other half. I don’t think he noticed where the second slice went, but if he did, he didn’t say anything. Sorry love.
Into our small plates, and it’s hard to pick a favourite.
A dish so simple as carrots with feta and pesto shouldn’t be that good, but it was. If it’s a dish to have the somewhat vegetablephobic Mr GFB clearing the plate, then you know it’s good.
The same with the cabbage with brown shrimp, capers and chervil. A very grown up coleslaw, the shrimp added creaminess to the dressing that lingered afterwards, and sent you diving in for another mouthful.
The crab ravioli with langoustine bisque was light yet rich – though a distinct lack of spoon meant I had to slurp the last of the bisque directly from the bowl. In public. Again. I sometimes wonder how he puts up with me, but I couldn’t let the bisque go to waste.
When it came to the meats, we disagreed.
He loved the Barnsley chop – tender lamb, mint, peas and roast courgette. Which was delicious. But I was swayed by the pork.
Which had slow cooked tenderness, soft creamy fat and crispy bits. Sometimes it’s good to disagree, because it means that though we shared a little bit, each got their favourite to finish to themselves.
I’m all about the little victories.
For dessert, for once, I wanted sweet.
English strawberries, a melt in the mouth mousse, crisp meringue and fresh mint. Light, fresh – I often add mint to strawberry jam as it enhances the strawberriness, and it’s use in this dish was the same. Lots of fruit, a little sweetness, but nothing overcloying or rich.
What a summer dessert should be. Just sweet enough to satisfy.
Overall – OK, service can be a little hit and miss. The kitchen seems to do dishes in twos, but it was a relatively steady flow that allowed you to enjoy what was in front of you. Even if it meant you occasionally leapt in a little hard when a new (hot) dish arrived.
And as we were seated next to the kitchen, I did leave smelling like I’d worked in it, but it was our last stop of the night, and well, I was only with Mr GFB who had just witnessed me slurping bisque from a bowl like the classy bird I am so….
But, and it’s a big one, grumbles aside the food was good. Very good. Very good as in I’m visiting Liverpool for a stag do and wondering if I can sneak in a visit afterwards before heading to my airbnb good.
In a word, go.