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Greek Street’s newest venue seeks to blend cocktails with upmarket pub-grub. The Liquorist sits where The Living Room was, both being owned by Stonegate Pub Company, and their shared heritage is obvious to those who have ever been to any of The Living Room’s venues – which it mirrors in décor and ambience.
Initial impressions are it’s more than an average gastropub. There’s a cosy and chic atmosphere. I suppose the word that best describes it is ‘vintage’ – taking the most stylish things from the past and mixing them with the utility of the present. However, it manages to avoid the dreaded ‘hipster’ label, as the food and drinks they sell are grounded in tradition rather than pomposity, serving the forever-popular steaks and burgers, but with plenty to choose from otherwise.
The staff were friendly and efficient. Nobody who walked in had to wait more than a few minutes for a drink order, and food was served quickly, politely and without fuss.
Prices range from between around £4-8 for starters, and anywhere from £10-25 for mains – the latter representing a 16oz T-Bone steak.
To start I had prawns in tempura batter, served with a salad garnish and a spicy cocktail sauce. They were perfectly crisp on the outside and soft and succulent in the middle.
The cocktail sauce represented a step above a simple prawn cocktail, although seeing all the elements of one on a plate did bring to mind the word that causes the Masterchef judges to cringe – ‘deconstructed’. I didn’t care. It didn’t remain on the plate long enough for me to care.
My dining partner – girlfriend and fellow journo Lauren – had a Portobello mushroom with a blue cheese sauce, again garnished with salad, with the addition of cherry tomatoes. I’m not usually a fan of blue cheese, however the creamy sweetness was a perfect accompaniment for the savoury earthiness of the mushroom.
The portions for both starters were generous, but light enough to whet rather than ruin our appetites (although, as self-confessed ‘foodies’, it would take a lot to fill us).
For mains, I chose the spicy barbecue slow-cooked pork ribs, served with crispy fried onions. Now, I don’t know exactly what cholesterol is, but the amount of onions I was given had me worrying about it for the first time in my life. After a couple of mouthfuls, I couldn’t eat any more. The leftover fat from frying was sticky and sickly.
The ribs themselves were perfect. You could barely pick one up without the meat sliding off it, dripping in smoky, viscous barbecue sauce.
Most people avoid ribs when dining out, for obvious reasons. The dreaded moment when the waitress comes to ask if everything is OK with the meal and you realise you have sauce smeared unflatteringly across your face like a greedy version of Heath Ledger’s Joker.
However, in this case, the shame was worth it, and after a muffled ‘it’s lovely thanks’ I went back to stuffing my face.
Lauren had the interesting sounding pretzel-crumbed salmon, served with wilted spinach and caper and mustard butter. It tasted lovely and fresh – like a healthy, tastier chippy tea, but probably not good enough to justify it nearly being the most expensive meal on the main menu, at almost £15.
With a name like ‘The Liquorist’ we had to sample the cocktails. They are the main difference between this venue and The Living Room.
We both ordered from the ‘classic cocktails’ section of the drinks menu, Lauren going for the Long Island Iced Tea, and myself choosing the Zombie.
The cocktails were large and incredibly boozy – one of the ingredients in the Zombie is Goslings 151 – a 151-proof (75.5%) dark rum, which according to their website specifically warns you not to drink neat under any circumstances. We only had one drink, but one was definitely enough.
It wouldn’t be true to say that there isn’t any criticism to be made here. As I’ve said, it is more refined than gastropub fare – however the dishes could do with either a little bit more refinement or being a little bit cheaper.
For example, the garnishes served with a couple of the dishes seemed like they had been added for the sake of it. The prawn starter came with some sticks of celery, and the salmon came with some raw chopped tomatoes.
I think the problem may just have been presentation. All of the elements of the dishes were placed separately on a plate, making them look like a mix of ingredients rather than a meal.
However, I really am just looking for things to pick at, and I would definitely recommend a trip to The Liquorist, especially if you fancy yourself a cocktail enthusiast.
Don’t expect anything too inventive food-wise, but do expect good food and plenty of it, as well as drinks so strong and tempting they could easily turn a working lunch in to a sleeping one.
After finally regaining the power of movement after being temporarily stupefied from food and booze, we made our way to the stumbling-distance-away train station, more than satisfied with our experience.