Monday, 12 September 2011

Cafe Bravo, Southport

Potent coffee alert!

I keep saying 'this'll be my last Southport visit this season' but it's a hard habit to break. I love Southport, and even though summer is over, why should I stop visiting? This is what destroys home-grown tourism. In my quest to dig deeper into the Sandgrounder culinary scene (that's the proper word for Southportian/Southportish believe it or not), I ambled up the other end of Lord Street. Wow, a feast for the eyes and senses! I spotted the fab Cafe Bravo which ticked the boxes- veggie options, independent, papers, comfy seats and immaculate toilets.

Cafe Bravo appears to look like C*sta at first, but when you step inside, it is independent through and through. Homemade sandwiches, friendly staff, clean tables and a helping of local charm with an artwork of Southport on the wall. I chowed down on a cranberry and brie panini (flavour of the month for me!) and a hot,strong, rich and black one! The panini was fresh and filling- so much so, there was no room for my dessert at Flavours ice cream parlour! The Americano passed my stringent potency test too.

So, put this one on your itinerary for your next coffee crawl!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Pudding and Pie, Southport

A modern cafe in Victorian surroundings! I love Southport. People are so dismissive of the great British seaside resorts nowadays, thanks to Sleazyjet and Ryanscare offering cheap flights to Spain. Even the chavs are getting particular about where they holiday now (in my opinion, they shouldn't have a holiday as they're living off the taxpayers, but I'll save my rant for another blog!) We should be helping our country as let's face it, Britain is not particularly attractive to tourists with its unpredictable weather and greasy food, but if you delve deeper, our land has a lot of character, fabulous architecture and history, hidden gems, and thanks to its bad food reputation, it now has the world on a plate and some of the best restaurants ever! If you haven't been to Southport before, yes it does have tacky shops selling salt and pepper shakers in the shape of breasts, but it also has classy designer shops. The same goes for its eateries. There are greasy chippies which quite frankly, are very good for a naughty treat, the usual chains that shall remain nameless, quaint Indian and Chinese, old school tearooms and modern cafes with some of the most potent coffee known to man! I found myself in the fabulous Wayfarers arcade, a magnificent Victorian building packed with quaint antique shops, trendy furniture shops and the delectable Pudding and Pie Cafe. The cafe is the focal point of the arcade, with seating both in the cafe and in the arcade itself. I chose to sit in the arcade in order to take in the victorian splendour of its glass roof and simultaneously windowshop. I ordered my usual Americano, generous and potent, passing my stringent coffee test. There isn't much on the menu for us veggies, but what they do have is a break from the cheese butty/ lasagne norm. On my first visit, I chowed down on spicy vegetable wrap which was beautifully stuffed with fresh, spicy veg but at £5, I felt the plate was bare- for the price, it should have come with chips or even a baked spud. On my second visit, I chose a 'proper' meal, the Shepherdless Pie. This is a veggie take on the Shepherd's pie; instead of the mince filling, it was stuffed with a vegetable medley in sauce (I suspect it was soup or stew, but nonetheless it tasted great). This came with chips and salad. The chips are a masterpiece here. Not the cheapo lazy option of frozen skinny chips, but home made, hand cut mis-shapes of potato- YUM! Please note, the chef automatically cooks all chips in lard, but he does have a separate, vegetable oil fryer. If you're a veggie or simply hate lard, you will need to ask for them to be done separately. 'You've forgotten us!' I hear the carnivores cry. You meat eaters are in for a treat with succulent home made pies topped with flaky pastry, full Englishes and more! I'd definitely return here, but I feel it is rather expensive. However, the food is freshly produced. made from scratch and the staff are well mannered. Plus they have daily papers!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Bistro Pierre vs Bistro Franc, Liverpool

A taste of France in Liverpool, but who is the best?

Does anyone remember the defunct Pierre Victoire chain from the 1990s? When that went bust, the gap for a French bistro in Liverpool was seized and Bistro Pierre was born, offering fine food at an affordable price. Frogs Legs and Escargots turn your stomach? Fear not, as Bistro Pierre is very accommodating and has lots of Mediterranean-influenced dishes for traditionalists and veggies. Bistro Pierre has since expanded and now has Bistros Franc and Jacques in its portfolio. All restaurants offer a lunch deal at approx £8.I visited both Pierre and Franc in the space of a month- here is my critique.

Staff, decor and ambience:

Pierre is located around the corner from Beatles heaven Mathew St and is slap bang on the tourist trail. Situated upstairs in an old warehouse building, it seems authentically French inside with some kitsch posters and wall murals thrown in for good measure. Both have a 'teach yourself French' tape playing in the toilets- original idea! Franc has the same kitsch posters and rustic interior, but is high-ceilinged with a balcony-style second floor, looking down on the main eating area. Minus points go to Franc's toilets though- considering this restaurant only opened two years ago, the toilets already look worn, dirty and broken. Merde. On the whole, I found the staff in Franc somewhat friendlier than Pierre's on the days I visited. As we entered Pierre, the lady serving me offered us a cramped table for two which was on the small side, sandwiched between the elbows of other diners, despite the restaurant being three quarters empty. The customer is always right and has power to take himself elsewhere, so I demanded a bigger table ('more than my job's worth') else I leave. After Miss Jobsworth consulted with her manager, I finally got my much needed bigger table.


Both bistros offer a 3 course lunch which changes weekly. This can be a good thing as familiarity breeds comtempt, yet it can also be bad as sometimes the only veggie dish on offer can be the much dreaded mushroom risotto. What is it with restaurants thinking all veggies like mushroom risotto? It must be one of the most bland, uninspiring dishes ever! Pierre's portions were definitely bigger than Franc's,in fact Franc's offerings were paltry. Both times, I ordered a starter whose name has surpassed me but the main ingredient was warm blue cheese- delicious. In Pierre, my main was a bountiful vegetable and cheese bake filled to the brim, with an eclectic selection of side vegetables like red cabbage, carrots, broccoli and potatoes. Heavenly. Franc's main course disappointed me, it was a mushroom stroganoff which was basically mushrooms with a type of gravy poured over, displaying a lack of presentation and to put it Franc-ly, a lack of substance. This wasn't a meal! This was like something I would imagine those purveyors of chav cuisine Wetherspoon's to serve up. Never mind, there was always dessert... Pierre won this round again, offering me a sumptuous rum and raisin cake, so big I nearly asked for a doggy bag. Franc's chocolate cake was measly, however they did raise a chuckle from me as they had written 'blueberry waffle' on the specials board, prompting various 'blue waffle' related jokes. (If you don't know what blue waffle is, please do not ask. This is a food blog after all).

Despite the initial impression of the jobsworthy staff, Pierre is the winner of the Bistro Battle. The other staff were really pleasant in there, and it just goes to show that this old dog doesn't need to be taught new tricks. On the other hand, this bistro should not grow into a nasty chain, as its good reputation will be diluted thanks to Franc and its broken bogs. Bon appetite!

Bistro Pierre on Urbanspoon

Bistro Francs on Urbanspoon