Saturday, 25 January 2014

Tai Pan Buffet, Hanover St, Liverpool

After many bad buffet experiences, I tend to swerve them as they are usually full of chavs licking the spoons and putting them back in the food, clueless staff who don't know what the slop they're serving is, screaming kids running round people's ankles and all the atmosphere of a rubbish Skytours package deal hotel in Santa Ponsa. However, when Tai Pan opened in Liverpool, I was convinced by my mate to give it a try. It seemed that the Jeremy Kyles hadn't discovered it yet, or saying that it was 12.30 when we went so they were probably just getting up. The other Tai Pan restaurant in the city has a great reputation so this seemed worth a try. For under £8 and with reasonably priced drinks, it seemed too cheap to miss!
There was soup and dim sums to start- I was disappointed to see that out of 3 soups on offer, none of them were veggie. I did have some spring rolls though and the famous Chinese delicacies of Samosas and Onion Rings (yeah I know).
For the main, there was a beautiful selection of stir fries, aubergines in garlic sauce, vermicelli and all the usual Chinese dishes, plus an Indian corner which I devoured! Pilau rice, lashings of popadoms and a yummy pea and potato curry. Perfection. It made up for the lack of veggie starters. Veggies watch out though, as the Szechuan tofu dish actually contains some sort of mystery meat.
The desserts were the typical underwhelming morsels offered by cheapo buffets. A few dried chunks of Turkish delight, some obscure Chinese jelly with fruits in, cubes of jelly (there seemed to be a running theme here). Tinned fruit cocktail. There were however about 6 flavours of ice cream, but the taste was so synthetic it wasn't a pleasant experience, a bit like that banana flavoured medicine you used to have as a kid.

Tai Pan Buffet is a must if you're on a budget, not so if you want a delicious dining experience or are a strict veggie like me. After a while, all the food started to taste the same, not so much a party in the mouth than an oil slick of dirty chip fat.


The good- cheap, cheerful and filling
The bad- boring desserts and not much for veggies

Tai Pan Buffet on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Shangri-La, Victoria St, Liverpool

One of the perks of my job is that I work weekends, meaning I have two glorious days off in the week to make the most of cheap business lunches in the city. (Yes, unfortunately food blogging isn't my job- maybe one day!) Today I fancied being a tourist in my own city and visiting the museum, so decided to look for a cheapo deal in the vicinity. After walking through the foodie nuclear apocalypse that is Queen Square- the disgusting chav bolthole that is Tso's, the Yummy Mummy soulless chain that is Ask, the frozen meal tapas gone to Iceland La Tasca and the swearword of good food that is N*ndo's (I still can't bear to write it)- I backtracked to the old classic Shangri-La, where I spotted a business lunch offer.

Shangri-La has been around for decades and is your typical English Chinese albeit not in Chinatown. In recent years, the quality had declined and had became one of those places to you only go at 2am and have the tastebud equivalent of beer goggles firmly on. It also got a bad hygiene rating on Scores on the Doors but thanks to getting its 5 stars back and good reports from my workmates, I gave the new, improved Shangri another whirl. I had not been since 2008 where I feasted on a deep fried spongelike spring roll and a tasteless load of water chestnuts fried in rancid soy sauce, so needless to say I was dubious.

I got great vibes when I went in. The staff were now friendly and welcoming and gave me and my dining partner a great table down the back where we could have a reasonably private conversation. The deal consisted of 3 courses and a drink for £7.50- not bad!

My first course was this deliciously potent Vegetarian Hot and Sour soup- portion size generous, the right balance of hot and sour and yummy chunks of tofu padding it out.

Delicious- I feared I'd be too full by the time the main course came! Second course was veggie spring rolls with a seaweed garnish.

The spring rolls were huge and filled with a curry and glass noodle filling. Delish! The seaweed was a nice touch too, better than the inedible carrot or turnip carved into a flower. What is the point of those and more importantly, do they get re-used? Oh dear, I was definitely not going to manage the main event, beancurd fried with kung po sauce with egg fried rice.

The sauce had a right chili kick without being too salty, the egg fried rice fresh, fluffy and a generous portion. My only complaint was my beancurd was a little too fried and made it lack the spongy, bouncy taste that I prefer. Nonetheless, it was a delicious meal and the portion size left no room for complaint (or dessert for that matter!)

Shangri La is definitely on top form again and on course to re-establish its good rep it had back in the 1990s. An oldie but a goodie, it is staring all these young. glitzy pretenders in the face. Trendy restaurants have came and gone again during the time the Shangri La has been around, that's got to stand for something. Great food, pleasant atmosphere and an even better price.


The good: portion size, great atmosphere and lots of choice for veggies
The bad: tofu was a little greasy

Shangri-la on Urbanspoon

Friday, 3 January 2014

Kasbah, Bold St, Liverpool

After discovering Liverpool's first Lebanese restaurant had opened, you can imagine my excitement to find the city's first Moroccan restaurant had opened a few doors down! Moroccan eateries are common in our Continental neighbours' cities like Paris and Amsterdam so we were long overdue a tagine invasion. Most of the new Liverpudlian eateries don't really appeal to veggies like me- the high-end ones do either rabbit food or mushroom risotto for the millionth time and the lower end of the scale 'specialise' in burgers, lasagne and other yawnsome frozen food section treats. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern never fails to disappoint me though!
Kasbah is similar in décor to Bakchich, its Lebanese neighbour, conjuring up memories of Dubai's Spice Souk and Instanbul's Grand Bazaar- a heady mix of spicy scent and garish colours. To drink, I had the mint lemonade; admittedly not as good as Dubai but nonetheless refreshing:
Check out the beautiful steaming hot tagine!

I ordered a veggie tagine served with a fluffy helping of cous cous- the tagine comprised of stuffed vegetables in a bubbling hot tomato and pepper based stew. A perfect winter warmer of a dish providing a little ray of sunshine too!

Don't forget your camera when you rock the Kasbah- a big stash of fezzes in the corner provide many hilarious selfie opportunities! It's the type of place which has a great atmosphere for a night out and is also a great place where you don't feel conspicuous being alone and can happily sit in the corner with a mint tea while you're doing your stalking rounds on Facebook.
The good- one of a kind in a city infested with burger joints and buffets
The bad- a few more veggie options on the menu would be nice!
Kasbah on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Bakchich, Bold St, Liverpool

When I lived in Dubai, I must have eaten Lebanese food at least 4 times a week. As common as our chippies, Dubai seems to have a Lebanese in every mall and on every street. Falafel, shish kebabs and zingy plates of tabbouleh are a staple ingredient in  the Dubai foodie's life, be it for breakfast, tea or chucking out time at the clubs. Back in Liverpool, I wondered how long it would be for the North West to finally cotton on to this delicious cuisine which often gets mistaken for Greek or Turkish up this end for some bizarre reason. Enter Bakchich, Liverpool's first Lebanese since that one what was briefly in Renshaw St in the early 1990s that is now waste land. (I never did go there actually, so would love to know if any of my more mature readers experienced it!)

Bakchich reminds me of Dubai's famous Zaroob, a trendy, faux street food setting Lebanese eaterie. Modern with an open plan kitchen and fabulous interior décor, it was instantly welcoming and in my mind, I was back in the 45 degree heat of Dubai (unless this had something to do with the heat emanating from the open kitchen). After fighting for a table- this place is extremely popular- I settled down with a glass of mint lemonade. Admittedly, this wasn't as good as the ones I had in Dubai- this tasted like a normal glass of lemonade with a few mint leaves in whereas its Dubai counterpart is made with fresh lime juice.

I ordered the spicy Lebanese potatoes (below). Garnished with parsley, they were a fresh and healthy alternative to the usual sides of chips etc, but lacked the padding and substance of its Dubai equivalent. The portion was padded out with a lot of chopped onion, giving the impression it was a bigger portion than it actually was.

I also had the falafel wrap plate, a favourite of us veggies who can't participate in the Doner Kebab cravings you carnivores have. Not just Dubai, in most European cities a falafel wrap or pitta is part of the fast food staple diet of late night snackers and foodies. The falafel plate came with a dollop of hummous and a crunchy lemon-heightened salad.  At £5.99 for this falafel plate (below), it is considerably more than the 3 euro I used to pay for a similar dish in Germany. I'm not complaining though, Bakchich is one of a kind in Liverpool and has no serious competition- they can charge what they like, I'll keep returning for that bit of Middle Eastern sunshine!

The good: One of a kind in Liverpool- friendly service and a diverse menu
The bad: Slightly cramped seating and portion size a bit small
Bakchich on Urbanspoon