A couple of weeks ago, on what started off as a drizzly Sunday morning, I donned my Hunter Welly Shoes and made my way to Sefton Park for the launch of the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival (see here).
I’ve been to a few food festivals, farmers’ markets and alike before and expected to eat my way around the stands and stalls, sampling cheeses, chocolates, jams and other assorted goodies and most likely the odd burger or other barbequed delights.
I certainly did not expect to be sitting down in luxurious surroundings with chandeliers, draped curtains and fine linens enjoying a fabulous three course meal – but then I hadn’t read the festival website and did not know that Chef Paul Askew’s London Carriage Works would be ‘popping up’, supported by the students of the Academy Restaurant from the Liverpool Community College.
What they say: “Pop-Up restaurant in the Park” - Imagine a day in sunny Sefton Park immersed in the sights and sounds, colour and banter, aromas and tastes from the stalls and vendors. From noon book a prime spot to watch the same show from the comfort of your own seat, enjoying the best ingredients and delicious dishes whilst relaxing in The London Carriage Works - LFDF's first pop-up restaurant.
What I ate:
Following a Trio of Breads and an aperitif of Ferran Adrià’s Estrella Damn Inedit Beer, all guest were presented with a perfect amuse bouche consisting of Gazpacho with Tuna Carpaccio.
I have had the beer on a few occasions before; it’s a remarkable drink and makes the perfect aperitif. Inedit, with its interesting coriander, orange peel and licorice flavours, is made by combining a lager style beer with a German-style weissbier. The two beers are brewed separately and undergo a ‘secondary fermentation’ once added to the 750ml wine style bottle.
For my starter, I selected the Roasted stuffed boneless ‘Catforth Lancashire’ quail with celeriac puree and a green apple and tarragon jus – the dish was beautifully presented and a testament to the skills of Chef Paul Askew and his London Carriage Works / Liverpool Community College team that they could produce food of this quality in their ‘field kitchen’.
If I was impressed by my starter, the main totally blew me away: Pan roasted fillet of Peterhead hake with morcilla, baby leeks, spinach and haricot beans with a rich fish cream – the hake (always one of my favourite fishes) was absolute perfection; wonderfully fresh and silky.
The ‘cassoulet’ of beans in the creamy fish sauce was packed full of flavour and the whole dish was taken to another level with the addition of the salty and crispy morcilla – wonderful!
For afters, a Trio of the London Carriage Works Festival Desserts: a Lemon Verbena Pannacotta, Raspberry & Lavender Pavlova and Orange & Stem Ginger Cheesecake.
I ended my meal with a double espresso from Illy Coffee.
Food high points: as mentioned, hake is one of my favourite fish; this piece was perfection – possibly the best I have eaten anywhere!
Food low points: if anything, the desserts were the weakest part of the meal but it is understandable that, with a lack of a pastry kitchen, they had chosen items that could be prepared ahead – but they were still very enjoyable.
Décor / ambience: Considering I was sat in a tent the middle of a field in Sefton Park the pop up had a great atmosphere – a real sense of being part of something special and a definite highlight of the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival.
Service: the service from the London Carriage Works and Liverpool Community College Academy Restaurant team was nothing short of excellent.
Verdict (Would I return?): If they repeat the pop up at the 2013 festival, I’ll be there. In the meantime, London Carriage Works (see here) has been on ‘my list’ for ages and I’m now hoping to get along as soon as possible. Similarly, since a great report from my brother-in-law, I have been intending to try the apparent ‘hidden gem’ that is the Liverpool Community College Academy Restaurant (see here).