There’s an image, in the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse and Restaurant, the dimensions of which, whether deliberately or fortuitously, match those of da Vinci’s Last Supper. Its central figure is similarly beatific of smile, eyes cast downwards in supplication, arms outstretched as if in readiness for some culinary crucifixion: truly, he gave his life to forgive our stock cubes.
Pierre White as a latter day son of God? The recorded message on Hotel Indigo’s answerphone certainly advances the da Vinci code alternative theory tastily: ‘He is the Godfather of modern cooking,’ the pre-recorded sermon purrs. He’s certainly omnipresent – here, and yet, curiously not here.
The answerphone message continues: ‘he collects Michelin stars like other people pick up trading cards.’
Trading cards? Really? The man’s got three. You’d have to be a sublimely inept collector if your Topps Premier League sticker album stalled after three cards. You get more than that in a packet – and not all of them are swapsies of Carlos Tévez. But, three, though; that’s a trinity. Oo-er. Maybe we are in the presence of something divine after all.
Hotel Indigo – part of the huge Intercontinental hotel chain – opened earlier in the year. But now the paps have gone, and the PR hoopla has cooled, it’s time to make our own pilgrimage down Chapel Street…
Indigo is one of those hotels that pretends to be a home furnishing store – all slinky perspex pods, typographic screenprints and funky, blond wood chairs, straight outta 2001, a Scandinavian Odyssey. Its MPW Steakhouse and Restaurant is as light and frothy as a lemon syllabub.
Outside, an ambition of al fresco tables face the full blast of Mersey, with little more than a flying jib to protect the smokers from the elements.
In short, Hotel Indigo is a brave new addition to the tight little grid of original city streets (we hear tell there were seven) which, since the strand got cemented over and the Goree burned down, have seen little in the way of after dark action.
It’s a shame. For there are other areas in town – once windblown and neglected – that have shown there is life after Liverpool ONE. The Hanover Street/Duke Street is now a buzzy nexus of bars and bistros, for example.
We’d have thought the Chapel Street area – deep within what our lampposts are now calling our Commercial Quarter – would be the ideal spot for a touch of elegant slumming. The dots are there: The White Bar, Sakura, The Racquet Club and now Indigo. Someone needs to join ‘em up. A couple of decent bars (we had one, until they turned the Pig and Whistle into an abattoir). A bistro. The chance to spend the entire evening in the streets where it all began without having to embark on a ghost tour walk with over-keen and out of work Edge Hill drama students. Maybe it’s just us, but that’s an idea that really appeals. Let’s face it, authenticity – a sense of place – is worth going the extra mile for.
So is the Hotel Indigo a destination worth traversing the great divide of Dale Street for? Does its Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, with its brisk menu of pies, grills and fish act as a beacon, calling the wayward Leisure Terrace diners back to the bosom of their long lost home?
Well here’s the thing: it’s a truth universally acknowledged that, to a restaurant reviewer, the only pleasure to be gleaned from a bad meal is the chance to settle a few scores later. For every unamusing buche there’s always a promise of a just dessert on the laptop later.
Sadly, much as it would have been fun to stick the perfectly weighted Victorinox cleaver into this little corner of a celeb chef’s empire, we have to report that the food – on the whole – is perfectly decent.
But that’s the curious thing. We are talking about the Godfather of modern cooking, remember. He has, at the very least, moved among the kitchens here. We should, surely, be transported to a higher level of epicurian otherwordliness. Are we speaking in tongues after our starter? Not especially. We just had a perfectly decent goats cheese and beetroot salad.
Are we enraptured after our entrees? No, but our swordfish steak was good enough for Jehovah – and the chicken pie, well, that was worth witnessing. The chips, however, were a sacrilege. Fat, limp Jenga wedges of potato. You know, the sort that were briefly fashionable in suburban wine bars in the mid 90s. And a sure sign that food fads move as slowly in celeb chef empires as ethics do in the Catholic church.
There is, however (and this is a touch that the Hanover Street Social would do well to note) an insistence on meals coming ‘complete’: ie, no measly mark-ups should you expect a couple of spoonfuls of veg with your chicken. That’s an honest touch we approve of.
The sherry trifle, apparently, was so good it was named after its creator: a Wally Lad. But he is a false God, and, in the trifle trinity, way, way, below my mum. The Eton Mess? We’re not sure what those Eton boys were up to, but the resultant mess was a little too creamy for our tastes.
So, go, if you’re in the area. The service is friendly, the food mostly fine. The bill for two around £90 with wine. The evening? Well, we didn’t see the light. Marco Pierre White may not be the Messiah. But he’s not the naughty boy we’d imagined him to be.
Chapel Street’s rebirth, though? Keep praying.
MPW Steakhouse Liverpool
Hotel Indigo, Chapel Street