IMG_0973Bless me father, for I have sinned. It’s been three years since my last meal at Alma de Cuba. And, judging on this last visit, it’s gonna be a hell of a lot sooner before I make a return visit.

The venue’s definitely got its pan global groove back, and, early on a Saturday evening, the first floor dining space was buzzing with a congregation of surprisingly mixed diners. Post-shopping spree girls, 60-something late-lunching ladies, and tourists gawping at the gilt and glamour.

Executive chef John Tamila presides over a menu that picks and mixes its way around on-trend items such as the deliciously crispy and light frickles (tempura-fried strips of pickles) and Alma staples such as Seared sashimi tuna, roast fennel & orange puree, £17.95.

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We opted for a sharing platter of charcuterie cuts of Serrano ham, warm figs and Manchego shavings. Flavours were as big, bold and colourful as the (still slightly disconcerting) biblical frescoes staring down at us from on high.

Around our table, mains included Herb infused butter roasted cod fillet with creamed potato, and grilled chorizo (£15.95) – a generous curl of chorizo sausage adding a fiery bite to a perfectly cooked, creamy white cod fillet.

The Panfried sea bass fillets with fried noodles, with steamed pak choi, (£17.25) showed that, if pushed to make a preference, Alma de Cuba’s heart will always be floating somewhere in the South China Sea.

Elsewhere, diners were tucking into meaty Welsh fillet steaks, and Piri-Piri chicken. The Orient, Portugal, Wales…Alma is definitely a broad church. But its plates never looked less than confident, portions are generous, and prices aren’t particularly sinful.

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Side salads were perky and generous, service was informal but on the money – requests for suitable cocktails enthusiastically seized upon. As were the drinks – try the Gin and Juice and Pimms Asia.

So why haven’t we been here more often? A venue like Alma, we guess, has its work cut out: can a cool bar really keep up with the big culinary boys of the city, or is its kitchen merely a cynical add-on to spread its bets?

It’s a neat trick to pull off: a venue that’s as sure footed with its food as it is with its after-dark manoeuvres, its ticker tape cascades and its spirited soundtrack.

Not every multi-function space in Liverpool gets away with being all things to all comers. By some miracle, Alma’s still keeping the faith.

Alma de Cuba
Seel Street