After 18 months’ hard labour, I’m beginning to spot recurring themes in SevenStreets’ postings. Perhaps the stubbornest of them all is our city’s inability to fully get to grips with the concept of investing in service. If, as some forecast, we’ve a bright future as a leisure destination, we need to be investing in this most slippery and fundamental of all offerings – good service.

Seems, in this city, we just can’t have our cake and eat it. We can order the cake, but it won’t arrive, or it’ll arrive just as our taxi’s pulling up. We can get our cake, but they’ll forget the cutlery, or we can eat it, but they’ll disappear when it’s time to pay for it. But Cake, Eat, Pay? Impossible.

And so it is, after recommendations from those we trust, we find ourselves in lovely Woolton: home to the latest venture by l’Alouette’s indefatigable head chef, Dave Roberts.

Caveau is a tight little package, squeezed into Woolton Village’s Allerton Road, with its row of lovely South Liverpool shops. Within, it’s your perfect neighbourhood bistro – we noticed a couple of regulars chatting to staff about Christmas, new borns and village tittle tattle. We liked the unshowy white linen tables, chunky oak fireplace and terrace house-knock through aesthetic. A little cave, perhaps, but an awfully comfortable one.

The menu is reassuringly tight, too. A brief selection of starters, some table d’hôte recommendations and about half a dozen or so mains.

While mulling, we opted for the Sancerre (£27). It was disappointingly thin, and served with disappointingly shop-bought-tasting and warmed up baguette.

Starters, thankfully, were a delight. The Grande Ferme salad (£6.25) was packed with salty strips of crispy bacon, teasing nuggets of Roquefort (you’d expect decent Roquefort in Caveau, would you not?) and a zingy dressing. Same too for the Langoustines Provencal (£8.50). Juicy king prawns pan fried with garlic & tomato concasse, devoured in less time than it took to sizzle them into pinkness.

Mains were assured, with just a point knocked off for timing.

Pan fried saddle of venison (£21.50) was offered ‘quite pink’. We requested ‘medium’. What we got was, if anything ‘medium to well done’. Shame, as it was a fine chunk of Santa’s little helpers. The cream and venison jus, and redcurrant jelly were made for mopping up, but we have a thing about braised celery. Celery has two good states: crispy and raw, or soft and sweet. Sadly, this slightly braised celery was a little stuck between two stalks.

No complaints with our corn fed chicken breast filled with julienne of vegetables in a cream & white wine sauce (£14.95), it reminded us how much this poor creature is abused in the name of ready meals. Cooked with care, it’s a bird of beauty.

Now to the complaints – which, sadly, are all bundled up towards the end of the evening. We ordered the plate of French cheeses. And that, indeed is what we got. But which cheese? If you’re paying a tenner for a few slabs of fat, we think it’s good practice for our waiter to at least introduce us. Our knowledge of esoteric Normandy creameries isn’t what it was. And we could only vaguely have a stab at ‘brie’ and ‘erm, port salut?’.

Still, we were content, and happily asked for the bill. At this point, there were six diners and two waitresses. That’s a ratio usually only reserved for Virgin Upperclass and five star cruise liners. But, for whatever reason, it took us a further 20 minutes (and an awkward shuffle to the till to check if anyone was still there) to pay and leave.

Caveau, if you’re charging £100 for dinner and drinks for two people, service is as essential as the sourcing. In fact, if you’re really hoping to get repeat visits, it’s probably more important than that. We’ll forgive a lot around here if we leave with a smile. As it was, we left a little, erm, cheesed off. And that’s a shame, because you’re obviously better than that.


Allerton Road, Wooton

10 Responses to “Review: Caveau, Woolton”

  1. LiverpoolRR

    Firstly I’d add that you can’t get good bread in Liverpool, there isn’t a good bakery, restaurants need to be baking their own if they want good bread. However when it comes to bread I’m really very picky.

    As for the food, i find it very promising, looks like a great French bistro, something simple and elegant which is what we lack in Liverpool. I hope the service issues get ironed out, it something we are too tolerant of in Liverpool.

  2. Definitely sounds like it’s worth a visit, if the service can be improved.

    There’s a bar called Marble, in Manchester’s Northern quarter, where some of the staff are so enthusiastic about the cheese and meat they sell that you’d think they made it all themselves. It adds to the pleasure of eating if you feel the people serving you know what they are putting on the table, and can give you useful titbits of information about your choice. I learned that Epoisses is banned from all Paris Metro trains, as it stinks so much, and that Mimolette was Napoleon’s favourite cheese. While this might seem a bit silly and irrelevant it was nice that the guy took the time to learn about this stuff, and that he could be arsed passing it on to me. It only took a couple of seconds, but I appreciated the effort.

    I agree with the previous comment about Liverpool being somewhere bad service is tolerated too readily. I suspect it has something to do with the city’s working-class roots and local diners’ reluctance to take the side of the employer, not wishing to be seen as some kind of class traitor. Too many people equate complaining with getting their own back, rather than getting a problem solved, quietly, without causing a fuss.

    Nobody wants to get a waiter/chef/bartender in trouble if they can avoid it – and the English way is to avoid such things by smiling politely and leaving a very small tip, rather than having a quiet word with the offending member of staff. The result is that the proprietor doesn’t know there’s a problem, the staff member wonders why their customers are so tight, and the diner leaves with a bad taste in his or her mouth, often never to return.

  3. we do offer full tasting notes to all of the restaurants we supply along with training sessions for staff. Unfortunately they don’t all take us up on it as you experienced! hope the cheese was nice anyway, the roquefort is especially good we only sell the best Roquefort available which comes from the smallest producer! (oh and we never sell port salut)…

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