I’m meeting a friend in Liverpool One, its Thursday evening, and after working up an appetite doing some late night shopping we are looking for that rare combination of price, quality and interest. The Liverpool One Leisure Terrace, a parade of chain restaurants, offers little other than price, thus we head towards the bottom of Duke and Hanover Street.
Here an increasing number of restaurants are trying to do things differently, or at least separately, from the large hospitality chains. Salt House Tapas has had success with their modern tapas, so much so that their second venture, Hanover Street Social, has recently opened over the road. It is a modern, smart but also friendly brasserie, with a menu clearly influenced by European classics.
A classic brasserie, it sounds like a good idea; simple and fresh cooking using well know techniques and combinations. However, for me, it can be the most difficult to achieve, with such well known dishes a certain level of technique is expected, a lack of precision is far more glaringly obvious than with other cuisines.
It is this test that Hanover Street Social has to pass, not to produce new and interesting dishes, but prepare precise interpretations of classic food. It’s this test that it ultimately fails.
My starter of steamed mussels in a white wine, garlic and cream (£5.50) were soft and sweet, however the sauce had far too much cream, leaving cloying heaviness that overpowered the garlic and wine.
The crab cakes (£6.95 – pictured above) really needed more crab to carry any of their flavour past the other ingredients. Both the starters were nice, but simple and obvious adjustments could really have improved them.
A whole pan fried plaice with butter and brown shrimp (£15.00) was the essence of simplicity, but slightly overdone fish and shrimp that had been cooked until hard and rubbery left us longing for a lighter touch in the kitchen.
A pork fillet with ham, sage and mushroom rissoto (£12.50) was soft and perfectly cooked, the crispy ham and fragrant sage worked well with a tender cut of meat that is so easily overcooked. Unfortunately the risotto lacked any flavour; devoid of seasoning, it was chalky and bland.
Desserts again lacked the delicacy we desired. An Earl Grey creme brulee (£4.00) had such a thick layer of caramelised sugar, that it left sticky chunks stuck to my teeth. The custard part was sweet, soft and well made, but I failed to pick up any hint of earl grey.
A lemon and ginger polenta cake (£4.95) was soft, tasty and really very nice, so why layer it in hard set icing that requires GCSE woodwork skills to chisel from the surface? This was a nice slice of cake masquerading as a dessert.
None of these dishes were unpleasant, they were all nice and generally the more difficult aspects were accomplished with the required level of skill. Its hard to cook pork fillet that isn’t dry; making a creme brulee with appropriate texture can be tricky, but mostly the hard parts were done well and the simple elements were mishandled. The required accuracy of this cooking – how much crab to use, a pinch of salt, sprinkling of sugar or layer of icing – was lacking.
For the entire meal the service was excellent, just the right level of attentiveness and distance, one brief mention of the solid icing and the polenta cake was quickly removed from the bill without asking. A couple of friends who happened to be dining there as well has similar experience with their food not living up to the expectations.
Hanover Street Social has promise, the food shows certain skill in some areas of cooking yet a real lack of attention to detail in others. This is shame because a little care and attention could greatly improve this restaurant, however at the moment I see no reason to walk past its more established neighbours.
Hanover Street Social