The Hope Street Quarter, or Cultural Quarter if you prefer, is hardly without places to eat these days, especially with the explosion of foodie places that cater for the pre-theatre at the nearby Everyman, Philharmonic and Unity.
In place of the enjoyable El Macho – which people who’ve eaten around the city for some years may remember as a kind of cheap and cheerful Mexican that used to be everywhere – now resides The Clove Hitch, a self-titled ‘bar and bistro’ that has a promising menu.
And what a superb location too; the area is thriving in terms of decent restaurants and there should be plenty of passing trade and hungry culture vultures.
First impressions are good, though it’s not especially clear where one should go. The bar is hidden away and there are four or five different rooms, including a conservatory; it’s not obvious what their function is.
However, the place looks simple and smart and The Clove Hitch also boasts one of Liverpool’s best-kept secrets; a wonderful enclosed beer garden that is perfect for eating and drinking, particularly in the summer.
A wide choice of bottled beers is encouraging too, including pale and session ales from the local Liverpool One brewery and some very decent wines, not least the house red cab sauv, which is as good as most house wines you’d find in a top end restaurant.
There are breakfasts available and weekdays present a very affordable gourmet burger with a beer for a tenner. Also incredibly attractive is an evening menu that offers two courses and a glass of house wine or beer for £13.95 and with some of the dishes on offer that’s incredibly generous.
The menu is straightforward but there’s little clue as to the overarching theme behind it. Dishes from all over the world feature, while most of the mains seem typically British – with steaks and rack of lamb and chicken breast – but there’s also a pasta and pizza section.
For starters you can have mussels or duck rolls or halloumi or asparagus – there’s certainly little cohesion here. We had the asparagus which, pleasingly, is from the nearby Claremont farm and is wrapped in parma ham and sits alongside a poached egg.
The asparagus is delicious and contrasts well with the salty ham and a poached egg is a well-judged accompaniment, although it’s not perfectly cooked. An exploded egg yolk on a plate with nothing to mop it up also presents a problem.
The halloumi coated in chilli and cumin was crisp, light and tasty but the leaves that came with it were coated in a thick honey and mustard dressing, which didn’t seem like an obvious choice.
A roasted Mediterranean vegetables dish, also with halloumi, is hearty and rustic; thankfully the veg are crisp and meaty, rather than slimy and oily.
Chicken and chorizo pappardelle is also a hefty dish, accompanied by red peppers and red onion. It’s tasty and plentiful but the pasta is rather overcooked and some darker, fattier chicken than the rather bland breast meat would have made far more sense.
But at £13.95 a head for starter and main plus a drink the meal presents enormously good value – and the menus during the week suggests the Clove Hitch is pitching its food and pricing well.
As with the decor and layout, there are elements of the food that would benefit from more finesse and thought, but Hope Street feels better for having The Clove Hitch there and those seeking an oasis in the city during the summer would be well advised to check the delightful courtyard.
Service was attentive and polite and there are lots of things that impressed us: some local food and drink sourcing; pricing; choice of beers and wines and the use of the building.
Indeed, the huge choice of beers and intriguing, laid-back surroundings suggest a refined drinking establishment that should be a must-visit for any ale and lager connoisseur.
We’ll resist the ‘hitch’ puns and note that there are areas for improvement, but the overriding impression is a strong enough for repeat visits, especially if we have a good summer.
The Clove Hitch