Inspired by SevenStreets’ recent article Seven Bars We Miss and the trip down Memory Lane that ensued, I too am saddened by the loss of Liverpool’s older, established businesses that had a firm place in our hearts.
Disillusioned by the generic glitz that is L1 and stupefied by the fact that Chicken Bazooka has outlived many quality eateries, here are my top seven of restaurants that may no longer be with us, but have left an impression on my tastebuds.
Having opened in the late 60s, the GoldenPhoenix (pictured, top) was the most talked about Chinese restaurant in Liverpool. Despite smelling like a curious mixture of the neighbouring NCP and sweet and sour, diners kept going back for more, be it an unfeasibly large business lunch for a fiver, a midnight banquet to mop up the drinks consumed at the Old Monk or to avail of the ‘pensioners’ discount’.
The focal point was its Dessert Island in the middle of the restaurant- essentially a drained fountain with a load of cakes in. Sadly, it was demolished in 2007 to make way for the new, characterless Liverpool.
Considered a posh-yet-accessible Mexican by many a 1990s student, El Macho was the place to eat when there was someone to impress, had someone visiting from out of town or wanted to celebrate the end of term.
Its USP was the fact that despite being in an old Georgian house, it managed to pull of the Mexican vibe in a non-contrived way with fake bulletholes in the walls and retro film posters.
Diners could choose between sitting in the palm-filled conservatory or in a cosier, intimate upstairs room. Up until its 2010 closure, the prices were the same as 1999, making this once pricey joint a relative bargain.
Famous for claiming it had ‘the best garlic bread in Liverpool’, Buca’s (as it was fondly known) offered warm Italian hospitality with a Scouse twist. Located in a basement, the smells of oregano wafted up the stairs, enticing you into its checked tableclothed lair.
Besides its garlic bread, its Minestrone at £1.50 was a bestseller and their hot drinks were always served with a Flake- truly la dolce vita.
The icing on the cake was the décor- souvenir tack that made the place look like a shrine to Del Boy’s flat.
Yes, I realise it has been reincarnated in Bold Street, but the Renshaw Street branch will forever be in my heart. Back in 1999, I had a crush on a different member of their Mediterranean/ Middle Eastern staff every week and made contrived jokes that they were the ‘dishes of the day’.
Word of mouth spread that if it was your birthday, they would give you an extra large ice cream with sparklers – I had a birthday every month and nobody twigged.
Uncle Sam’s focal point was its fishpond consisting of some hungry looking koi carp struggling in three inches of water – and urban myth has it that a sozzled lady fell into it.
The owners of the Kebab House were wise and catered for all markets – the ground floor was strictly for solo diners, romantic couples and businessmen, basement was a cacophony of ouzo-fuelled hen parties and international students.
Their food didn’t have the quality of Zorba’s or the selection of Eureka, but the atmosphere in here came by the bucketload.
The live bouzouki music by three blokes who looked like extras from My Big Fat Greek Wedding interspersed with cheesy choons a la Boney M, coupled with the opportunity to throw a few plates around made this a smashing night out, no pun intended.
Older foodies will know this place as part of the defunct Berni Inn chain which became an independent steak house in the nineties until its closure in 2004.
The Albany had a prime location in the business district but its sphere of influence widened once people heard about its £8 three-course evening meals.
Its iconic green Chesterfields between the loos and the bar area were so comfortable, it was easy to fall asleep while waiting to be seated.
Featuring retro faves like prawn cocktail, steak Diane and black forest gateau, the Albany united all those who wanted a break from spicy foreign food but were dissatisfied by the small portions pub grub offered.
Despite gaining infamy on Sky 1’s UK Border Force for employing illegals, Asha was Liverpool’s oldest Indian restaurant and its owner credited himself with introducing Liverpudlians to then-alien concepts of aubergine and coriander.
Asha fulfilled all the requisites a proper curry house should have: Sticky, chintzy carpet? Check. Booths? Check. Twangy music? Check. Since its demise, the mantle of Liverpool’s oldest curry house has been passed to the U.n.I in Renshaw St.
That trip down Memory Lane has left me hungry. Hungry to hear about your most-missed restaurants.
If you happen to know the whereabouts of Dessert Island, the band from the Kebab House or know what charity shop is selling the green Chesterfield, please get in touch.
You can read more from Vindaloo Queen at her brilliant blog
Main image by EvilElliot, Flickr