LIVERPOOL… so much more than just The Beatles

There are many reasons to visit the bustling, vibrant and very wet city of Liverpool; to follow in the footsteps of the ‘fab four’, take a walk down Penny Lane, cross Abbey Road or saunter through Strawberry Fields. Football fans flock to Anfield to stand on hallowed ground where heroes such as Kenny Dalglish and Steven Gerrard have made history. I however, traipsed up North to the land of Brookside, shell suits and curly perms to visit my two eldest who have both chosen to study in the shadow of the Liver bird. And so it is that I come to be squelching my way around the sights in the pouring rain and uncover, much to my surprise and delight ‘Liverpool, city of fab food!’ Now, it’s true that when it comes to food, I have a nose like a bloodhound and can sniff out yumminess a mile off but, here, when I least expected it, my senses went into overdrive! Let’s start at The Albert Dock, where swanky restaurants and vintage eateries co-exist harmoniously, making it easy to find the perfect eatery for you, whatever your taste. Rosa’s Thai cafe brings the taste of Northern Thailand to the North of England (if you like Thai food and enjoy cooking, one of her cook books is a MUST). The eye-catching Red Bus Cafe adds a splash of colour to the otherwise grey palette of the docks, we didn’t eat here so can’t comment on the food, but the bus certainly made us smile!

A resplendent red bus brightens up the dull day!

We went from the docks to the Baltic market ( 10 minutes away and were SO glad we did… Liverpool’s first street food market is situated on Stanhope Street and is a cool, warehouse type place, it’s all indoor, so perfect for this oh so rainy city. Independent traders peddle their culinary wares from every corner of the globe in ‘stalls’ around the periphery and long, trestle type tables mean you can sit, chill and sample whatever takes your fancy. There’s a stage for live music, a couple of cool bars and I imagine this place truly comes alive at night. I am not exaggerating when I say that everything looked and smelled sublime, difficult to choose, but, choose we did and we were not disappointed; pillowy bao buns split open and filled with crispy chilli beef, sweet, sticky sauce and hoisin glaze were lip-smackingly scrumptious and brought to us by Little Bao Boy. My husband drifted off somewhere else as he ate his bun, eyes closed, head tipped slightly back and a guttural ‘mmm’ sound emitting from somewhere deep inside him! If he was ever going to ‘cheat’ on the enforced diet he’s been on for the last few weeks, there could surely be no better way to do it, he later proclaimed!

Next on the list were kebabs, Middle Eastern street food by way of Hafla Hafla. We chose a chicken kebab, topped with candy pink pickled onions and garlic yoghurt and a halloumi shawarma (in homage to my vegetarian daughter who could single-handedly put pay to the theory that ‘man/woman cannot live on halloumi alone’) The halloumi was marinated in harissa and topped with roasted peppers, lime yoghurt and crispy onions. Both were delicious, the Arabic flatbreads were fresh, chewy and tasted ever so slightly charred, the toppings were both yummy… only comment would be that they could have been a little more generous, then again, I am greedy!

Hafla Hafla kebabs

Finally, my youngest boys persuaded us to buy them a pizza to share. Rarely can we go anywhere and them NOT eat pizza! They may only be 13 and 14 but, if experience is anything to go by, these guys are experts when it comes to one of Italy’s greatest exports and they declared the Little Furnace’s wood fired pizza, ‘AMAZING’- praise indeed from these young aficionados!

50/50 pizza, half Margherita, half cheesy garlic bread

So, you’d be forgiven for thinking that we might have had enough to eat by now… but no, we had no choice but to pack as much food as we could into our whistle stop tour of the city! Our eldest son has always had an uncomplicated palate, let’s just say that student life suits him; a dab hand with a kettle, he can conjure up a pot noodle in the blink of an eye, at ease with a microwave, he’s a dab hand with a Rustlers burger, so when he insisted we go to his favourite burger joint, it’s fair to say we were prepared to manage our expectations! Frost Burgers in Liverpool is unashamedly small and ‘basic’. There are only a few tables, the decor is bright an the unforgiving lighting lends to the ‘fast food’ feel of the place. Don’t be fooled. Don’t walk out because you’re not sure if you ‘like the look of this place’. It is all about the food (though the graffiti style art adorning the walls is pretty cool!) I hesitate to even mention the word vegan, I hear you sighing, scrolling on in search of the next meat based offering, but please… come back… I PROMISE you won’t be disappointed. The menu reads like any other burger joint, Cheezburger, Double Trouble, G Mayo chicken, you can have a meal deal with fries and a carbonated drink or pay extra for the legendary Frost Shake. We ordered a selection of meals and waited in anticipation. The food took forty minutes to arrive, we were warned and the place was rammed. When it came, we descended on it like a pack of hungry wolves and WOW!! What can I say? The burgers were juicy, packed full of accompaniments, yummy sauces, oozy ‘cheese’ and ‘bacon’ crispy, smokey and meat free. The fries were hot, fresh, salty and delicious and even the vegan Karma cola (that my son had said not to have because it’s ‘weird’!) was lovely! Does it taste like meat? No. Does it taste like plants? No. Does it feel like a ‘compromise’? Absolutely not. Vegan food used to be all about lentils, hemp and suffering in the name of animal friendly… not any more. Frost Burgers epitomises everything that is great about modern, plant based cuisine. I urge you to go, cast aside your preconceptions and embrace ‘junk’ food at its best… you’d be a fool not to.

And so, for now, we bid a fond farewell to this city and our two eldest (and Soph and Louis!) We leave heavier, happier and hungry to return. Liverpool, until next time, it’s been a blast!