It’s always a struggle for us in work to decide upon a restaurant for our end of year celebration meal. Even restaurants that usually offer great service can flounder during the busy festive period.
After much discussion, we decided upon The Art School in Liverpool. Ever since it opened its doors, just over a year ago, I’ve been looking forward to dining there having heard great things.
Chef Paul Askew, former chef of The London Carriage Works and Hope Street Hotel, is well known in the North West for his use of local produce and seasonal ingredients. Rhug Estate Organic Farm and Claremont Farm are just two of the local suppliers to the restaurant.
Tucked away on Sugnall Street, it’s easy to miss the entrance as there’s no signage (look for the Georgian style front with a couple of white plant pots by the door). Set in the 1888 former home for destitute children, the Grade II listed building later became part of Liverpool’s art school, hence the name. The dining room, with its impressive glass atrium roof, was the studio where artists worked painting live models.
Upon entering we were greeted by a bowler-hatted doorman, who led us through to the impressive bar area where there was a roaring log fire waiting for us with a couple of comfortable armchairs. Possibly the cosiest of places to have a cocktail in the city.
Inside the restaurant, the dining area has both modern and period features. White linen tables are combined with bright red chairs. The walls are white and black slate with modern pieces of artwork. Although super stylish, the room has a relaxed atmosphere with diners able to look through a large window into the theatre of the kitchen to watch their meals being created.
Having ordered our food from the price fixe festive menu, we were each served an amuse-bouche (a French term, literally translated as "mouth amuser") - a miniature starter of cauliflower soup in a teacup, to you or I - which was poured from a teapot. A tasty surprise from the kitchen which set the tone for the rest of the evening.
We were then served some focaccia bread with fennel seeds teamed with a plate of creamy butter with sea salt and black pepper sprinkled on top.
My starter, twice baked soufflé of wild mushrooms and chestnuts, with thyme, truffle and a spinach and mustard cream sauce was delicious. So lovely that I attempted to recreate a similar dish at home on Christmas day.
For main, I chose a baked salsify with Parmesan-style crust, carrot and Tamarind puree and green olive tapenade. Again, this was really lovely despite the fact that I don’t usually like olives, but the ingredients shone through.
To end our evening we all shared a dessert plate of winter festive treats. Apple and cinnamon strudel, mini mince pies, white chocolate and orange delice all featured but by far the favourite was the dark chocolate and sea salt truffles. Absolutely divine.
Great food aside, the service at The Art School was probably the best that I’ve received in the city. Chefs de Rang, Katie and Luca, both provided exceptional service during our visit. Consummate professionals yet very personable and without the overbearing fussiness you can sometimes encounter.
The doorman collected our coats at the end of the evening while we inspected a wall of metal boxes with numbers on. We were told that these are members boxes which can be purchased by regular diners of the restaurant. Members have a personalised gift from the chefs waiting in the box for them on each visit. It also entitles the member to a discount whenever they dine at the restaurant, as well as access to the wine cellar.
The Art School is a great addition to Liverpool’s dining scene and I’m looking forward to returning soon.
Three courses from the Festive Price Fixe menu was £29.00 per person, not including drinks.