Throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries, industry in Liverpool flourished, it even became the world leader for cotton production. Today, the city has plenty of buildings which have been renovated from former factories to give them a new lease of life.
One such building is The Annex on Hope Street, which is now home to The Pen Factory. The restaurant’s name is a nod to when The Lang Pen Company produced fountain pens in the building.
A huge, sliding iron door in the foyer leads you into the basement where the restaurant is located. Everything inside appears to have been recycled or reclaimed. Bare brickwork, exposed metal piping, old church-hall chairs and a wood burning stove retain the industrial feel. Yet, it still manages to provide a warm, laid back atmosphere which makes it a lovely dining space.
The menu is primarily European in style, seasonal small plates and tapas style dishes are served throughout the day and into the evening. Everything is cooked fresh in an open plan kitchen and the plates arrive at the table as and when they’re cooked.
To accompany the food, the bar serves a wide range of drinks, an extensive wine selection and a bespoke seasonal cocktail list. There is a lovely terraced garden to enjoy drinks outside in the sun.
We visited last Saturday and ordered a selection from the small plate menu to share.
Baked Camembert served with Red Onion Marmalade & Sourdough bread (£8.00). Look at that gooey goodness.
Patatas Bravas (£4.95)
Spanish Chip Butty served with a fried egg on top (£5.95)
Asparagus, Pea & Wild Garlic Risotto (£5.95)
Leek & Manchego Arancini with Pesto (£5.95)
King Prawns in Garlic Chilli and Lime Butter (£6.20)
Chicken Thigh with Chorizo, Potatoes & Aioli (£6.20)
My favourite of the veggie options was the Arancini which was creamy and beautiful. Least favourite was probably the chip butty as the bread was a little soggy from the sauce, still, it was very tasty and I liked that it was served with an egg on top.
As we paid our bill the restaurant manager, Hannah, told us about the history of the building, explaining that it was also used to manufacture the radiators for spitfires and that when it was renovated lots of gold nibs from the fountain pens were found under the floorboards. She took us outside to show us an old advert for The Lang Pen Company which hangs pride of place in the foyer, a little reminder of the inspiration behind the restaurant today.
I love it when a bar or restaurant has a story about how it came to be and I’ve since discovered that our family has a personal connection to this particular building. When I told my mum about our visit, she recalled that her two aunties had worked in the factory as young women making the fountain pens.