For many different reasons, Red and I have been keen for a successful bar and restaurant to be established on Coronation Road, not least because it is on our doorstep. First we had Albion, and following a ridiculous example of belligerence from Terence Conran, presumably worried people might mistake his London restaurant with Coronation Road, it became Albina and then ’55. One thing all of these had in common, was excellent food. In late Spring 2017, the latest reincarnation was Hampsons, and we all watched and waited with baited breath. In fact Red and I visited and ate in the early days, and it honestly wasn’t great, sadly. However, a year later and, with owner John and his partner more experienced and wiser in the business, we tried again.
It would be fair to say there have been changes and serious improvements since our last visit. The bar and dining room itself, is great with a range of high stool tables, booths and more traditional dining tables. Additional toilets have been added upstairs (let’s face it, nobody likes cross-gender toilets – some things and some smells should be kept very gender specific!) and the levels of service have improved both through increased numbers of staff, but also their own ‘in-house’ training which appears to be working very well. John, the owner, has also recruited a new kitchen team of Craig Sallery and Adam McCabe, with over 25 years experience in quality Liverpool kitchens. And so encouraged after a drink there the week before and seeing the new look menu, Red and I thought it was worth testing the water again.
Our romantic dinner was cramped slightly by Fidget, our eldest, having started his first day of work experience at a mechanical engineers in Manchester, deciding we would benefit from his company. So the background music throughout the meal was Fidget describing every detail of (yawn)..,his first (yawn)….day (zzzzzz).
Anyway we arrived and were greeted by John, the owner, who was on his day off but obviously just can’t stay away! We were quickly seated and offered drinks. Much has changed since the Albina days but one remnant is the draft Krombacher, a serious German draught pils – a fresh and strong delight. Red had her customary lime and soda and, in between details of how Fidget changed trains at Liverpool South Parkway and how busy the 7.07 from Blundellsands and Crosby was, he had lemonade.
The new menu is extensive and, as well as the tapas offer, there are large plates, a Brunch menu and a separate Sunday Roast menu. I opted for Thai lemongrass, garlic and chilli prawns served with crusty bread, salt and pepper chicken wings and a portion of halloumi fries with sweet chilli and garlic mayo. Red chose the meatballs marinara in a fresh tomato, basil and garlic sauce with parmesan cheese, patatas bravas and the salt baked beets, pickled shallots and heritage tomatoes. Whilst, the newest addition to the working classes, decided to splash out with his parents’ money and went for the Jamaican jerk chicken, rice, peas and barbecue grilled pineapple from the large plates.
We then began to play the game of Tapas Roulette, let me explain. As with tapas, the meals came at different points which adds a mild element of peril to the meal. You don’t really want your best dishes coming out too soon, as the rest of the group seem to feel everything is fair game and their forks jump around from one plate to another more than contestants on Love Island jump between partners and beds (a bit of youf culture der bro – Ok I promise not to do that again). At the same time you don’t want to go hungry and, if yours are all last out, you can be left looking at the rest of your party wolfing their meal whilst you and your fork display heroic self-control and, like Georgia, keep telling yourself “I’m loyal babes”. Or, worst case scenario, and I have been both the victim and the offender here, you wait patiently, only to discover your favourite dish has come out, was placed down the far end and is now only a distant stain on the shirt of one of your fellow diners!
By now, Fidget was describing the complexities of his tea break but we were saved by the arrival of the food. The halloumi fries were crispy, salty and avoided that oiliness that some can have. The accompanying chilli mayo was also very good, not overbearing and went well. The Thai lemongrass, garlic and chilli prawns were very addictive. They had a nice kick to them and the garlic was strong, but that is very much to my liking. The best part, however, was how well they were cooked: a simple thing I know but all too often restaurants play safe and they are overcooked – not here, plump, moist and delicious.
Next to arrive in the Tapas Roulette was the salt and pepper chicken wings (you will notice these were all my meals, which Fidget was very keen to try). I have said many times you could cover anything in salt and pepper and I would eat it and these were no exception: crispy, salty, not overcooked and just moreish. And, as they were wings, we had that traditional moment where Red suggests I have finished eating them as I return to the bones for the 4th time. Like a sullen Kim Jung-Un, I was tempted to risk her international sanctions and return for a fifth nibble but sensibly heeded the words of my friend Moly about ‘woman management’ (for those interested, Moly can often be found in several local drinking establishments and will freely dispense advice and guidance on a variety of topics ranging from woman management to betting tips, cruises and any other topic you wish – all based upon his ‘4 wall’ principle).
Some of Red’s dishes started to arrive. The meatballs marinara were well constructed and not overly dense and the sauce was both sweet and spicy, whilst the patatas bravas were very good: half new potatoes, well cooked and in a sauce with just the right amount of kick and an indulgent dollop of garlic mayo. Fidget’s large plate also arrived but I was unable to get a photo before he tucked in, but on the plus side it stopped him telling us about the plans for the air extraction system that he was looking at on his work experience. After a short wait, it became clear that Red’s final dish, the salt baked beets, had been missed off, many of you will know my views on vegetarian dishes and so I was unperturbed, a small oversight which was quickly rectified by the owner. These, according to Red, were simple and tasty though she questioned whether the tomatoes were heritage or not. This was not something I could answer but it did get me to thinking what an incredibly dull episode of “Who Do You Think You Are” that would be for tomatoes, though probably more interesting than Fidget’s “The Day I Started Work”!
Hampsons has really come on with its menu and, more importantly, the quality of its food. It may still have a way to go to match Albina at its zenith but these were really good plates of food, served well in a very pleasant environment and at a decent price. If I was nit-picking, one or two of the portions could possibly have been bigger, but then I am greedy. I would certainly encourage you to consider here, along with some of the other great local restaurants Crosby has, rather than journey into Liverpool. If we support these quality local businesses then, not only do they survive, but they make our town a better and more enjoyable place to live.
Type: family / budget restaurant
Service: 8.5/10 Very good, less 0.5 for the beets.
Atmosphere: 8/10 to be fair we attended on a Monday night. Other times very busy and good atmosphere.
Food: 9/10 the young hairy bikers did well!
Value for money: 9/10 – £44 for the 3 of us (including current 20% offer)
Overall: 8.75 A big improvement on last time we visited. New chefs, new menu and definitely worth a visit.
These are judged against the best of that type of restaurant. For example cafes against what you would expect from the best cafes, high end restaurants against the best high end restaurants etc.
Website: None but facebook page is at Hampsons