“What are you doing Tuesday night? We have booked you in for a birthday meal. Meet you in Liverpool One.” That was about the long and short of the text from my brother, The Count, which led to Red and me sitting and waiting (this is something people do a lot of when dealing with The Count) in the Pima Bar at the Hilton in Liverpool. A nice, well appointed bar with a strong theme of luxury and secrecy, particularly in the Wurlitzer-like booths, though the range of draft beers was limited. After several texts from The Count announcing his imminent arrival and listening to Red bemoan the fact that I had not managed to get tickets for the Gary Barlow concert, The Count, and his partner Yorkshire, spun through the revolving door.
We went straight through into The Exchange dining room which had the surreal feeling of a wedding marquee / cinema mash up. Plenty of space, well appointed tables and a giant screen showing a silent movie (a genuine case for which the abbreviation WTF was created). Things became a little clearer when looking at the menu as this was the Cinema Supper Club, though nobody seemed to be watching it, but at least it was a silent movie. I am not sure things would work so well with Rocky IV blaring away in the background (he does his own stunts you know).
Very courteous head waiter presented the two menu options: 2 Dine for £39 (usually £35 each) and the a la carte menu, both Mediterranean themed. Not wishing to push The Count’s generosity, Red and I opted for the former whilst the other two went big licks. Our choice started with a glass of bubbly each (The Count and Yorkshire instantly envious) and was a reasonable fixed 3 course choice. I went for the crispy calamari followed by the peri-peri chicken supreme, Red followed suit with the main, excluding any cream (long story involving IBS) and chose the rillettes of duck to start. Yorkshire went carb central with the bread selection and The Count had the carrot soup. The calamari were crisp and plentiful without being chewy. Red shared some of her rillettes of duck (a pate to you and me) which was delicious, though the two small pieces of bread were, as is so often the case, insufficient to carry the amount of duck. Luckily Yorkshire’s considerable bread selection was able to arrive and pick up any spare duck, like life rafts around the Costa Concordia. As for the soup, The Count’s opinion was “It’s lovely.”
The mains arrived amongst much business based discussion, though non of us seemed to be watching the Chaplin double bill flickering away on the wall. My peri-peri chicken was good: moist, well seasoned and perfectly accompanied by a cooling yoghurt. Sadly it was not the case for Red who felt hers to be heavily over seasoned, awash with pepper, I think she also suffered by opting not to have the yoghurt. Not content with the peasants version The Count commissioned the a la carte peri-peri which bizarrely came skewered, rather than as our whole breasted version, clearly that is what the extra cost gets you! His, as with mine, was well executed. All were accompanied by a flat mushroom and crispy, yet not overpowering, garlic chips. Yorkshire went for the lasagne. This proved to be plentiful and a decent effort at the old med classic with a dense tomato base and refreshingly light pasta sheets. Our guests pulled out of the running at this stage but, as part of our deal, Red and I galloped on to the desserts, not handicapped by additional costs. Red, as health conscious as ever, took the fresh fruit platter and limoncello sorbet. The sorbet was sharp enough to challenge the sweetness of the various fruits: water melon, strawberries, pineapple and melon (others may have been present). My less health driven mindset led me to the cheeseboard (is cheese not one of the 5 a day) which delivered a sizeable collection of Mediterranean cheeses with no surprises: blue, soft, goat and a mild med-ched (I just made that name up). Crackers were plentiful and enjoyable, though it is hard to get excited about crackers.
The end of the meal was made more enjoyable by being settled by The Count whilst I was powdering my nose and as we began our goodbyes all was well with the world. That was until they revealed they were off to see Gary Barlow and seemed surprised that we were not going. This set Red off again like a set of wind-up false teeth. Some wounds just never seem to heal even when I pointed out we had just had a meal and been to the cinema, well sort of!
Type: High end restaurant
- Service: 9/10 a real strength of the place
- Atmosphere: 7/10 no major complaints but the wedding marquee/cinema combo more concept than dining room
- Food: 8/10 marks lost for Red’s peppery chicken
- Value for money: 8/10 for the 2 dine for £39
- Overall: 8 Great service, well cooked food (mostly) and a film thrown in!
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: The Exchange at the Hilton