THERE is a north/south divide in Greater Liverpool, and, like the pecieved national one, it's grimmer up north. Hold on, don't get excited. I'm not talking about the standard of schools or services, the properties, the people, or even the pubs or bars. It's the restaurants, and it's vexing.
From the Bacchus Taverna beyond, there is little of note until you hit Formby. Why should this be?
One of the booths
is big enough to discreetly seat 11. Just the ticket
when Daniel comes
in with the squad.
And they do all eat here regularly
Sure, South Road has often been dubbed “the Lark Lane of the North” by people with little understanding of either. The two are, in almost every sense, poles apart.
Indeed, where I live, we do well for Waterloo sunsets and iron men, but a bit of passionate cooking seems to have largely eluded us. Life's a beach.
So yes, the great suburban restaurant is the only thing that our end lacks, and L17 and L18 have more than their fair share of them. Oh, and the deep south does better for trees too.
Where to go, then? Into town? Even Lark Lane, though packed with places to eat, has not really had what you would call a “destination restaurant” since the unfortunate demise of L'Alouette.
People living in Aigburth, with their comparative culinary riches, have still been hailing taxis into the the city centre and back for something different.
Therefore, the newest outing on the Lane, owned by a footballer and a property developer and his neighbour, was going to have to give a very convincing account of itself to make up the deficit.
Amazingly, Tirano does do just that.
Daniel Agger is the Anfield footballer, a hero to his Denmark countrymen who come over in their droves on package trips which include dinner in the company of great Dane Dan and a bottle or two of Probably The Best Lager In The World.
They were full when I tried to book last weekend, so we walked past and got lucky, with the ever-cheery Jon Gard on front of house finding room. And very nice room too. Upstairs, where it's all black velvet plush booths. In fact one of them is big enough to discreetly seat 11. Just the ticket when Daniel comes in with the squad. And they do all eat here regularly.
It's a bigg-ish menu of pizzas, pastas, tapas, risotto, fish and meat. Not so big that you wonder where the Brakes van is lurking (with its myriad catering packs that restaurants frequently pass off as home made food).
It is a menu not unlike the ever reliable Piccolino, in fact.
Interesting, then, to hear that Tirano has just nicked two of the chefs from there: a Frenchman, Alain Boldo, and an Albanian chap, who, incidentally, make the best benchmark mushroom risotto (£8.50) that anyone in need of emotional comfort will ever need. Do you put a lot of garlic in that, I asked the chef earlier this week. He stared at me like I was a lunatic. The riches came from porcini stock, I was told.
Gamberoni all'Aglio (£6.50), six very succulent and good sized garlicky prawns on toasted ciabatta, saw the bread full of the flavours of the busy
kitchen griddle, and all the better for it. Calamari Fritti (£5.50) came a tad to late to the table for the batter to still be blistering, but had at least been cooked with due care and attention at the time not to have rubberised the squid.
An extensive wine list is divided up by grape rather than region and there is a big wine store where punters are invited to go look at the labels for themselves before they buy – a bit like a mini Oddbins in the corner.
As a salute to the chap who was to win Euro 2008 for the Spanish the next night, we cracked open a bottle of Torres Fransola (£26.95) a Spanish sauvignon blanc grape grown in Penedes and given its dry edge from the Atlantic sea breeze. One day, Waterloo...
Petto d'Anatra al Forno, roasted duck leg (£14.95 and the next most expensive item on the menu) was short on fat, big on meat. Its quacking companion was a bed of roasted fennel in a Rioja and plum jus which worked well indeed, with some saute potatoes here and there to mop it up. A massive insalata mista (£2.50) was suitably leafy and varied, thrown together with ripe tomatoes to create a vine romance.
A large baked fillet of seabass (£11.95) had been scored and seared, skinside, to crispy effect, a bed of mixed greens in a basil oil dressing. It's farmed, you can't have everything, but they've made a creditable effort make up for it in texture and an unfussy accompaniment, and it's the most popular item on the menu.
A light and very tasty tiramisu (£4.75), ticked all the flavour boxes and bathed in a generous pool of double cream; a poached William pear was warm and gorgeous, only outshone by the rhubarb and star anise reduction made that day.. A chocolate tart with a homemade raspberry coulis and white choc ice cream was equally good and a Monbazillac Chateau La Gironie dessert wine lent itself not badly at all.
Service here was slightly chaotic, but still attentive, and all part of the fun, and my ex-bartender chum took great pleasure in teaching our young waitress the art of using a lever corkscrew. A waiter's mate indeed.
In all, a bit of a revelation. “We want people around here to realise that they don't have to go into town to get a really good dining experience,” says Jon.
Yes, but what about me, Jamie Carragher, Stevie G and all us others who live oop north?
Anyone got Delta's number, lads?
|Breakdown:|| 7.5/10 Food |
|Address:|| Tirano |
52 Lark Lane
0151 726 7072
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