Hanover Street, Liverpool
We’re with my parents, visiting the city they hail from: the legend that is Liverpool. We’ve been to Matthew Street (aka Memory Lane), taken photographs outside the Cavern, and listened to tales of how they used to go there in their school lunch hours to listen to the bands. Philip’s actually played here once, so he has his own stories to share, of being the lead singer with Hieronymus Bosch. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our morning, but now we’re hungry and it’s time for some lunch.
Mum’s booked us into Bistro Franc, because it’s central and she’s heard good things. When we arrive, though, we’re worried. The place looks fine, but the lunch menu seems suspiciously cheap. £11.90 for three courses? Really? What are we in for here?
Miraculously, we’re in for some decent scran: the low prices don’t correlate with low standards. Hurrah! And the service is friendly and unfussy, as chummily sarcastic as you’d expect from Scousers, but never intrusive and always well-judged.
None of us is drinking: it’s lunch time, two of us are driving and the others are keen to stick with tap water. But the wine list looks comprehensive enough; maybe we’ll give it a go another time.
To start, I have the brie and pine nut salad. It’s fresh, crunchy, and generously dotted with chunks of cheese. It would certainly benefit from a zingy dressing of some sort – a raspberry or pomegranate vinaigrette, maybe? – but it’s a pleasant way to begin my meal. Philip has the chicken liver paté, which is creamy and rich, served on toasted baguette.
We both have the pork belly roast for our main, which incurs a £3 surcharge. This seems eminently fair: the square of meat is perfectly cooked, all soft flesh and crispy, sticky skin. The accompanying Yorkshire (although I suspect it’s not home-made) is light and fluffy and serves us well. There are roast potatoes too, which are beautifully done, and the broccoli, red cabbage and carrots are spot on. (We don’t eat the new potatoes, because there’s too much food here, and something has to give.)
I don’t even try to resist the bread and butter pudding with custard; why would I? It’s luscious: sweet and chocolatey and comforting. Yum. Philip opts for the rather more refined blackberry and hazelnut tart: the base is crisp, and the filling zesty. A big dollop of Chantilly cream cuts through the sharp fruit, and he’s smiling as he clears his plate.
We’re not in a rush, so we linger over coffee and fresh mint tea; there’s a relaxed atmosphere here, and we’re happy to stay a while.
And the bill, when it comes, is £63. In total. For four of us. I don’t know how they do it. But I’m glad they do.