Hanover Street

Bistro Franc


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.

4.1 stars

Susan Singfield

Grand Cru


Hanover Street, Edinburgh

It’s that rare beast: a Saturday where we have nothing particular planned, and a yearning to play out. Just as we’re wondering what direction our day will take, an email pops up, informing us that Grand Cru’s special lunch costs only £8.95 for two courses. Can this be true? We google the menu and it looks pretty impressive; the trip advisor reviews are decent too.

So we decide to head there for a late-ish lunch. And we’re really glad we do. Because, for the price, this is mighty fine.

There’s a friendly, informal atmosphere: a long bar and lots of nooks and crannies. We’re seated in the main area, and it’s buzzing – but even though it’s busy, we’re not too close to other diners and have plenty of room.

Philip begins with a caprese salad of mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado. It’s a generous portion, and the balsamic vinegar it’s topped with is as thick and sticky as can be. Delish! I have mussels in tomato sauce, which are served with a slice of warm, home-made bread. The mussels are perfect: big and soft and so plentiful I have to ask Philip to help me finish them. He’s more than happy to oblige, especially as the tomato sauce they’re in is rich and deeply satisfying. We’re off to a great start!

For his main, Philip opts for classic fish and chips – or, more accurately, angel cut Scottish haddock, cooked in home-made beer batter and served with chips and garden peas. The batter is hot and crispy; the fish perfectly cooked. The chips – often the weak point on a cheap menu like this – are lovely: clearly fresh rather than frozen, exactly as they need to be.

My beetroot and blue cheese risotto is a bit more unusual, but it’s really interesting and I enjoy it immensely. The flavours are strong and it’s very filling; we definitely don’t need the side of mac’n’cheese we’ve ordered to share, which matches nothing else on our plates, but we can’t resist (we never can say no when mac’n’cheese is on offer). It’s tasty and indulgent but quite unnecessary. Oh well.

We’re delighted to see a Willows End New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on the menu for a mere £22 and, after polishing it off, decide we’re too full to even think about pudding.

We’re sated; we’re happy; we’ve had a lovely time. And the bill comes in at £43. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be back again.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield



Henderson’s Salad Table Restaurant



Hanover Street, Edinburgh

Henderson’s is a bit of an Edinburgh institution, with several outlets across the city, including a shop and deli, and a vegan restaurant (on Thistle Street). Today we’re visiting the Salad Table Restaurant on Hanover Street, where the vegetarian and vegan menu also has a number of gluten-free options, which is a necessary requirement for the friends we’re with.

It’s easy to see how this place has earned its reputation; it’s a bright, cheery, self-service cafeteria, and absolutely everything looks delicious. It’s hard to choose.

Philip and I both opt for the vegetable quiche, served with a mixed leaf salad and coleslaw. We can’t resist adding a couple of extras: a beetroot and olive salad that is very flavoursome indeed, and a quinoa concoction that, while perfectly nicely dressed, just can’t escape the worthy dullness that seems synonymous with its main ingredient. But it’s the only thing we don’t enjoy.

Our friend samples the vegan pizza and declares it’s “lovely.” She’s most impressed though by the fruity vegan coleslaw, which tastes just as good as it looks. Her son tries the chickpea curry; he’s eight, so he doesn’t have a lot to say about it, but he eats a decent portion and concedes that it is “nice.”

Overall, we’re really delighted to add another excellent establishment to our ‘list of places we enjoy eating in Edinburgh.’ At £10-£15 per head, this isn’t especially cheap, but the quality of the food is undeniable, and it’s definitely worth it.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield