After a short twitter conversation with Paul, the owner manager of Schmooze, I visited for a light lunch yesterday afternoon. I’d been in Schmooze a couple of times before but that was several years ago, I can’t say I was overly impressed back then, the food was fine but it was no different and no better than many other places. Having been around for 8 years, Schmooze was one of the first bistro/wine bar establishments in the city, its now, however, a well trodden path. I was pleased to hear earlier this year that some redesigning work had gone beyond the physical, with a new menu and culinary direction adopted by the kitchen. The current menu is based on Cicchetti, a kind of Italian tapas, although Paul insists that isn’t a fair description. What is on offer is small plates of Italian food, some with a venetian theme and others more broadly italian.
I was pleased to see a braised calamari dish (£5.00), something that is a rarity on most menus, with cavolo nero cabbage. It was a rich stew of tomatoes, cabbage and tender calamari, I hadn’t had braised calamari before and was pleased with its texture and flavour. This was a really comforting dish, with a gentle chilli warmth permeating each mouthful, I could imagine eating a bucket load of this on a cold winters day. The cuttlefish and ink risotto (£5.80) had pleasingly large and chewy chunks of cuttle fish that carried good flavour, with the ink adding a deep salty rich flavour of the sea.
An accompanying dish of beetroot and rocket salad, had a pleasing sharp dressing, but could have benefited from more beetroot and less rocket. Large warm hunks of focaccia were soft and fragrant with rosemary, and were great at mopping up olive oil and balsamic. A final flourish of vanilla gelato floating in a glass of espresso was a real delight, Italian simplicity at its best.
Paul and his head chef Stuart, were very enthusiastic about what they do, and clearly have passion for a dinning concept that, at least within the confines of Liverpool, is original. Schmooze is more than just a restaurant, its also a wine bar with an extensive wine list. It is a venue that can take on several guises depending on what you’re looking for, be it a drink with a few mates, after work nibbles and drinks or a meal out with friends and family.