Blakes, Hard Days Night Hotel, Review

First Published December 2010

Situated in the Hard Days Night hotel, Blakes is a restaurant with a growing reputation, which has been further improved by being named best city centre restaurant for Liverpool in the Good Food Guide 2010.  Thus a few of us took our seats on a Saturday night, hoping that the coming meal would be up to expectations.

The decor of the restaurant is very clean, simple and relaxed, although the stripped wooden floors and hard surfaces do not mix well with Beatles background music. The result is a rather loud dining room, combined with chatter of guests, this made for an ambience that could have benefited from some quieting down. The service was very quick and friendly, we were greeted by a very bubbly waitress who happily took our coats and showed us to our seats. She and the other waiters/waitresses were just the right level of attentive without being fussy.

Two of the dishes we had for starters were slow braised pork belly and pumpkin panacotta. The pumpkin was an interesting dish, coming with a small pumpkin pie and blue cheese crème Fraiche and crispy sage. The panacotta itself was had a soft texture and delicate flavor, the pie has a tasty filling although I felt the pastry was too thick. Apart they were nice, although a cold creamy panacotta and warm pie didn’t work for me. The blue cheese crème fraiche was very pleasant and did not, as I feared, overpower the other elements of the dish.  The belly pork was agreeable, with crisp crackling and tender meat. The accompanying toffee apple although an interesting addition, was difficult to eat and didn’t add anything to the dish.

For mains I had the duck, that came with a seared duck breast, braised leg and a potato press made with comfit duck. This was a good dish, well put together with a very good sauce to accompany it. All the meat was well cooked, the braised duck leg being particularly nice, the breast however was pink and tender although lacked in the flavor department.  One of the other mains, the roasted cod was much more rustic and style and presentation, although at £19.50 that’s not was expected, the fish was tasty although skin on top a bit limp and could have benefited with some crisping up. The accompanying broth was hearty and very tasty although did not offer the refinement the price suggested. Other mains had by the party included the saddle of lamb that was very tasty if a touch too fatty. Sides orders of spinch were really nice, although chips where underdone, with the greatest sin of chip making, with a hard middle.

The dessert menu offering was a bit more run of the mill, the usual cheesecake, crème brulee and chocolate fondant resided on this menu. The trio of brulee was well flavoured although far too hard, almost like a soft chesse consistency, this along with the granular texture (I feel this pudding was over egged) resulted in a poor offering. The same could be said of the custard tart, granular and rubbery custard, although pastry and crisp and crumbly.

Blakes gets good marks for effort, dishes like the pumpkin pannacotta and pie for starters and the citrus braised pork belly for mains, show some creativity and willingness to try different things.  However, I feel there is a still some way to go in achieving the level of refinement the menu hints at. The cooking and food here is generally good, the pastry chef may need to up his game, but the prices are for a restaurant that is very good. So, although we enjoyed our meal, the restaurant needs to improve its food or reduces its prices.

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