AS I get older I tend to latch on to stories like 50 is the new 40 and 40 is the new 30 like a looter clutching a 42inch plasma TV.
At the weekend I fear I admitted defeat and embraced middle age as I bought my first coat for purely practical rather than fashionable reasons. It is waterproof, lightweight, has a hood and is very, very sensible. Perfect for camping and weekend walks. How depressing!
Another sign of encroaching years is the tendency to stay local rather than venturing out to the city centre at the weekend. Luckily, local for me is Allerton Road in south Liverpool which has an abundance of bars and restaurants to choose from.
To recover from the trauma of the coat purchase my husband and I went for a meal to Spire in Church Road, just off Allerton Road and a stone’s throw from Penny Lane. This used to be the site of one of my favourite restaurants many years ago, The Left Bank , which after a couple of reincarnations became Spire in 2006 and is run by brothers Adam and Matt Locke, the latter in charge of the kitchen and a former head chef of the London Carriage Works in Hope Street.
I had been meaning to visit Spire for quite a while, especially since I kept hearing about it winning awards. It was highlighted for praise in this year’s Michelin guide and voted a regional winner in the prestigious The Good Food Guide Restaurant of the Year Awards 2011, as voted by customers. Certainly a promising pedigree.
It’s a smallish restaurant with a wrought iron staircase leading to an upper floor but it doesn’t feel cramped with its unfussy decor, exposed brick walls, wooden floor and light wood tables.
As you would expect from a restaurant that has already garnered such praise it was busy on the Saturday night we were there with most of the tables full even in these tough economic times and with a menu and prices reflecting quality dining.
There was a mix of diners from a family birthday party; girlfriends out celebrating to couples enjoying a romantic meal. There’s nothing stuffy about Spire, it’s relaxed but I was glad I’d dressed up a bit and left the new jacket at home – most of the female clientele were quite glammed up.
Practically everything on the menu sounded delicious so we did take a bit of time to decide on what to have. Choosing the wine was easiest – my husband only likes white so we shared a Soldiers Block Chardonnay, £16.95, from a comprehensive and decently priced wine list.
There were eight starters to choose from, ranging in price from £4.50 to £8.95, and eight mains. Although I was tempted by the diver scallops with pea and lettuce, shrimp butter and micro celery, I opted for the interesting sounding trio of fish (£7.25). It proved to be a good choice. Perched elegantly on a long, wide plate was a beautiful piece of baked salmon with a beetroot and horseradish sauce; a few slices of smoked salmon perfectly complemented by a sweet mango sauce and diced avocado plus a tian of filey crab with aruga caviar sprinkled on top. Certainly something different and a really light and tasty starter – perfect in fact.
My husband had the chicken liver parfait with date, celery and apple salad with toasted brioche (£7.45). He said the parfait was packed with flavour and deliciously creamy and just right with the sweet brioche.
Main courses on offer, priced from £13 to £20, all sounded tempting from the beef bourguignon to the roasted monkfish with a light garlic and chorizo veloute.
I decided on the Cumbria sirloin of beef (£19.95) and asked for it to be cooked medium. It came suitably pink and melt in the mouth – a large, beautiful piece of beef. This dish doesn’t need anything to detract from the main attraction and the balance was just right with some chunky chips, a small pot of horseradish mayonnaise, grilled tomato and sauteed mushrooms. Simple but perfectly done.
My husband’s pan fried sea bass (£15.50) with new season spinach, mangetout, peas and carrots in a fish sauce was also a hit with its fleshy, tasty fish and delicate sauce. As all marriages rely on a bit of give and take I gave him half of my chunky chips – and he took them.
So far Spire had certainly lived up to its reputation and dessert didn’t let it down. I was too full for pudding but stole a few spoonfuls of my husband’s raspberry and vanilla cheesecake (£6.25). This had a lovely, thin biscuity base with an absolutely gorgeous creamy filling. It was served with a refreshing yoghurt and elderflower sorbet rather than cream which stopped it being too sickly sweet.
Our meal, with a bottle of wine and two coffees, came to £74 which I didn’t think was too bad especially given the quality of the food.
Spire is certainly a gem of a local restaurant and the home of my former favourite restaurant is now home to my new favourite.
Being middle aged never tasted so good!