Polenta-Gate at The Quarter

So a week ago, my mother came to visit us for the weekend. I was working on the Saturday and she had a catering job on the Saturday afternoon so she arrived at about 9pm on the windiest and wettest night in Liverpool to that point! With the lateness of the evening in mind, Ant and I had booked a table at The Quarter on Falkner Street. Not only is it a throw of a stone from my house but also often willing to accept tables fairly late into the evening.

The Quarter is about as crucial to my history of Liverpool as the Asda on Smithdown Road. From the second I started working at The Philharmonic on Hope Street, The Quarter became my home from home and the place I probably spent the largest amount of my time in. At one point, Samantha and I barely made it through a week without going for a cake and a coffee or a quick lunch on Mondays after we had been paid. It’s a real local restaurant, always the same faces and the staff are as familiar as family. They recently, well a year ago, had a massive refurb where they added on the deli on the right hand side. At the time, I cynically thought this would take away from what made the place great but it hasn’t, in fact I would go so far as to say it has bettered it. It seems to have cohesively linked it all together and now it’s even more of a corner shop to the Georgian Quarter natives.

And that is presumably what it is named after, the streets of cobbled Georgian Quarter make for fascinating lunch time watching and sitting outside with a glass of wine on a summer evening is as enticing as their lemon meringue pie, which more of later. So with Mum footing the bill, always exciting, and the wind howling around the house, we set off with umbrellas hoisted for a late supper.

The Quarter has a great standard menu of pastas and pizzas and light appetisers but it’s the specials board that always really captures my attention. This has changed a little from the days of yore and now encompasses much of interesting and foreign extraction. The standard menu seems to be about £7 on average for a main and £4 for a starter. The drinks menu is extensive and varied with a great selection of soft drinks, some of the best coffee in Liverpool, some amazing beers made locally and a great, inexpensive wine list.

Mum and I ordered a glass of Sauv B and Pinot Grigio each and Ant, a coke. We spent a long time deliberating the menu and finally ordered knowing we needed to save a space for the AMAZING cake fridge!

For starters, Mum had a huge chicken caesar salad, Ant had a smoked salmon and bean dip with hot bread and I had bresaola with radishes and watercress. Mum’s salad was enormous and full of huge chunks of delicious chicken, plenty of dressing and nice pieces of thin bacon; a perfect caesar and they’re not always easy to perfect. Ant’s dip was delicious, I had to try some obviously as a committed blogger, and it was very thick and tasty. We couldn’t guess the bean but we wondered if it might be a cannelini bean or a butter bean. My bresaola was thin and wafery but delicious as you’d expect from cured beef. The radishes and the watercress were the perfect foil with their litle kicks.

To the mains and the contentious issue of polenta. Ant had a greek lasagne, a moussaka-esque lasagne packed with pasta and tomatoes and feta and pronounced chunky but tasty by the house chef, Ant. Mum and I both went for confit of duck with a beetroot polenta. Let’s start with the duck because that was heavenly. Exactly the crispy, savoury, delicate morsel of meat you’d expect from something that had been slavishly roasted and basted in heaps of goose fat. And to the polenta, for what it’s worth I liked it. I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t make it myself or possibly order it in that capacity again but for the most part, it certainly didn’t offend me. Now my mother, you’d have thought it had actually offended her, commented on her age or questioned her choice of footwear. She tried to shoehorn it into the flower display, under her napkin and into her handbag to avoid it. She insisted Ant had to try it and he also added his dislike and when the waiter came, Ant and I had to positively drown her with speaking for her whinging about it. I’m all for telling a waiter if something has been intrinsically wrong but if you just have a vendetta against polenta, I think it’s best to keep it for your nearest and dearest.

We went with excited hearts to the cake fridge and we weren’t disappointed. Every kind of cake and taste is catered for at The Quarter, with cupcakes, brownies, pies and cakes. Ant and Mum both chose key lime pie and I went for lemon meringue pie. My mother has, what can only be described as, ‘fear of missing out’ which Fiona would call MOFO. She always has to order the same thing as someone else because she gets courted by someone else’s interest! Our puddings were excellent and enormous portions. I had to pass on the remaining chunk of mine to Ant, who has been likened to a human hoover, but otherwise I could have eaten it over and over.

On our way out, we chose some houmous from the deli and a loaf of bread for breakfast and we ambled home in the driving rain to get a good night’s sleep for the Hope Street Feast the next morning…

The Quarter, Falkner Street, Liverpool, L8 7PU. http://www.thequarteruk.com/Default.aspx. 0871 2079140

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