On Monday, Stefan and I had a long pre-arranged date to go to the Liverpool Art Fair. I pretend to take him because he’s arty and knowledgable but really it’s because he’s such an amazing artist, I can walk around and demand he recreate things for my own walls! There were some wonderful digital prints created using photographic papers to create a symmetrical pattern using the most vibrant colours. There were also some amazing pieces upstairs in the slightly more expensive room. Our eyes were caught by these pieces created with pins, one of the Liver building and one of the eye of a horse. It turned out that the artist was stood next to us so we chatted to him about the painstaking process of creating something so intricate. Our eyes were then caught by some incredibly interesting realist paintings of meerkats with ipods and very large tomatoes. I felt comforted that Stefan didn’t quite understand them as I certainly didn’t! One of the great things about the Liverpool Art Fair is that it makes artwork affordable and pieces ranged from £35 for a print through to £1000. Obviously, I wanted to stick red dots everywhere but I managed to escape, unburdened with canvas and having extracted promises from Stefan that he would create me some art for the drawing room wall. The huge white Georgian walls are quite hard to fill, a problem known in this house as ‘the Georgian dilemma’.
The Art Fair was being held in the old A Foundation building which has long been one of my favourite buildings in Liverpool, particularly the large space under the roof behind it. Presumably this part was once the old factory floor. Since I was last there to see the Biennial, in which a girl sat above the room cutting tiny pieces of paper, which was both mesmerising and peaceful, the space has been taken up by the great minds of Camp and Furnace. I’ve long followed the Rhubarb and Custard genius, Steven Burgess on Twitter, and so it has been with much interest that I’ve followed the news of this from the early days. On Saturday night, the venue hosted a wonderful Jubilee party complete with a fifteen piece gypsy band and Princess Margaret on hand selling tattoos. When we arrived on Monday, it was quite quiet but a nicer space would be hard to find in Liverpool.
Camp and Furnace seems to have fallen perfectly into that niche of the really great places in Liverpool at the moment, catering to those who appreciate good food and want to sit and drink and chat with friends, something done so well by the team behind Leaf. The atmosphere of C&F is perfect, relaxed, long tables and with lots of light pouring through the ceiling lights. Stefan and I took drinks out into the little back yard where we sat at the tables and Stefan explained that they light pyre type fires out there of an evening, presumably not pyres though as that’s a little dark. After sitting and chatting for ages, we realised that we were both incredibly hungry and I went in search of a menu, printed on brown paper bags, which is clever and quirky. The menu has a great range to suit everybody, breakfast is served before 12 and there’s a wide selection of sandwiches, light bites, slightly more substantial things and platters. You can see, at first glance, that this is a menu created by somebody who understands food, its provenance (a ghastly word but no less important!) and what goes with what. We spent a while perusing the menu and I wanted everything, I mean everything, there wasn’t one thing that I didn’t want to try, which means I’m going to have go back often until I’ve had everything which is certainly no hardship. I toyed between middle eastern crumbed chicken with a cumin mayo, pulled pork with beans and coleslaw, salt beef on rye, the amazing sounding platters full of clever and unusual treats but settled on a sausage sandwich as I was feeling the need for something warm and cosy, while Monday was certainly warmer than the weekend, there was still a nip in the air. Stefan chose the chorizo burger and we ordered a portion of chips.
I often think that the measure of a restaurant is the chip. Such an insignificant item, the humble potato, sometimes boiled, always fried, maybe once, twice, three times, skins on, skins off, seasoned, shaken, cut in spiky spears or thick slabs, but it really does often show the calibre of the kitchen if they can get such a simple thing right. We needn’t have worried that we might be short of chips, between Stefan’s chips with his burger and the two extra buckets, we had plenty and not one went to waste. They tasted of potato but had the silky softness of a perfect chip. Proper potatoes treated with respect. Which was a forerunner for what was to come. My sandwich was delicious, simple but perfectly done, lovely sausages stuffed with good pork and black pudding, soft and sweet red onions, watercress and perfect bread. It came with a dressed salad, I think perhaps there was cider vinegar in the dressing but I’m not sure, and some of the best coleslaw I’ve had in ages, tangy and light with pieces of vegetable that didn’t threaten to get stuck in your throat and cause a minor scene and the arrival of ambulance. I say this because, along with her many other cautionary tales of what can go wrong if you err from the straight and narrow, my mother likes to terrify me with choking stories and one of her favourites involves some cabbage in a coleslaw, I don’t mean to detract from the coleslaw with this touching memory but it’s important. Thin cabbage, carrot and apple creates a greater surface area too and this meant that the light dressing shone. Just a sandwich perhaps, but a bloody good one. Stefan’s burger came in a beautiful bun. I’m not sure how many people would stop proceedings to admire the bun, but I’m not everybody. Stefan described it as ‘kind of like yellow and a bit sweet’, which I think means that it was a little like brioche but he said it was delicious and the thick, juicy burger within was clearly made of good quality meat and had a thick layer of cheese, a gherkin, herbs, leaves of some description (his words, not mine!) and came with a little jar of sunblush tomato relish, which I stuck my chip in when he was looking the other way and it was mighty fine. The bill for 2 with drinks came to less than £20, which for the quality of the food was great value.
If you’re down in the Baltic Triangle, or even town, forego the miserable chain experiences and pop in to Camp and Furnace for some great food, a lovely atmosphere and to support the great independents which make this city so great.