Silk Rd is one of Liverpool’s newest restaurants. Located at Beetham Plaza, close to the Strand, the outlet takes its inspiration from the Silk Road, an ancient trade route. Tony McDonough paid a visit
It was way back in 2004 when the now Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson came to Liverpool to beg forgiveness for a disparaging article about the city in the Spectator magazine.
He’d dug up the old trope about Liverpool being a place that “wallowed in self-pity”. That it had been ghost-written, and his name plonked on top, was neither here nor there and Boris headed for Merseyside to perform a mea culpa with the nation’s press pack following.
In that pack was the brilliant, and now deceased, Sunday Times restaurant critic AA Gill who went off on his own mini-tour of the city where, among other places, he was awed by the “jaw-dropping magnificence” of the Walker Art Gallery.
Gill had hired a taxi driver for the day and at lunchtime instructed the cabbie to “take me to Liverpool’s best restaurant” and he was duly taken to Simply Heathcotes, a then renowned eaterie on Beetham Plaza, just off Brunswick Street and behind the Strand.
Simply Heathcotes, I was a little taken aback to realise, closed more than seven years ago and the premises has been reinvented more than once since then.
Its latest incarnation is Silk Rd, opened by owner Javier Mellado in January. Mr Mellado launched the first Silk Rd on Heswall in Wirral last summer and, such has been its success, he has taken a punt on a Liverpool city centre outlet.
It could be seen as a brave and confident decision. Just up the road, Castle Street has seen a number of good quality restaurants open in the past two to three years with access to a steady footfall. Silk Rd may be easily missed by the casual passing diner and so he will hope it becomes a destination venue.
Silk Rd’s concept takes its inspiration from the Silk Road, an ancient trade route that traversed three continents and linked East with West. It offers a menu that fuses tapas and street food-style dishes.
Spread over 4,000 sq ft and with a capacity of 140 covers, the venue, which definitely has a Mediterranean feel, includes a mezzanine level for private dining, a bar area and an outdoor terrace with views of the Three Graces across the Strand.
When we arrived staff were eager and welcoming and well informed on the menu offerings. It is always a good start to see people working at a restaurant so invested and interested in their product offering.
The menu offers vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options and we faced the usual tapas dilemma. Will the dishes be too much or not enough? We ordered six plates and it was more than ample.
To start we ordered the Silk Rd platter, a generous serving of pitta bread accompanied by hummus, tsatski, black olive tapenade and taramasalata dips.
These were followed by Persian lamb – grilled lamb lollipops with rosemary, garlic, sea salt, black peppercorns, couscous and mint yoghurt; smoked duck and noodles with sweet Asian cranberry sauce; Vietnamese red snapper fish in banana leaf with lemon grass and ginger; a spicy beef salad and and that old tapas staple – patatas bravas.
All the dishes arrived promptly and the promise of “amazing flavours” was certainly fulfilled. I’m not a huge fan of cranberry but it did go particularly well with the duck. Most impressive of all the dishes was the spicy beef salad. For tapas, it was a huge serving, and was bursting with fiery flavour.
Silk Rd is close to Liverpool’s business district so the business lunch crowd is an obvious target market. People put the hours in these days and keep their lunchtimes short.
Our food was delivered swiftly without a compromise on quality. If Silk Rd can maintain that pace and not disappoint on the food then it could prove to be a hit.
Silk Rd is at Beetham Plaza, Liverpool, L2 0XJ. To find out more log onto www.silkrd.co.uk