Welcome to Fantasy Travel Week, when traveling the world for food and adventure is squarely on our minds.
Let’s go over what you already know about the city of Liverpool. It’s the hometown of the Beatles and other awesome bands like Echo & the Bunnymen and The La’s (a personal favorite). The locals are way, way serious about their football. It’s a port city that also hosts a vibrant art scene (in the form of street art and museums like the Tate).
But what you might not know is that the city’s dining scene is on the rise, and that there’s much more to discover than the local specialty, scouse (a meat and root-vegetable stew served with pickled beets and cabbage). Here are five places to eat incredibly well in Liverpool.
1. The Art School
This just may be the restaurant that gets everyone (beyond the locals and their European neighbors) paying attention to the city’s fine-dining scene. The dining room is airy and chic with a vaulted glass ceiling, quirky light fixtures, punchy red dining chairs and a custom mural by local artist Monsieur Mural. The service is nearly faultless, from the sharp-dressed doorman (in a bowler hat, no less) to the well-informed staff. But it’s chef Paul Askew’s ambitious cooking – where pristine ingredients, artful plating and thoughtful flavor profiles meet – that’s intriguing both critics and city dwellers alike. The fixed-price menus change frequently, but rest assured that no matter when you go, you’ll experience top-notch food and service without formality or fuss. It should come as no surprise, then, that Askew has his sights on Liverpool’s first Michelin star. Sugnall Street, +44 151 230 8600, theartschoolrestaurant.co.uk
2. The Elephant Pub & Bakehouse
Don’t let the name fool you, because there’s lots more to dig about this all-day dining spot than the tried-and-true pub favorites. Yes, you’ll find fish and chips, but they’re far from predictable: a jaw-droppingly massive fillet of flaky haddock drapes over a heap of gloriously fat and golden chips, accompanied by creamy tartar sauce and mashed peas. There’s also black pudding, but get this: It’s vegetarian and just as dense and earthy as its blood-laced cousin. But what’s generating the most buzz is a signature dough that produces chewy, beautifully blistered flatbreads and pizzas. No matter which pie you settle on, though, follow the menu’s recommendation and ask for garlic sauce on the side. You’ll want to dip your crusts in. Glorious. 1 Woolton Street,+44 151 909 3909, theelephantwoolton.co.uk
It’s tough to imagine a more awe-inspiring dining space in the city than NYL. Located in the newly opened Aloft Liverpool (formerly the historic Royal Insurance Building), the restaurant features an intricately designed and expansive suspended ceiling, Art Deco flourishes and a warm palette of gold and brown. Once you’re able to fix your gaze on the menu, you’ll notice how familiar it feels. That’s because executive chef Rob Scott’s mission is to create “New York-inspired dining in the heart of Liverpool, hence the name.” So, if you’re homesick — it happens to all of us, even the well-traveled — take comfort in Scott’s pitch-perfect burgers, Manhattan clam chowder and macaroni and cheese. After dinner, if you’re in the mood to make it a big night (and not wait in line at the bar, because it gets crowded fast), try the Brooklyn Bar Experience. A mixologist will show you how to properly prepare your first cocktail, then leave you at your booth with the necessary spirits, mixers and barware, so you can fix the rest. No. 1 North John Street, +44 151 294 3970, aloftliverpool.com/NYL
4. Salt House Bacaro
Imagine a bacaro — a traditional Venetian wine bar. There’s a short but well-edited wine list, assorted cicchetti (small shared plates), low lighting, dark wood and a cozy atmosphere. Now imagine all of this under one roof in the heart of Liverpool. The food is delicious, no doubt, but a lot of the restaurant’s charm lies in its ability to appeal to everyone, no matter the occasion. If you’re in the mood for lingering over a glass of wine — or a Campari or Bellini, as there’s also a smart selection of both — beeline to the bar. Feeling peckish? Grab a table and tuck into savory snacks like delicately fried fish, tender pork-and-fennel meatballs and crispy pancetta croquettes. Stay for an hour or stay for an evening. Bring yourself or bring a group. Just come. Viva l’Italia! 47 Castle Street, +44 151 665 0047, salthousebacaro.co.uk
5. Camp & Furnace
Trust me. You’ve never eaten at a place like this. Located in a sprawling warehouse in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Baltic Triangle, this is where quality casual eats and entertainment collide. Even though Camp & Furnace is only open Thursdays through Sundays – each night has a different theme – you’re bound to run into a packed house when it’s open. If you can only make it for evening, though, then it’s Friday’s wildly popular Food Slams you can’t miss. The event pairs local street vendors, which rotate weekly, with live DJs and bands for one really loud, fun and delicious experience. When I went, for example, I took on the fattest half-smoke I’ve ever seen while De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising” was spinning in the background. Tip: Because food is in limited supply, show up early, claim a seat and fuel up at one of the picnic benches before the crowds get really rowdy. 67 Greenland Street, +44 151 708 2890, campandfurnace.com
Read more about English food on Food Republic: