As part of my recent visit home, I spent a fair bit of time in my old University city, Liverpool. Whilst living there, I don’t think I quite appreciated the culture, or indeed the vast array of restaurants on offer in the city until it was too late. However, now that I live in a town where Nando’s is “that cool new chicken restaurant”, I find myself craving cosmopolitan places and all of the amazing things they have to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m somewhat addicted to Nando’s, but as a foodie, I find there is SO much food out there, and so little time. My friend, ‘Ashley the boy’ (when mentioned at home), and Booth/Mr Booth to everyone online (and his year three kids), apparently is also always on the lookout for new places, as well as people who actually have the money to accompany him. So, I set him the task of finding somewhere to eat on my return, and he was pretty happy to oblige. He picked The Side Door – and boy, was I disappointed.
If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know I’m typically pretty reserved when it comes to complaints (about restaurants… I’m aware that I generally enjoy a good rant!). I don’t know if that’s because I’ve been conditioned that way or whatever, but to be honest, usually if I take the time to write about a place, I’ve invested time and money into it because it was worth recommending.
With a fantastic deal on a Monday night (2 courses and half a bottle of wine for £20), I don’t blame Ashley in the slightest for choosing The Side Door as our reunion destination. After a couple of drinks in town, we headed up the hill to the lovely Georgian Quarter, my old neighborhood and the location of the restaurant.
Both the inside and outside of The Side Door is super cute, don’t get me wrong. Although relatively small, there are loads of tables across two floors. Despite my disappointment, the chef actually isn’t the problem (for the most part – we’ll get to that!), and the value for money on a Monday that I previously mentioned, speaks for itself.
I’ll admit: the dishes, on paper, are delicious. There’s ample choice, and evidently they offer a mix of creative and classics. For a mid range restaurant which prides itself on fresh and tasty stuff, it all looks pretty promising. I ordered Grilled Halloumi to start, and I think it was some of the nicest cheese I’ve ever had.
So, what’s the problem? Well, if you like bins being paraded past your table whilst you’re eating, sugar on your chips instead of salt, waiting for over an hour for your main course, or SUGAR ON YOUR CHIPS (that one was so important I had to say it twice…), then you should definitely eat here. Said nobody ever.
My Chicken In Tarragon Sauce was actually lovely and tender, but poor Ashley’s steak was kind of ruined by the chips thing. Although the meat was cooked precisely to order (rare, usually surprisingly difficult for many ‘chefs’ to get right), the whole sugar thing was pretty off-putting. Does that really surprise you? I understand that sugar and salt have a similar consistency, but this was icing sugar, and it’s not a mistake you should be making in a place where A La Carte meals can retail for over £20 a piece.
When politely confronting staff about the waiting time (over an hour, as I said…), the owner (!) kind of acted like she really didn’t care. Considering the fact that there were only about six other tables in there, it really wasn’t right. My friend Sean recently went and said he waited for two hours… so I guess in retrospect we were kind of lucky.
The saving grace of the entire situation was the waiter, Elliott (I think that was his name!). He was really friendly and despite his bin faux pas, he was a credit to the restaurant, and in fairness he seemed mortified about bringing dirty germs past us where we ate. I just hope that whenever he’s done with his Masters he manages to get the hell out of there – onwards and upwards.
The owner of the restaurant did offer us free dessert in light of the stuff we experienced, but by that point we felt pretty full and so instead we just asked for the supplement for Ashley’s steak to be taken off our bill. In hindsight, however, the whole thing was pretty shocking and I’m pretty sure we should have pushed for further compensation.
I’m no Gordon Ramsay or anything, but whilst I did leave suitably fed and tipsy, I just feel like there needs to be a few changes at The Side Door. They could probably do with taking a little more responsibility for their errors, as well. Sorry! We had heard there’d already been some changes made around there of late, which in fairness made us a little nervous – but we took the chance! In my eyes, they just weren’t in the right direction.
I’m just glad I was dining out with someone who isn’t afraid to ask for exactly what he’s paid for.