The Art School is tucked away behind the impressive Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on the truncated Sugnall Street, tagged onto the side of the former sheltering home for destitute children on Myrtle Street. Upon being greeted by a gentleman in what can only be described as a stereotypical Englishman’s garb (bowler hat and soberly hued suit in pristine condition) and ushered into the restaurant, there is a definite sense of things being allocated with precision. The restaurant is airy and bright but not oppressively so, altogether it is also comfortable both physically and in a mentally relaxing sense, remaining uncluttered by unnecessary ornamental faff. The stark reds and well judged décor punctuations around the walls of the former ‘Lantern Room’ are twinned with a curiosity-friendly viewing window into Paul Askew’s kitchen (for those of an inquisitive nature) to cast an eye inwards to the Art School’s culinary foundry, to provide novel points of interest on the premises.
The five courses came at an eerily well-judged pace from the kitchen, from the four canapé mouthfuls, comprising plump and flavoursome black and green olives, venison with a sweet puree, feta cheese and sweet cherry tomato of which both elements melted in the mouth most satisfyingly and finally a crouton with prawns and black caviar. Presented with a glass of champagne on arrival, all very civilised and befitting a menu designed to tease you into the forthcoming course. The second salvo is that of a wonderfully robust and sweet lobster bisque with olive tapenade and a dipping crouton, salty and sweet with a pleasant texture, drinking the excess from the teacup in which it was presented was a cheeky touch to the amuseé bouche.
Two types of bread were brought out, along with some seasoned butter, which was a balm on the slightly tough foccacia, which needed a much sharper knife to fully master; the butter was also a lovely moistener to a bread reminiscent of walnut malt loaf, but with more elegance, less density but no less flavour.
As far as fine-dining is concerned, there was a definite gap in Liverpool for the Art School into which it has eased itself. The question as to whether it will achieve a Michelin Star, as is the undercurrent of the restaurant’s remit? Perhaps, as time will only tell at this stage. The service, surroundings and technique are all evident and the thought given to them is admirable, but it might need something to push along the menu in terms of taking a risk with ingredients and flavour sets, it all works wonderfully well yet it feels like the powder keg has not been filled to full incendiary capacity just yet. Get in while there is trepidation and see the bar has been raised in Liverpool city centre, I intend on further investigation to the prix fix. The hype has been realised somewhat and that, is no mean feat.
Until next time!
The Art School
1 Sugnall Street
Tel: 0151 230 8600