experienced a tough period in very tight economic times. The article by David Lloyd was a timely call to arms, as our experience of the Peninsula Dining Rooms was an ultimately satisfying and pleasing end to what started out as a rather sour excursion over to Hoylake.
Having received an invitation to a menu launch at Coda Maine on Market Street in Hoylake, a group of friends and I arrived to an absence of any food at the bar and upon the kitchen sending out slates of chicken wings and salad found locals (we suspect) effectively monopolising the wares of the menu launch. Not great publicity for other visitors, especially when staff were also tucking into the food at the expense of other guests. Thankfully, the invite was a free event but the organisation was exceptionally poor, making our visit a rather hollow one. The bar itself was nothing exceptional; a small venue which had a live act following the food which was meant to be given out to customers, there is a pretty average selection of drinks and beers set to compliment the menu, which also looked fairly standard. The establishment is set to make up numbers on Market Street currently, with its previous incarnation ‘La Bodega’ closing to make way. Suffice to say we left rather hungry; serendipitously two of our party had read the Sevenstreets article and placed a reservation for Peninsula, who accommodated us at short notice with little fuss.
A warm greeting and smiles were a balm for what had been a disappointing and wet evening in Wirral, thankfully this was a indication of happier experiences ahead. The Peninsula Dining Rooms is a cosy and unpretentious dining environment, comfortable and well maintained with an uninterrupted view of the toil in the kitchen from most of the tables. The atmosphere was palpably calm; the clientele soothed by food, service and surroundings. The offering of 2 or 3 courses on a reduced rate certainly encouraged people to be a bit more adventurous, especially in view of a fairly diverse menu for an establishment of a modest size.
The restaurant has an emphasis on supporting not just local produce, of which Wirral and Merseyside has an understated quality which is pushed to the fore by Gray, but supporting local charities with a small donation taken for bottled water at each table. They have commendably raised handsome sums for previous charities, with small nuances such as the sale of breadcrumbs and the water donation adding only warmth to the place.
Sadly, for somewhere championing local produce, the choice of beers was sadly very lacking, whilst Liverpool and the wider Merseyside area has undergone something of a renaissance with small craft and real ale brewing, none of that was on display at Peninsula, only Peroni and Heineken beers of note... not exactly local I am sure you'd agree. The English Rosé wine might also need some further consideration, as my companion remarked it wasn't as pleasant as she had hoped, even less impressed following the price tag. An area of potential improvement for sure.
Starters ranged from the unusual (for example, chickpea chips with garlic mayonnaise or the occasional soup of the day such as the eyebrow raising ‘herb lollipop’) to the slightly more conventional such as mackerel, fishcakes and cheese pepper tarts. Each of these is given the attention it surely deserves, the chickpea chips unusual but pleasantly conceived and perfectly seasoned with a crisp coating and tofu-like interior. The fishcakes were wonderfully sweet flavoured with a satisfying level of integrity, so often laden with too much potato in an effort to bulk the dish out. The mackerel, although presented well and generally cooked perfectly, suffered from being a little too salty.
Main courses were treated with as much care and respect as the starters, them being well thought out and competently executed dishes filling the menu. The burgers were presented to be succulent and stacked generously with toppings; the flavours matched the appearance in an age when the region is experiencing a veritable love-in with meat patties. The sea bass was a superb combination with two crisp skinned fillets riding atop spinach and pak choi in chilli garlic sauce, encircled by the outer crunch and soft centred -globes of deep fried pea risotto which also provided a backbone to the dish and vehicle for the sauces. The menu provides vegetarian options, not as an afterthought, but pleasingly considerate in the form of a sumptuous butternut squash gnocchi with peppers and goats cheese or a sweet and filling red onion tart tatin with mascarpone and garlic fries. The ham hock provided some excitement through the soft textured hock itself, smear of warming piccalilli and the prospective decadence of deep fried black pudding bon-bons, which more than lived up to the literal sense of their moniker.
Desserts ranged from the warm, comforting and familiar to the playful and exploratory. Gray has possibly been influenced in the conception of ‘Seaside Fun’ by the Great British Menu; a playful nod to confectionery associated with British resorts through a combination of popcorn, candy floss, jellies amusingly presented on pebbles, flanked by shortbread and honeycomb. While apparently disparate, it provides the perfect foil to the bedrock of the other courses and should be commended for injecting some fun into proceedings. The other desserts such as cinnamon and brioche French toast, cheeses, affogato and fruit tartlets provide more conventional sweets to end a meal, which sadly does have to end somewhere.
The amalgamation of passion, skill and care provide an excellent foundation for the Peninsula Dining Rooms which can only be built on. A visit is thoroughly recommended to ensure that they do.
The Peninsula Dining Rooms can be found at: 3 Grosvenor Road, New Brighton, Wirral, CH45 2LW.
Telephone:+44 (0) 151 639 8338