IF you want your restaurant to make money, it makes sense to appeal to the ones with the wonga.
Wall of Fame appears purpose-built to pull in a percentage of the US and Japanese tourists (rarely short of a bob) regularly passing its doors in pursuit of The Greatest Band Ever.
What a brilliant marketing coup to open a restaurant right next to the existing Mathew Street tourist attraction, Wall of Fame, then name yourself after it. Thus, two becomes one and who is to know the stack of bricks celebrating every artist ever to appear at the Cavern Club was not yours all along?
Indeed, a small crowd, mostly comprising their target audience, was gazing intently at the Wall of Fame that is the wall of Wall of Fame, if you follow me. Effectively two equal-sized, smartly attired venues in one, but with no divide, the bar opens on to Victoria Street; the restaurant on to Mathew Street, Fab Four HQ.
Americana and Beatlemania – as beloved in Tokyo as they are in Ohio – both feature, neatly combining in a mural featuring the US-era Mop Tops with a Statue of Liberty torch.
A 'delicious' full breakfast, was nothing of the sort and included a couple of sausages so incinerated that no normal sighted chef could, in all conscience, have allowed them to leave the kitchen
The eating space occupies a rough square, with chunky wooden tables and the obligatory red banquettes. To our left, a blazing neon “WALL OF FAME”; to our right the faintly startled faces of JPG&R survey the room. Elsewhere are icons of American culture – the Stars and Stripes, a Harley, the sign for the “restrooms”.
And then there is the menu, “All American”, not fast food, they insist, but “pit-stop style”: pizzas, burgers, ribs, chicken wings, you get the picture, with take-outs available. We made two visits and encountered two very different levels of service. A Fame of two halves, you might say.
First time round a mixed crowd populated both sides of the divide: young lovers, a party of fortysomething females, and, on the next table, a group of men with matching pizzas, pints and paunches whose occasional conversational efforts suggested they were either from somewhere in Middle Europe or very drunk.
It was seven o’clock on a Friday night, rush hour for a place like this, and the food came a little more slowly as a result. But we were denied the peculiarly English pleasure of feeling indignant by a server who kept open the lines of communication, with apologies for any (minor) delays, and a reassurance that “it will be right with you”. And it was.A test for the service had come early. I wanted squid but they were out of it, My (somewhat unnecessary) grimace was met with the offer of anything else we fancied off the menu, free of charge. No hesitation, no consulting with a higher authority, job done.
Highlight: So Dumb chicken wings
We went again early one Sunday lunchtime; it wasn’t quiet but it wasn’t exactly busy. Minor irritations accumulated. Ketchup was offered then had to be chased up. Messy food required more than one tiny, flimsy napkin each; I ripped sheets from a kitchen roll found nearby only to discover a grimy tidemark infused along the bottom of each piece. Drinks took way too long to arrive; if this was pit-stop style they hadn't been watching Formula 1 recently.
There was more but it was not the fault of an overworked server who was awfully charming but had an awful lot more on their plate than was fair or reasonable.
The food on our plates was patchier than the service. Among good things, So Dumb chicken wings (£6), meaty, generous, well-cooked, with scotch bonnet chillies adding fire to the sweet and sour of the barbecue sauce; ace onion rings, (£3) beer-battered, greasless and crunchy; agreeable jalapeno peppers (£4.50) filled with soft cheese and wrapped in pancetta.
Armageddon time: An Uncle Buck burger filled with mac 'n' cheese
Less good was Chinese spiced crispy pork (£9), whose description bore little resemblance to the reality; the words “Chinese” and “spiced” attributable only to a garnish of finely sliced chilli and spring onion, the breaded coating devoid of savour, while the meat, as my friend observed, “could be from any animal”.
Chicken strips with fries (main pic, top, £9) bore a dry, southern-fried style crust but a “homemade WoF rub” had apparently rubbed off. Fries were bog standard while house “slaw” (£2.50) a colourful, shredded stack of beetroot, carrot and cabbage, was fresh and crunchy but the dressing lacked any sort of zest, and suddenly a theme was developing.
An “Uncle Buck” burger (£12) appeared to have found the chef in playful mood; the little imp had hidden somebody else’s macaroni cheese under my bun. Only wait: a mac ’n’ cheese burger is now ACTUALLY A THING. From America. Quite why remains a mystery and its presence at our table only confirmed the suspicion that we are all on the road to Armageddon.
A standard WoF burger (£10), comprised a 6oz lean steak patty, cooked well done whether we liked it or not, cheese that had not melted, a cremated strip of bacon, no sign of the advertised lettuce and onion and a thick sesame bun whose best days were behind it.
“The WoF works” (£6), a “delicious” full breakfast, was nothing of the sort and included hash browns for which the word processed was coined, congealed bake beans and a couple of sausages so incinerated that no normal-sighted chef could, in all conscience, have allowed them to leave the kitchen.
Deep fried Oreos
Desserts came laced with lethal doses of sugar. Cheesecake of the week (£5) was Nutella, a wobbling slab of the stuff (a jarful, at least) shaped and set atop a thin biscuit and nut base. Deep fried Oreo biscuits (£4.50), essentially deep fried doughnut batter with a soft Oreo heart, had a dangerously addictive nature. Warning: Do not fry this at home.
Social media has it that they do mean milkshakes, served with (£6) or without (£3.50) alcohol, but you will have to take their word for that.
We got off handy, so I can’t say if our pot-bellied pals – who were indeed Middle European - and very drunk indeed – had the shakes to accompany their meals. But I bet they did in the morning.
All scored Confidential reviews are paid for by the company, never the restaurant or a PR outfit. Critics dine unannounced and their opinions are completely independent of any commercial relationships.
Wall of Fame Bar and Kitchen, 4-6 Victoria Street, L2 6QE. Tel. 0151 306 5667.
Overall Score: 11.5/20
(wings 6/10, onion rings 7.5/10, peppers 7.5/10, Chinese pork 1/10, chicken strips 4/10, fries 4/10, “slaw” 4.5/10, WoF burger 4.5/10, Uncle Buck 5/10, breakfast 1/10, cheesecake 5/10, Oreos 6/10)
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: gastropubs against the best gastropubs, takeaways against the best takeaways, etc. On this basis, the scores represent...
1-5: Straight into the dog's bowl
6-9: Netflix and chill
10-11: In an emergency
12-13: If you happen to be passing
14-15: Worth a trip out
16-17: Very good to exceptional
18-20: As good as it gets