ACCORDING to its online output, fulsome even by restaurant website standards, Verdant brings a “warm sophisticated touch of classical Parisian luxury” to Allerton Road.
So far as the food is concerned, the 'twist' turns out to be the Agatha Christie variety, where everything ends up completely different to what you expected
Posh French, then, even if it might be more Paris Hilton’s style than Paris, France’s. Frills and flourishes abound. Swirls and spirals, quirks and curlicues. On the walls, on the mirrors, on the logo.
A long central table features an outbreak of wisteria, artificial I’m assuming (we didn’t get close enough to confirm), and, along the back wall, row upon row of golden vodka bottles, these having less to do with classical Parisian luxury than their contract with a certain brand of spirits.
Music – soft pedal soul, jazz as genial as the service – was the sort that accompanies your ascension to home appliances and haberdashery but with the volume several notches beyond pleasant. Easy listening for the hard of hearing.
They don’t seem altogether certain what sort of food is their thing; it’s “traditional French-Mediterranean cuisine with a modern twist” or it’s “English dishes with a French twist”, depending on which pre-opening interview you were reading at the time. Three courses and a small glass of red later, we weren’t so sure either.
Similarly, the restaurant’s name: “Ver-don-t”, they say when they pick up the phone in Allerton Road, and it sounds sort of foreign but not necessarily in a way that Michel Roux would recognise. English with a twist? Or French with a bad accent?
So far as the food is concerned, the “twist” turns out to be the Agatha Christie variety, where everything ends up completely different to what you expected.
Roasted rump, sous vide shoulder of Cheshire lamb
Perhaps this explains why the names of dishes are in quotation marks; not so much a stylistic idiosyncracy as an indication that when, for instance, they say “roasted rump, sous vide shoulder”, what they actually mean is a pulled lamb fritter.
A perfectly good pulled lamb fritter, I’ll say that for it, but not what I anticipated when I ordered the “Cheshire Lamb” (£16).
Among the starters, spiced tempura cauliflower with cauliflower veloute, Lancashire quail egg, and foraged black truffle (£6) sounded strangely intriguing, suggesting chunks of battered brassica with a cauliflower-rich dipping sauce, and more.
Instead we got was a big bowl of cauliflower soup with spiced tempura cauliflower croutons. Lovely soup, mind, if not the ideal environment for tempura batter. No sign of a quail egg, nor, forage as we might, any black truffle.
"Confit Duck” (£7), according to the menu, would include “crispy leg” – the “confit” bit – and “roasted duck breast”. What arrived was the breast but not the leg.
A decent wodge of “Wild Halibut” (£17) came with a fish sauce that more closely resembled mushroom soup – okay, perfectly nice mushroom soup – and samphire. Or, rather, not samphire, which had gone absent without leaves.
The fish had been left to linger just a little too long on the flame, the skin oversalted, but not so much as the mash, a gluey dollop that was, according to my friend, “the saltiest thing I have ever eaten”.
Perhaps potatoes are not their thing, “Triple cooked chips” (£3.50, side orders) were a lot more like oven-roasted wedges; half a dozen in total, one the build of a breezeblock, all of which were not so much free from grease as critically dehydrated. Or, as my friend observed, “just weird”.
'Spiced tempura cauliflower with cauliflower veloute, Lancashire quail egg, and foraged black truffle'
A “panache of vegetables” (£3.50 from the sides) is what you call a pan of vegetables when you want to add a little classical Parisian luxury. Otherwise, it was more of what came with our mains – plain-cooked, al dente cauliflower, broccoli and baby carrots, the dietician’s ideal.
We ordered the only other side dish, “chicken onion rings” (£3.50), to see if they tasted of chicken. They didn’t.
Desserts (both £7), ”white chocolate raspberry” cheesecake, with an air of the frozen desserts aisle about it, and a chocolate bomb, did at least agree with their descriptions on the menu.
So, what to make of Verdant? The food you might call a curate’s egg. But not a quail’s egg. It would have helped if the menu had meant what it said rather more often.
They were doing something right the night we went, as the city was drawing breath for the headlong rush to December 25. By 8pm a big space was approaching half full – pretty impressive for weekday, suburban, pre-Christmas, post-Brexit Liverpool.
Certainly, nowhere quite like it inhabits this teeming outer city stretch, so vive la difference.
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.
149-151 Allerton Rd,
Tel. 0151 475 7039.
Overall score: 11/20
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