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The London Carriage Works, Liverpool: the return of local British produce?
In his Liverpool hotel-restaurant, Paul Askew skilfully concocts a classic French-style cuisine that is, however, deeply rooted in the somewhat forgotten wealth of British soil.
Liverpool’s best restaurant is set on the ground floor of a fine 19th century building – a copy of a Renaissance Venetian palazzo – behind a vast window that transforms the dining room into a theatre.
Just imagine: purées of winter vegetables such as parsnip, forest mushrooms, game galore, organic pork, and farmhouse cheeses from Lancashire! Where? In Liverpool! The former world capital of the industrial revolution is now experiencing a second revolution – this time a gastronomic one. Paul Askew, chef at The London Carriage Works, is its spearhead.
This 41-year-old son of a merchant navy captain lived in Singapore then trained in Manchester and London with Michel Roux at Le Gavroche – the first English restaurant to obtain three Michelin stars, in 1982 – before leaving for New York.
It was at that time impossible to work in Liverpool, which was only just beginning to come out of the recession. In New York cuisine he found everything that was lacking in the UK: cosmopolitanism, energy and creativity.
Moreover, he wants to make his establishment, The London Carriage Works, something of a New York Gramercy Tavern (one Michelin star) – a place that is both stylish and laid-back, where you can have a drink at the bar, something to eat in the cafe area or sit down for a real gourmet dinner.
Paul Askew’s credo is simple: fresh seasonal produce of excellent quality, locally sourced if possible. It is no small surprise to find so many good products that are 100% British on the menu, like the organic pork, lamb from Wales, fruit and vegetables from Claremont Farm (a few miles from Liverpool) and, of course, the more famous Scottish salmon from the Shetland Isles.
Another big surprise is that the menu gives pride of place to game with, for example, the firm, tasty terrine that brings together pheasant, partridge, pigeon and rabbit. The dishes are generous and executed with precision: Paul seeks first and foremost to show to advantage the taste of his excellent products through classic cuisine.
He champions a certain idea of local English produce and, in line with the spirit of the time, is concerned about global warming and pesticides.
His Gloucestershire pork (with an enormous layer of crackling), with caramelised cabbage, slices of Spanish morcilla (equivalent to black pudding) and apple and potato purée, is delicious, as is his pheasant breast served with horn of plenty mushrooms, parsnip purée and cabbage.
The day’s specials also included the slab of Shetland salmon with Puy lentils, Southport shrimp and mustard sauce with champagne, and an irresistible red mullet with winter vegetables, saffron cream and avruga caviar.
A Singapore sailor on his father’s side, Paul Askew happily reveals his gentleman farmer and hunter side in his winter menu.
Like a true son of Liverpool – the working class city that produced The Beatles – this chef thinks of cuisine as the new “rock’n’roll”: it’s hip and trendy, and everyone wants a piece of the action.
The London Carriage Works,
40 Hope Street, Liverpool, L1 9DA
The restaurant is part of the Hope Street Hotel: www.hopestreethotel.co.uk/eating/page.asp?pageid=HOME