Foolhardy, perhaps, for an establishment called Titanic to describe anything as a launch. But this week, a new spring menu was indeed launched into the hotel’s dining room, a slick, post-industrial space known as Stanley’s Bar and Grill, captained by executive chef Bradley Lean. In truth, however, this was less of a sea change and more of a relatively minor change of tack.
Safe in their established berths remain the high-end burgers, fish and chips and steaks that, as Lean pointed out, are what the Titanic’s clientele often want.
This is not the kind of fare that I would choose when splashing the kind of cash that this menu demands – normally, I’d opt for less flesh and more culinary complication – yet, in the interests of sampling the core of its offer, I opted for a 28 day-aged fillet steak with triple cooked chips, onion rings, confit tomato and mushroom. The meat was tender, flavoursome and expertly seared, and most of the chips had squidgily soft interiors, although some were too thin and had become over-thick crisps in the cooking. On a dish costing £32.50, meanwhile, I’d like to see a full Portobello.
Prior to this meat feast, my other half and I had sampled two of new arrivals on the menu, both of which felt like good ideas blown slightly off course in the finishing touches. My torched mackerel with feta, chilli and coriander (£9.50) was a substantial starter that began tasting spring-like, fresh and full-flavoured, but the cumulative effect of all that fish and cheese was a saltiness that left me refilling my water glass. The baked goat’s cheese crottin (£7.95), meanwhile, was a whopping helping of fromage that was tasty but needed something sharper than sweet aubergine and roasted pepper to cut through it.
The well-cooked cod loin (£22.50) that followed along with my steak, another new addition to the menu, came with soft saffron potato, fennel and crispy baby squid that all added complexity to the fish’s delicate flavour. Yet the whole affair was doused in a seafood sauce so creamy that it transformed what could have been a light dish perfect for spring/summer into a heavier, almost wintry plate.
For reasons that were not the fault of the attentive and well-informed staff, we were forced to leave before dessert could be sampled, but in fact both of us were a little too full of rich food to mind.
The food at a luxury hotel is a tricky thing to judge, particularly when it comes to value for money. Many of the diners will be hotel residents, some of them on dinner-inclusive rates and others with enough cash (and enough desire to spot a visiting football team) that the prices don’t really matter. Others will be visiting for special occasions, and for them the venue – undeniably unique, stylish, and full of character – warrants a premium that makes side-by-side price comparison with a restaurant in town redundant.
On such a comparison, Stanley’s Bar and Grill’s new spring menu will always flounder. You can certainly get plenty more for £32.50 at any number of Liverpool establishments. But as an updated offer for a destination dining room, it does what it needs to stay afloat.