Eating Out On Lark Lane (2005)

Eating Out On Lark Lane (2005)

If you're "off down the lane" in Liverpool then there's only one possible place you're headed: Lark Lane, an atmospheric, bohemian oasis on the outskirts of Sefton Park. Trendy and idiosyncratic, it's commonly referred to as "the Lane", a colloquialism that hints at in-crowd familiarity but whilst there are many regulars to be found in the locales up and down the village-like street, it's in no way snooty or exclusive. People from all walks of life flock here and there's almost every trade to be found: fishmongers, tattoo shops, pubs, solicitors, wine bars, antique shops and of course an abundance of restaurants, all nestled together, co-existing in almost timeless harmony.

Food wise, Lark Lane is not renowned for haute cuisine but certainly offers something to suit most palates and pockets. From pub meals to a la carte food, there seems to be more eateries per square metre than anywhere else in Liverpool. Starting from the Aigburth Road end of the lane, the first restaurant you'll come across is Akis. More quirky than quaint, this Greek taverna calls to passers-by with its neon scrawl and cranky comedy chimney. It's been in situ for years and serves up pretty good food albeit in rather make-shift surroundings. Next along is Lalouette arguably one of the best ten restaurants in Liverpool although it keeps a very low profile. It's French of course, with a bistro-like atmosphere, beautiful table linen and an open fire in winter. The food is just excellent with a legendary onion soup, and lots of other equally memorable dishes such as the duck served with apple charlotte calvados sauce, the fillet steak with Madeira sauce and the pheasant. A three course meal with wine is a bit pricey but well worth it. This is definitely a place for a special occasion.

Next it's another Greek, Romios. Like Akis, it's been around for years, and is a friendly, cosy type of place. The food is pretty average but the atmosphere and service is good. Close by is the New Regent -- Lark Lane's only Chinese restaurant which does a great eat-all-you can buffet on Thursday evenings as well as early bird menus several days a week. Then there's Esteban, which describes itself as a Mediterranean tapas restaurant and bar, although the decor is decidedly Mexican. This is one of the newer eateries, a modern, airy space set on two levels and serving a range of standard tapas food. Colourful and upbeat, this is the type of restaurant best sampled with a group of friends. Sangria and tapas: it's definitely a sharing thing. Opposite Esteban is Marantos serving slightly retro Italo-American style food - burgers, lasagne and the like. Best visited when you're likely to enjoy this type of meal - on an eighties nostalgia trip or as a hangover fix perhaps?

A slightly more sophisticated affair is 52 Lark Lane (pictured above), which is the newest eatery on the street. Its trendy brick and wood interior has reportedly been graced with the presence of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson but this may be an urban myth. Boasting both bistro and fine dining menus, as well as the only outdoor patio in the vicinity, 52 attracts punters in their droves especially at weekends and it's here you'll see Lark Lane's better dressed regulars. Breakfasts here are good and all the better if eaten al fresco, weather permitting. A few doors down is Keiths, the original Lark Lane wine bar. This place is so laid back and chilled, once in here it's difficult to extract yourself. You'll be rubbing shoulders with students, musos, and the area's arty and literati. Food is earthy, vaguely hippyish and of great for the munchies.

Moving towards the Sefton Park end of Lark Lane, you can't miss Viva, bright as a firefly. Again, there's an eighties feel about this popular, inexpensive restaurant. The versatile menu seems to include dishes of almost every nationality - British, French, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Mexican. The world in one menu! This is the type of place to visit on a whim when you can't be bothered cooking. Portions are generous and the service is very good. Finally, last but not least, Sudo, a friendly little joint which serves a range of modern Mediterranean food. It gets a bit smoky in here but the food's pretty good and the burgers deserve a special mention.

It's fair to say that with a few exceptions you're not going to be bowled over by the cuisine on Lark Lane but that's not to say it's not good quality. There's certainly lots of choice but perhaps not a great deal of originality or finesse. However, there's something admirable that the restaurants and indeed all the businesses on Lark Lane have in common - a lack of blatant commercialism. Of course they all need to keep their head above water but there doesn't seem to be that blind drive for profit so evident a stone's throw away in the city centre. Instead, both in the local people and their businesses, there is a sense that other values are upheld such as respect for the neighbourhood and lust for a simpler more harmonious life. And when going for a meal on Lark Lane, this community atmosphere is what shapes it into a unique experience, making up for what some might describe as broadly average culinary standards.

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