Dining Al Fresco On Merseyside (2007)
A surprising number of Merseyside restaurants have invested in outdoor dining space. Considering northern British weather, their meteorological faith may be questionable but their efforts must be applauded. It means that on those few occasions when it is warm enough to eat out, we have a growing choice of restaurants for al fresco dining.
Understandably, most eateries that lay claim to outdoor dining facilities are referring to a token couple of tables set out on the pavement in hot weather. This is not the case at Colin's Bridewell (pictured above). Located on Campbell Street, just off Duke Street, it has one of the most generously sized outdoor dining spaces in the city centre. Originally an old police bridewell, the restaurant was transformed into a restaurant by film and TV produce Colin McKeown. Whilst exuding contemporary style, it retains many unique features including the cells which have been turned into several private dining quarters. Outside, the courtyard is large and aesthetically pleasing in a Dickensian sort of way, surrounded as it is by a high wall of original Victorian brickwork. There is plenty of space for the wooden tables and seating, and large umbrellas provide shade from the scorching British sun as necessary. This is the setting for the restaurant's summer barbeques although meals from all the menus can be enjoyed in the open air. Cuisine is modern British with European undertones and a subtle touch of the East here and there.
Another outdoor space of ample proportions belongs to the aptly named Courtyard, just off Dale Street .. A veritable oasis which sits serenely in the heart of the busy business district, the Courtyard is a good dining choice all year round. In the colder months the converted auction house provides a cosy retreat from the city's hustle and bustle. During the summer it comes into its own, with French doors spilling out onto a large paved courtyard with solid wooden seating where customers can enjoy a quiet drink or leisurely meal. The menu is international with an emphasis on fresh, good-quality ingredients. Current highlights include a new traditional Sunday lunch and light bites menu, and the chef's special deal on a Monday evening - two courses for £12.95 with a free bottle of wine, or three courses for £15.95 with a free bottle of wine.
For more al fresco dining in the city centre try Queen's Square for a continental piazza type environment. Here you'll find La Tasca and The Tavern, both with plentiful outdoor seating. The Tavern is one of the city's favourite Mexicans whilst La Tasca specialises in tapas and paellas, as well as an efficient army of largely Spanish staff. The atmosphere here is definitely upbeat and fiesta-like whatever the weather. But on sunny days La Tasca is just made for sitting outside and enjoying a cold San Miguel whilst watching the world go by.
The south of the city proves more disappointing when it comes to outdoor dining. An exception is Lark Lane which has Esteban, a tapas restaurant with a canopied outside terrace. Outdoor heaters greatly increase the potential for al fresco dining here - diners can eat outside comfortably even on cooler evenings. As well as an abundant tapas menu Esteban offers a good range of specials and is popular for weekend breakfasts.
Moving on to the Wirral's al fresco venues, Terrace C in Heswell sets the standard with a smart decked outdoor space complete with retro-style seating and large canopy umbrellas. This chic cocktail bar and eatery specialises in tapas which draw on influences from all corners of the globe. There is an emphasis on top quality fresh ingredients which are bought in on a daily basis. Live music and barbeques are a regular feature of this stylish haven, all contributing to a perfect summer's night out on the peninsula. Another Wirral favourite in the summer months is Sheldrakes in Lower Heswell. A former sailing club overlooking the River Dee, this Mediterranean-style restaurant has superb al fresco dining facilities as well as affording some of the best views in the area.
With more and more eateries recognising the appeal of outside dining, the technological advances in outdoor heating, and the not-entirely-negative effects of global warming on the good old British summer, the opportunities for al fresco dining look set to multiply.
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