For me, a Saturday night in Liverpool hasn’t quite been the same since the Le Bateau club closed. A dark haven of nostalgic indie music with a buzzing atmosphere and cheap beer to boot, it offered the sort of night that can be hard to come by in a new age of trendy bars and carefully crafted beverages.
Everything has to move with the times though – the Duke Street basement included – and as its new Cedar Food and Drink incarnation, it’s striving to be up there with the best of the city’s network of imaginative eateries and speakeasy bars.
The transformation was impressive from the outset, as ornate tiling guided my friend and I into the dimly lit, chic yet relaxed surroundings. With a friendly welcome and the note we’d be served a taster menu that evening, we happily took our place to await the first round.
Simple garnished gin and tonics served in the now mandatory balloon glasses, and a helping of warm bread with beef fat butter eased us in gently for the food and drink pairings in store.
First we sampled the small plate menu’s scrambled duck egg with truffle, sourdough and chervil (£5.50). Accompanied by the gin-based ‘Not So Bloody Mary’ (£7.25) – an unusual ‘breakfast’ cocktail made with a clearer tomato consommé as opposed to tomato juice – both the dish and its liquid sidekick made me nervous, as I’m generally neither a fan of eggs nor the Bloody Mary! As it happened I was pleasantly surprised by the scrambled egg and its buttery flavour, and whilst the drink took a little getting used to it was a refreshing addition.
Fellow small plate, the ox skirt tartare with charcoal, mustard, coriander, lime and capers (£8.50) was perfectly presented and another surprise hit. My dining partner and I agreed it was something we may never have picked ourselves, but it was delicious and full of flavour with a fruity, citrusy edge. A moreish Waterkloof Estate ‘Circle of Life’ white wine (£4.50-£5.75) was matched, and added the ideal contrasting sweetness.
Moving onto mackerel, this flamed fish arrived on a bed of tasty pickled radish, gooseberry jam and crunchy samphire rather than the menu’s French beans (£6.50), setting us off on a run of white fish and wine combinations which also included the large plates’ seabass fillet offering (£17.95) – a flavour-filled dish with kohlrabi puree, courgette, tarragon and lemon.
My dinner date and I were filling up from the consistently mouth-watering courses, but as we absorbed the cool surroundings, already plotting our return, the next plate arrived to our delight.
The taste of the main rump of beef with beetroot, turnip puree, watercress and a marrow and black garlic jus (£18.95) was a definite highlight – the beef was pinker than we’d
usually opt for ourselves but beautifully cooked to give a smoky flavour without being charred. Naturally, an ale was its liquid companion, this time a Doggie Style pale from the Flying Dog brewery (£4).
A tender veal chop with colourful heritage carrots which oozed freshness, tomato concentrate and aubergine (£19.95 on the menu) brought an end to our savoury Cedar adventure,
making way for a sweet finale. The deconstructed fruit crumble-style dessert was light, creative and lovely, mixing berries, crunchy pieces and an apple foam with custard
on a, once again, well-presented plate. A tangy bramble gin cocktail was one of my favourite drinks of the night.
Slightly pricier than some of its fellow independent restaurants, Cedar does however provide the quality, presentation and ingredients to match. A fine dining-esque feast
in a laidback venue which, much like its Le Bateau predecessor, would make for a great night out.