Down the Hatch
Duke Street, Liverpool
Review by Natasha Young
The basement of former nightclub Le Bateau has been through various food and drink guises since its once grungy dancefloor was transformed into a sophisticated dining space.
With minimal, ground level signage to make its presence known from the outside though, the venue has always seemed to me to have somewhat of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in an area of the city where an eclectic selection of bars and eateries are vibrantly standing out.
So does the site’s current venture – vegetarian and vegan junk food joint Down the Hatch – have a menu that can shout loud enough to attract Liverpool’s enthusiastic foodie population? Well when my colleague and I visited on a grim weathered Wednesday evening it seemed like word of the eatery had certainly gotten around.
The standard menu at Down the Hatch is vegetarian, and a vegan menu was also offered outlining a similar selection that steers clear of dairy ingredients and honey.
We were faced with dishes which sounded hearty and indulgent as the options were broken up into ‘small junk’, ‘big junk’ and ‘home cooked (like ya ma does)’ sections. With bumper burgers, macaroni cheese and a BBQ pulled pork-like option made with jack fruit, it was a meat-free approach to the hefty American-style dishes we’ve come to expect in popular haunts like Almost Famous and Slim’s Pork Chop Express.
My dining partner, who has previously dabbled in veganism, and I, a meat-eater, were drawn to the Cauliflower Five Ways platter (£8) on the ‘small junk’ menu and opted to share it as a starter.
With variations of the vegetable cooked in chipotle and honey, buffalo style, cheese sauce, garlic butter and beer battered, and served alongside slaw and salsa, the sizeable dish set the tone for an evening of delicious dishes that were mammoth in their portions.
Cauliflower has seemingly grown as a trendy and versatile fixture on many of the city’s menus in recent times and we were eager to try each of Down the Hatch’s variations. All five came with their own distinctive, enjoyable taste but my guest and I crowned the flavoursome buffalo sauce coating as the highlight.
For my main I picked the Michaelangelo (£8) – a refried blackbean patty with grilled mature cheddar. Like all of the menu’s ‘bun junk’ options it was served alongside slaw and fries, and I upgraded to the sweet potato variety for an additional 50p.
My fellow diner was keen to try Down the Hatch’s version of the meat substitute seitan but wanted to steer clear of bread. The Zinger Strips ‘N’ Chips (£8) – spicy crispy coated seitan strips served with fries and ‘Howl at the Moon’ hot sauce salsa – fitted the bill.
As the choices were placed on our table alongside the remains of our cauliflower platter, the full scale of our oversized order became apparent. Perhaps coupling ‘big junk’ and ‘bun junk’ options with anything else was ambitious but the menu made it sound irresistible!
Fries didn’t just sit next to my burger – they were also underneath it as the generous portion filled the plastic basket my food was served in.
Meanwhile the burger itself, which with its dark textured patty and accompaniment of cheese didn’t look too dissimilar from a meat version, was dense but delightful. The refried beans gave a softness and a taste unlike any bean-based burger I’d tried before.
Meanwhile the seitan strips were hailed as the “best seitan I’ve had” by my guest. Enough said!
The portion sizes, coupled with our eyes being bigger than our bellies, defeated us during our visit to Down the Hatch but we were, nonetheless, happy with our feast.
The textures and flavours were certainly enough to satisfy carnivores and herbivores alike and, as a server of junk food, the restaurant was as good as any that’s cooking up meat. Plus the prices, particularly for the scale of the dishes, offered excellent value.