Tuesday, 18 June 2013

A day in the life

Albert Dock, Stevedores by Edward Chambré Hardman
The first full day in Liverpool dawned under rather grey skies. But since I didn’t need to be in the conference centre until around 9.20, I went for an amble around the deserted docks area first, snapping a few shots with the phone.

What has been done in this area is really heartening.

As I touched on the other day, so many towns and cities have been de-regionalised, losing so much identity that you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in some sort of identikit town centre – wherever you are.

Around the Liverpool docks, however, you have a range of the old buildings that have been utilised afresh, but without losing the character.

The old remains, but like some sort of Brigadoon.

Mersey Tunnel
Outside our hotel are a series of boards advertising the house and studio of Irish-born photographer Edward Chambré Hardman (1898-1988).

Near the Anglican cathedral, it is now run by the National Trust and is open to the public. Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll have the time to visit, but those same boards also acted as miniature exhibition of Hardman’s work.

He recorded the city in wonderfully dramatic monochrome, from the 1920s on. There are some superb shots – of which a few are reproduced here – and Hardman deserves to be much better known.

He not only recorded the changing scenery of the city, but some of his street photography brings to mind Henri Cartier Bresson.

Hardman with his Rolleiflex
And several of the pictures displayed featured the Albert Dock from the years when Liverpool was a much more active port.

The buildings are the same, although the use has changed to a commercial mix, including everything from residential, to a hotel, to The Beatles Story to the Tate Liverpool, to retail to eateries and cafés.

And the dock itself still provides harbour for boats – not just tourist craft, but working boats too.

After a morning stint of conference reporting, lunchtime offered a chance to go back out into the improving weather to head back to the Albert Dock in search of fodder.

Because I’d earlier spotted the Docklands Fish & Chip Shop, I was heading in a very specific direction.

I’m up north, after all – and London absolutely cannot compete on the fish ‘n’ chips front.

As it happens, I ordered scampi and chips to take away. It came in a huge box: scampi, chips, mushy peas, lettuce and a small pickled onion and a piece of pickled gherkin.

Now I admit to abandoning the pickles and the lettuce. But the rest – even though mostly out of a freezer, but fried as I waited – was damned good scoff.

Cunard Building, bird's eye view
And oh … oh … they have scallops on the menu and I haven’t seen those for decades, so it was a case of ‘I’ll be back’ on the fried-lunch front.

Indeed, it was straight back there today for a portion of these delightful that’s potato discs, battered, for any non-northerners reading this) and a steak and kidney pie.

By gum – it’s great to get some proper northern fodder!

The evening saw us eat at the hotel – and it was certainly one of the better hotel restaurants I’ve eaten at – although it was a tiny bit strange.

With a few curtains, drawn and undrawn, the space was transformed from the breakfast area of the morning.

One pair of curtains had been opened to reveal a small cinema screen. Playing, as we sat down, was an Abbott and Costello film (with sound off, so that the music from the nearby bar was the soundtrack), followed by the 1929 silent-talkie half-and-half Douglas Fairbanks romp, The Iron Mask.

This – together with the Charlie Chapin posters on one side – is apparently what makes it The Cinema Club. And it was a tad surreal, to be honest. I had my back to the screen, but The Other Half went from observing that he'd never 'got' Abbott and Costello, to laughing-groaning at a 'lion' that was licking its lips at the sight of Costello.

View of the Mersey from the Liver Building
Later, he was able to muse on how every single screen representation of Cardinal Richelieu looks exactly the same.

It appeared to have no connection with the cuisine, which had a clear south of France-Italian influence.

For a starter, I had calamari with a light mayo and a quarter of lemon with dried chilli.

The battered squid was the tiniest bit over-cooked, but it was still tasty enough.

I opted for the ravioli as a main: excellent pasta, stuffed with a mushroom mix that was meaty yet light, and served with a four-cheese sauce that was also mild enough that it didn’t overwhelm the mushroom. It was garnished with a handful of rocket.

There was a salad of rocket, red onion and feta, plus a slice of very enjoyable garlic bread.

The incredibly modern Two Cathedrals
The downside was the rocket: not only was there far too much – for goodness sake, it is not the only leaf available – and it wasn’t at its freshest.

The other half had a veal Milanese and reported it to be very pleasant, having started with mushrooms and aîoli.

For a dessert, I went for the tiramisu with a Bailey’s custard.

This was the weakest course: the tiramisu seemed to be part made of sponge cake – nowhere near light enough – and the crème anglais was too thin and seemed pretty much flavourless.

To drink, we had a rosé Chateau la Gordonn 2011 from Provence, which was nice and fruity, with a honey sweetness developing to a hint of tobacco – and it was very pleasant.

And that was the end of that.

Hopefully, in the coming days, there’s be a little more chance to see a little more.

No comments:

Post a Comment