You know the way Ross and Rachel just keep coming back to each other like some sort of North and South poles throughout the entire 10 seasons of Friends, despite pissing each other off in pretty much every episode? That’s kind of what my relationship has been like with Alma de Cuba since discovering there was more to the Liverpool food and drink scene than Lord Street McDonald’s and Home Bargains’ mutation of bonafide WKD way back when.
As you know from my post on some of the best restaurants in Liverpool for a special occasion, I wound up with yet another booking at Alma in honour of my other half’s birthday. It was part of a bloody brilliant deal with the Arthouse Hotel so I shook off my reservations and pulled in my seat at our table for two for with a totally open mind. Sadly, despite falling in love with the venue just as much as I did the first, second and third times, the edibles left us bitterly disappointed.
On my blog, I do usually try to stick to the mantra: if you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all with conviction but this particular eatery leaves me with a bit of a conundrum on my hands…
From the menu, inspired by Cuban cuisine, we went for the Sweet Potato & Chorizo Croquettas with red onion salsa and garlic mayonnaise to start. These were perfectly palatable and inoffensive, quite nice in fact but there was a distinct after taste of oil and for a princely £7.50, I think two teeny tiny croquettas was more than a bit tight. In fact, our waiter even commented on how fast we had eaten them with a raised brow – a tad rude some might say but we aren’t easily offended. For mains Abby had the Cod with Corn Chowder (which she said was alright) and a side of Garlic Mushrooms which were actually the singing fat lady of the circus.
I went for the Hanging Chicken Kebab and opted for ‘coconut scented rice‘ as an accompaniment which didn’t really taste of anything at all. Unfortunately I also had to send my chicken back as it came to me about 2 degrees from cold and only really returned lukewarm the second time. The staff were more than obliging nonetheless. We did really enjoy our dessert of Toasted Banana Bread with white chocolate ice cream and a delicious toffee sauce but our cocktails left a lot to be desired. I am normally one to champion the Alma de Cuba Pina Colada because they’ve shaken up many in the past for me that have been damn near perfect but this one, not so much.
So the reason why I’m in such a pickle with our Alma is this – I just can’t bring myself to hate it when there are still so many things to love about it. It’s like being in a committed relationship, 5 years down the line, when you could quite nonchalantly murder your other half with a frozen leg of lamb and eat the evidence but in the same breath, not be able to imagine a day in your life without them in it.
Or maybe it’s because all the lust is there but there’s a severe lack of love from both ends?
Yeah, I think that’s it. I know I’m still very much attracted to Alma de Cuba with it’s raw stone interior, it’s stained glass windows, it’s lofty ceilings the anchor for rustic chandeliers and it’s irresistible candelabra ambiance… Same with the food – it looks to die for. Even their fantastic events calendar and dynamic marketing tactics get me going. I just don’t love it anymore and I’m going to boldly theorise that it doesn’t love me either.
Or any of its other juiced-up diners for that matter.
I just find this place so fucking frustrating! There are gargantuan amounts of unfulfilled potential here and I can only imagine how incredible it would be if the quality of the food and the calibre of the staff was whipped into some sort of sophistication. Keep the biblical vibe – it’s what the place is all about – but ditch the below average fare and apathetic waiters in favour of flare and finesse. Just imagine something like the Venetian small plates of Salthouse Bacaro served in the beautiful and ethereal surroundings by staff who are as as dedicated to the culinary (and customer satisfaction) cause as the Mowgli Streetfood lot…
So it’s with a heavy heart that I’m forced to declare my relationship with Alma de Cuba very much on the rocks and with so many fantastic restaurants popping up around the city right now, there is definitely work to be done.
C’mon Alma, you could be so much better than this and I’m not going to give up on you just yet. I’m hoping Gospel Sunday Brunch is going to win me over.