Small plates are all the rage right now. It seems like everything has shrunk in size and dining habits have become abundantly more social. It’s a good job Joey Tribbiani ain’t around anymore (sorry guys, it’s time to face the facts) because eating out is all about sharing these days. I know some people ralley for the abolition of small plate syndrome but I don’t mind it – in fact, I actually really enjoy this dynamic way of doing things. Especially when places like Salthouse Bacaro do it so well.
Seeing as I’m championing the small plate movement, I thought it high time I get some more up on the old blog so when I was invited to check out the new Courtyard Bar and Kitchen on Liverpool’s bustling Roe Street, I made myself 300% available. I’ve always overlooked this particular plot of land when weighing up my edible options as it has, until now, been home to the infamous Penny Farthing pub. A rich element of Scouse history but not one for the fainthearted… So I’m glad to see it’s successor looking so damn swanky!
Our fabulous waiter for the afternoon, Rafael from São Paulo suggested that 2-3 small plates would be a good place to start so with that in mind and a Banana & Custard Cheesecake in our midst we decided to keep it modest. Well, at least we thought we were keeping it modest until each perfectly presented and ample dish was put down in front of us!
As far as ‘small plates’ go, Courtyard’s are a long way from being the most expensive in town but I definitely wouldn’t say they were a cheap fix either. Ranging from about £5.50 to somewhere near the £8.50 mark, you’d kind of expect to receive a substantial portion and that we did. In fact, we scoffed until we could scoff no mo’ and I’d say 5 Small Plates between the two of us was just perfect and left plenty of room for dessert and a frothy coffee chaser.
So without further ado, here’s what we selected from the all-encompassing menu of mini dishes…
Wild Mushroom Risotto Rice Balls (£5.50) – These were my Pop‘s top pick. I noticed he politely left just one on the plate for me to sample but the speed at which his fork speared the poor thing when I said I would take an extra bite of fishcake and raise him the last risotto ball spoke a thousand words. I did dip my finger in the Tarragon Sauce though and it was delicious.
Goats Cheese Bon Bons (£6.50) – These marvelous little morsels were my star of the show for sure. A trio of golden, breaded bon bons stuffed to the brim with creamy goat’s cheese. The mild flavour of the cheese was the ideal cushion for the tangy balsamic jelly that came alongside discs of crunchy pickled beetroot. Just perfect. I ate them so fast that the cheese was clogged in my throat but hey, death by dairy ain’t a bad way to go.
Dirty Burger (£7) – You don’t often see something quite so buxom on a small plates list but y’all know I’m never one to turn down a dirty burger or two. So when I saw this tower of grilled brioche, beefburger, tomato chutney, cheese, bacon and gloriously runny fried egg on the menu you better believe I ordered it. The verdict? Probably one of the best burgers I’ve ever had the pleasure of annihilating.
Smoked Haddock Fishcakes (£6.50) – You know when someone super hot actually turns out to be a really shitty person? Yeah, these were nothing like that. This concoction of breaded haddock and potato, with their Chive Butter Sauce and their pretty Charred Leek tiaras were every bit as delectable as they look. A subtle flavour is perfect for those who are little timid on the fish front but still the ideal alternative if there are any pescetarians in the house.
Salt & Pepper Chicken Strips (£6.50) – Of all the dishes we managed to get through between us, these were probably our least favourite. They were perfectly nice hunks of crunchy, fried chicken with a sweet chilli dipping sauce on the side but the meat was perhaps a little dry and the salt and pepper seasoning a tad too subtle for our demanding palates.
Leg of Lamb Steak (£8.50) – I’m not a lover of lamb so left this dish of lamb steak with a Cannellini, Pepper & Chorizo broth for my old man to tuck into. After a good grilling, I gathered that he very much enjoyed the dish just perhaps not as much as his beloved Mushroom Risotto Balls. These men, they do get very attached to their balls don’t they?
The saying: saving the best ’til last really came to life during our trip to Courtyard BK in an all-singing, all-dancing sophistication of a true childhood favourite. Bravo to the Courtyard chefs because they have managed to elevate good old ‘nanas and custard to ethereal levels of authentic, hardcore dessert porn. I had been anticipating this Banana & Custard Cheesecake for weeks and let me tell ya, it certainly did not disappoint.
Luxurious, indulgent, sticky and sweet cream cheese all sitting pretty on a buttery biscuit base that would definitely get Greg Wallace’s lips a-smackin’. My dad was evidently also a fan of his Lemon Meringue Pie as it was spooned up from the slate it was beautifully presented on faster than you could say: when life gives you lemons, bake them into a pie. He said it had the kind of zing that could turn your face inside out but that was a compliment, I promise.
I’m looking forward to heading back there and this time, it’s the Beef Fillet, Cajun Chicken Slider and Fillet of Bass in my firing line. I’ve since read that all of the meat that goes into curating the Courtyard Bar and Kitchen menu is locally sourced and you know I’m all about supporting independent businesses so that makes for the perfect cherry on my Martini.
Thanks for having us guys, see you again soon!