Stroll up Liverpool’s Seel Street at 9am on a Monday morning and you’ll witness nothing much more than the early morning call of seagull and various city-slickers hurriedly navigating the cobbles on their way to work. Venture to this nook of the city at 9pm on a Saturday night however and it’ll be a completely different story. Like a phoenix rises from the ashes, Seel Street comes to life as one of (if not the) hottest hangout about town as the sun sets. If you like the Arctic Monkeys, fancy pants beers and tongue-in-cheek neon typography, this is the place to be.
This hive of hedonistic activity also happens to be home to some of the best Chinese food in Liverpool. Blink and you might miss its understated edible offering (especially through the haze of roly-smoking hipsters and the hiss of IPA bottles being opened) but let your nose guide you and you’ll find yourself on Blind Tiger‘s doorstep.
In my bid to shine the spotlight on Seel Street’s culinary secrets, here is my review of this utterly deserving unsung hero…
Manifesting a unique fusion of speakeasy cocktail bar, full table service dim sum diner, live music venue and host to the occasional burlesque night, Blind Tiger has long been a fierce favourite of mine. If my memory serves me correctly, I first wound up descending the Seel Street staircase into this ornate and Oriental boudoir on the promise of sake and a cocktail that came served with a decorative hand fan. Forever a sucker for novelty.
For many moons after that, I enjoyed sipping my way through countless Asian Salvations but it wasn’t until a few months down the line that I became acquainted with Blind Tiger’s delicious food offering. It’s all thanks to the soft spot for sweet potato fries I was harboring at the time. You remember the phase – about four or five years ago when the concept of substituting boring old chips for sweet potato fries was nothing much short of revolutionary. Thankfully I have moved on from that particular carb-based addiction but there, with those legendary Salt & Pepper Sweet Potato Fries, lies the beginning of my love affair with the Blind Tiger food menu.
The first time I ever ate at Blind Tiger – when we ordered the aforementioned fries and some Supreme Salt & Pepper Chicken Spring rolls (£5) to share – I distinctly remember tweeting something along the lines of: Fucking hell, who put 50p in Blind Tiger. Now you’ll be glad to know that my articulation also evolved with my choice in potato-based small plates but I do still love this place with the same enthusiasm and vigor. In fact, those crispy, golden spring rolls on their bed of borderline-burnt peppers and lashings of seasoning are still an absolute staple when I’m eating here and a dish I implore you to get your chops around too.
If you’re looking for more than a light bite or an uptown bar snack like we were ahead of our night on the town last weekend, there is plenty more to choose from off the Pan Asian menu. Going all out, we ordered some of the BT Asian salt & pepper deep fried squid rings (£5), Blind Tiger prawn crackers (£2), the KFC (kung fu chicken) house special (£5) and some chicken spring rolls (duh!) to start with. I use the term ‘start with’ loosely as Blind Tiger offers the kind of casual dining where the plates are brought out as and when they’re prepared.
With my aversion to anything even close to calamari I can’t speak for the S&P squid rings but our chicken spring rolls were as divine as ever and the strips of crunchy kung fu chicken with their sriracha mayo dip were a complete and utter delight. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that they worm their way into a permanent spot on the menu actually.
For round two – or the ‘main course’ – we went for some crispy dug leg pancakes (£9), the hot sweet & sour chicken with pineapple & jasmine rice (£7.50) and two orders of the classic chicken pad thai (£6.50). I was also nearly swayed by the sticky chicken & peanut gua bao bun but I settled on that being the perfect excuse to return in the near future. Plus, our lazy Susan was already looking pretty full at this point and she was definitely struggling to spin under the weight of our inability to whittle down the whole host of irresistible choices.
While many of the base ingredients of the dishes on the menu are similar (think peppers, vegetables, sweet & sour etc etc) each plate has its own personality and I really admire that in a restaurant. The duck pancakes had a distinct street food vibe, while the pad thai and the sweet & sour chicken had a more refined way about them. Across the board (or gorgeous granite table) flavours were strong and packed one hell of a punch on the palate. These are big, bold flavours that suffer no compromise on taste in favour of aesthetic.
The Dim Sum Diner menu is broken down into nine easily digested sections: Snacks, Crispy, Steamed, Gua Bao, Noodles, Rice Bowls, Plates, House Sides and Desserts, complete with a separate vegan menu to boot. Each of these subcategories are scalable in both portion size and budget so you’re more than able to share a few smaller dishes for around £2-5 per plate or fill up on something for substantial for no more than £9.
As you’ll know from my numerous glowing reports of Salthouse Bacaro, I prefer this chilled out way of dining – I love being able to sample various dishes and discuss them with my taste-buds. However if sharing just ain’t your style, you’ll be more than catered for here and for the quality and quantity on offer, the prices are incredibly modest.
Not only does the food here taste great, it’s bloody well presented too. If a restaurant delivers on delicious food and has a strong cocktail list then I’m all eyes and ears but when the consumables are served up with consideration for the smallest of details, you’ve really got my attention then. The vibrancy of the Asian ingredients and authentic combination of textures looked picture perfect against beautiful black crockery and the fun of the ‘KFC’ house special was translated perfectly into a brown takeaway box that was playfully out of place in the rather decadent surroundings.
This might sound like a whole load of codswallop to some but for me, it’s the little things that really elevate a bar or eatery to the calibre I’m filing Blind Tiger under.