Walk up and down Castle Street these days and you may not recognise it if you’ve been away for a few months. Where once there were estate agents and banks there are now more restaurants than you could hit, were you to throw a handful of fava beans across the street. Heritage is just one, but there’s more than just its eye-catching branding that makes it stand out among its neighbours.
In making our way there we passed a Gino D’Acampo restaurant, packed full of thirsty punters in search of unlimited Prosecco, where once there was a bank and a supermarket. There’s a Cau there too. And a Neighbourhood, Santa Maluco and Veeno, the latter three part of small, north-western business groups that have led a startling makeover on Castle Street.
It’s a vision for a business that makes a lot of sense. Castle Street connects Liverpool’s business district with the revitalised Liverpool ONE area – a very 21st-Century blend of leisure, retail and residential space that’s driving an explosion in demand for food and drink in Liverpool city centre.
With the Albert Dock and Beatles Quarter within spitting distance, not to mention a bevy of beautiful Victorian and Georgian buildings in the area being rapidly converted into upmarket hotels, Heritage is well placed to hoover up passing day trippers and business overnighters.
— HeritageLpool (@heritage_lpool) February 10, 2018
There are smaller indies too, tucked away in smaller plots where once you might have spotted a solicitor’s or printers. And it’s here the owners of Heritage have chosen to open a restaurant that promises a blend of Sicilian and Jordanian – and, distantly, Venezuelan – well, heritage.
It’s family-run by a team of four directors – with husband-and-wife team Alex and Antonia Navarro managing the restaurant. Alex is an experienced chef while Antonia formerly worked as a teacher. It’s their heritage that has informed the name and vision of Heritage. Antonia’s sister and brother-in-law Lauren and Adam round off the managers.
The restaurant is a veritable list of the things we claim to hold most dear in our restaurants: the food is seasonal, locally sourced and much of it is made on the premises. Plenty of restaurants pay lip service to the idea of local sourcing, but there’s a roll-call of Merseyside food and drink on offer here.
Beer choice is provided by Maghull’s Neptune Brewery and there’s a choice of vegan-friendly beer and wine. Black pudding? Netherley. Do stick around for a coffee – Heritage has its own blend, made by Crosby Coffee.
Our chard was grown just up the road, ten miles from Castle Street. The bacon is home-cured, chicken home-brined, bread made on the premises and the cocktails mixed by bar manager David, who you may have seen in a number of other restaurants around Liverpool. Just to emphasise the point, co-owner Antonia painted the walls herself.
So far, so good. The food then? Any restaurant serving ‘Maghull chard’ gets an instant pass from us – especially when it’s served with sweet confit carrots with garlic and chilli. It’s one of just a handful of starters on a reassuringly coherent and perfectly-formed menu: modern British food with enough to suggest there’s something more interesting going on. We also tried moist lamb koftas with a thick, creamy tzatziki and crumbly feta – with some of the home-made bloomer-style bread and some pungent zaatar.
We had a beautifully-cooked sea bass with Chinese cabbage, chilli, garlic and a homemade prawn toast – just enough sweet and sour with the dish to lift everything. There are plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes on the menu too: we’ve tried the rustic, filling roasted vegetable flatbread, described as a ‘pizza on steroids’. We couldn’t manage all of it and resolved to try the brined roast chicken, curried mussels, and lamb, ham and lentil soup
with wholemeal bread another day.
If the savoury dishes at Heritage suggest something of a roving palate, the desserts were very British and very wintry during our visit in February: all sticky toffies and baked custards.
As is the way these days, eating at Heritage is an all-day, 7-days-a-week affair. There’s breakfast at weekends (until 2pm), plus a 2/3-course menu on Sundays including roasts (£16/20). Lunch and dinner are served noon-5pm and 5pm-10pm respectively Monday to Saturday.
The branding at Heritage suggests something south American; polished concrete and glazed plywood floors are a very modern idiom, but Antonia’s artwork on the wall and some eye-catching furniture are reminders there are inside there are little gestures to the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences. Downstairs there’s a cosy bar area; a mezzanine upstairs provides another three dozen covers.
All of which would count for very little if the food and service weren’t up to scratch. When Heritage’s customers said they wanted a longer breakfast service, the restaurant obliged. Ask staff to alter your order, or make something not on the menu and they’ll do their best to oblige.
Not that we’d recommend it. The dishes at Heritage balance a few well-chosen ingredients and make them sing. And for all its bottomless Proseccos, that’s something you shouldn’t take for granted on Castle Street.
Heritage40 Castle St