We ate one of our favourite things in Liverpool recently. Not Wagyu beef, nor fresh shellfish or sashimi. Not even a superfood or one of those burgers you have to dislocate your jaw to swallow. Just half a sweet potato, courtesy of the Albert Dock’s Madre. Scoff? You might. But so did we. Then we ordered another.
What marks out Madre from the gaggle of small plates purveyors across the city is how successful it is in taking everyday ingredients and transforming them into something remarkable. Take the coal-baked sweet potato: cooked on coals it’s collapsed in on itself, with a helping hand from a knob of butter to become something unctuous, rich – with just enough bite to contrast the sweetness. It’s a great dish. And it’s only a snack.
We’ll be honest, when we heard of the concept – cocktails and tacos – we imagined scarfing down overpriced fast-food and straining to hear the person sitting next to you over a din of bad music. It would hardly be the first in Liverpool.
But Madre comes from the people behind Belzan and Volpi – we had a feeling we’d be in safe hands. There are two floors – upstairs for dining is quiet and relaxed – and a courtyard that should be lovely in the Summer.
We tried a bream ceviche, served with lime, dill and dots of guacamole. Tender, light, fresh. We smiled while we ate it – then ordered another.
But the food? We’ve tried a dozen or so of the small plates, priced reasonably at between £3-7. The dishes aren’t large – you’d want at least three per person – but they’re excellent value. Simple dishes such as chicken, pork and fish tacos are brought alive by a well-judged combination of flavours. Three or four simple ingredients adorn each foldable disc, chosen for their punch, the sweet-and-sour, the bite, the zing…
There’s more. We tried a bream ceviche, served with lime, dill and dots of guacamole. Tender, light, fresh. We smiled while we ate it – then ordered another. Sweetcorn with Wensleydale: sounds ridiculous; eats delicious. Fried potatoes – the sort of will-this-do? dish you see in other places that plead with you for four quid in return for forlorn straws of cold spud analogue – are fatty, crispy little hasselbacks here.
There are more eye-catching items on the Madre menu we haven’t tried: BBQed bone marrow, sashimi-grade tune tostada… really hungry? How about half a pig’s head? A £55 rib-eye? We have a feeling you may want to share.
There’s a good chance of cocktails, made downstairs at the livelier bar, and draught beers that are worth exploring. The only shot in the foot were the tiny bottles of posh soft drinks that were scarcely bigger than a hotel miniature.
With the likes of Madre, Lunyalita and Maray moving in The Albert Dock feels like it’s self-actualising. The image of the site from Boys From The Black Stuff, shattered and desolate, is not so long ago. Yet there were a good two decades where the grand old building didn’t seem to know what it was for – juggling museums, gaudy souvenir shops and WAGgy bars.
Madre is serving some of the best food in Liverpool right now.
In the slightly odd end-unit, decked out in decor that gives a cursory nod to such fripperies (the website reads like a 90s shrug), it just works.
We don’t care about the branding, nor what they hang on the wall. Madre? It means Mother. We don’t know why. Either way this south-American-ish eaterie is serving some of the best food in Liverpool right now.
• Madre is open from 11am-midnight Sunday-Thursday and 11am-2am Friday and Saturday.
Royal Albert Dock