NICOLA ADAM gets a ticket to ride and spends a hard days night free as a bird on a magical mystery tour of Liverpool, all with a little help from her friend. She reports.
My hair is gleaming, my outfit prepared, my finest handbag adorned and I’m ready to step of the train at Liverpool Lime Street into one of the most style conscious cities in the UK.
Ask me me why Liverpool feels so different to other cities and I’ll struggle to keep the list short.
But this is a place that is so steeped in cultural references that there are very people in the world who do not have a connection. Football, the people, its iconic stars and even more iconic buildings.
Liverpool has so much and this spills into its remarkable offering for your common garden travel and experience-loving foodie like me.
Stepping into gleaming sunshine of the train at Lime Street station, it was a matter of moments (indeed in walking distance for flat shoe and rolling suitcase adorners) to our hotel.
The perfect stop for couples, friends (as in my case), families and even boasting dog-friendly rooms, the Novotel is a four star with every facility you could need including a basement swimming pool/fitness area and a sprawling breakfast restaurant.
In shouting distance of Liverpool ONE, walking distance to the docks with all its attractions, and a hop and a skip to all the best bars and restaurants, we were lucky enough to gain a room on on the top 13th floor with a stunning view across the city with all its architectural wonders.
The rooms, unassuming but functional, proved a perfect base.
So the sun was shining and our stomachs were rumbling when we stepped to our lunch destination right within the Liverpool ONE complex - Lunya.
Lunya is a deli, restaurant and bar, a slice of the Catalan and Spanish sunshine right in the heart of the city, which has proved a Liverpool success story.
Located in an 18th century warehouse and conveniently right next to Harvey Nichols, the buzzy, friendly, venue is so much of a hot ticket they are opening a branch in Manchester’s Deansgate shortly.
This is not franchised tapas bar, personality and passion for the food and service they provide shines through everything from the staff to the flare and presentation of dishes and they way they source their foods.
We dove right into what felt like a never ending procession of tapas that kept our tastebuds flowing (or in my friend’s case overflowing when she chomped a particularly spicy Pardon pepper).
Fresh and endlessly delicious, we started with a stunning Chorizo selection and kept munching through highlights including Catalan Scouse, Tortilla, Albondigas (pork and beef meatballs in tomato) and my favorite, Pollo Al Moro - a slow cooked chicken in cumin and saffron and lime infused sauce which was so tender it simply fell away.
Simply stunning and set off perfectly with a white Spanish Rioja (Vallemayor) sourced directly from the vineyard. Literally, a little bit of sunshine right there in Liverpool.
Spilling out of Lunya with very full bellies into heart of Liverpool ONE, there was only one thing for it. Shopping.
This is a shopping centre with something for everyone.
From the very cream of high end stores to all the best high street favourites and unique little stores to explorw, nobody is left wanting.
We found ourselves in the Harvey Nicks makeup store among a crowd of Liverpool lovelies, some with hair all ready prepared in rollers, hunting out the perfect eyeliner for the evening’s festivities.
Reminiscent of a gang of glam 40s housewives, they jabbered away in a designer perfumed gang, welcoming us in their midst with advice and tips. In Liverpool they really do take friendliness up a notch.
But Liverpool ONE offers more than just shopping until you drop, this is truly a family affair.
Just next to the shops and situated within five acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, Chavasse Park, named after a local war hero, plays host to a fabulous array of one-off and seasonal events with plenty to do for the energetic small people and a peaceful escape from retail therapy.
Despite our large lunch, by evening we were fully ready for our next gastronomic extravaganza. this time in a fairly new venture in the city’s Exchange Flags area.
Duly dolled up (here, dressed down is not a thing) we headed out to Vincent cafe and cocktail car, a deeply hip and deeply on-point Liverpool bar and restaurant fashioned out a cavernous building, all high windows, chrome and leather. This is the investment-child of Liverpool football favourite Steven Gerrard and the lovely, trendy but comfortable interior, dress-code and clientele all scream wanting to be seen. Which meant there was Prosecco was the drink awaiting is on arrival (no arguments from us.)
We were were settled in a banquette style leather seating area, prime location for seeing and being seen and were soon poring over an English/European fusion menu that sounded delicious from start to finish.
I opted for a spicy chicken wing starter followed by a deliciously tender fillet steak (medium) with home cut chips and side of pepper sauce. A favorite combo of mine and one I always choose to test out a new venue. Passed with flying colours - no red cards from me Steven.
My friend chose a delicious macaroni cheese starter and duck, which judging by its rapid vanishing act went down well also. But the showstopper was dessert - a novelty yet delicious shared sugary delight of marshmallow fondue, to be be melted over a living flame and dipped in a variety of delicious sauces. It was amazing and it finished us off.
Stomach’s fully lined, we set off into Liverpool’s nightlife, checking out venues including the now iconic Alma de Cuba built into a former church and featuring dancing lovelies. Quite the experience. we Tiwst and Shout with the best of them and I almost remember some of it.
Next day and sunglasses adorned, we head back into the sun toward the stunning docklands area, the Liver Birds on the skyline checking out our slightly less glam appearance as we digest our fab buffet breakfast and head towards our cultural highlight - the Beatles story.
No trip to Liverpool is complete without a little beatles nostalgia and this attraction takes you right from the start of their story until the present day, walking through amazing reconstructed feature including the Cavern Club, which was particularly resonant in the wake of former cloakroom girl Cilla’s recent passing, and even the Yellow Submarine.
This visit proved particularly memorable when we found ourselves face to face with John Lennon’s sister Julie, who was signing books and brought home what is so special about Liverpool.
It is their blood and here everyone is family.
It won’t be long before I’ll be back.
5 Wall Street, Liverpool, L1 8JQ
Telephone: 0151 232 3100
40 Hardman Street, Liverpool, L1 4LN
Telephone: 0151 702 5100
Vincent Café & Cocktail Bar
Walker House, Exchange Flags, Liverpool, L2 3YL
Telephone: 0151 236 1331
Lunya Restaurant, Bar & Deli
18-20 College Lane, Liverpool ONE, Liverpool, L1 3DS
Telephone: 0151 706 9770
The Beatles Story (including access to The Beatles Story Exhibition, Discovery Zone and The British Invasion exhibition)
Britannia Vaults, Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4AD
Telephone: 0151 709 1963
(Adults - £14.95, Concessions (senior citizens/students)- £11.50Children (aged 5 - 16 years) - £9)