Friday has long been my favourite day of the week – the day when I clock off at 5pm, kick back and focus my attentions upon the important things in life, like getting pissed and dancing to motown records in inappropriate footwear. But recently, Friday has managed to gain an even more special place in my heart, because that’s the day when I decide to go all out to town in terms of my lunching arrangements.
Being your average everyday office worker, I tend to bring my own lunch to work – or, if I’m feeling especially lazy that day – partake of the numerous interesting looking delights served up in my employers cafeteria. However, at the end of every week, myself and my colleague Lydia decide to lunch in one of the numerous eating establishments situated on Hope Street in Liverpool (which, if the gushing bloke I heard on Radio 4 the other morning is to be believed, is the boulevard Saint Germain of the North West of England).
Of all the places we’ve gone to since we established our little eating club, Host was the one I’d most been looking forward to trying out. I’d heard numerous reviews – both good and bad – of its South East Asian influenced cuisine, its mind blowing desserts and its interesting canteen inspired dining style. Being the kind of girl who quite happily live off noodles for the rest of her days, it sounded just like my kind of place.
And, to an extent, I wasn’t disappointed. Walking into Host is like what I imagine walking into a restaurant designed by the cast of Playschool might be like. It’s a huge airy space – all big windows, Wagamama style benches and primary coloured walls. Whilst some people may find its informality slightly discomforting, I quite liked its easy going style and air of unpretentiousness.
I was equally impressed by the food. For a starter, we had bowls of edamame beans which were served warm with a light sprinkling of sea salt, and were great fun to pop right out of the pod directly into your mouth (even more so when one leapt up and hit Lydia right between the eyes).
For the main courses, Lydia settled upon a poached Sea Bass which was served with pak choi and jasmine rice. It looked and tasted delicious – the broth was light and fragrant with soy and lemongrass, whilst the fish was pillowly soft, flaking off into thick white shards at the merest touch of a chopstick. My Massaman Pork Belly curry was equally good – I’d never thought of pork belly as being an ingredient which would go well with indian spices and thick gravy, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The tamarind in the sauce made the whole dish pleasingly sour, and complemented the silky smooth fat of the pork belly perfectly. The whole thing sang with flavour and I happily demolished the lot.
The only thing which let the meal down for me was the dessert. After hearing tales of Host’s unique desserts menu (comprising of such thing as Strawberry and White Pepper Panacotta with Liquorice macaroons and various ice creams sprinkled with chocolate covered popping candy), I was really looking forward to getting stuck into the Rosewater Parfait with chocolate sauce I’d ordered. However, what I was presented with was a huge salmon pink cylinder…and that was it. I had to ask our waiter to bring me over a small dish of chocolate sauce, and the whole thing just appeared to be a bit underwhelming. Thankfully it tasted better than it looked – like a very posh (very cold) Turkish Delight. Whilst it may be a little sweet for some people’s tastes, I found it to be rather pleasant, putting in mind of when I was a little girl and a bar of Fry’s Turkish Delight (in the lurid purple foil wrapper) seemed like the height of sophistication.
Host may not be perfect, and it may not be the kind of place you’d choose to take a date on a romantic night out (its long benches not exactly being conducive to great shows of intimacy). However, I’ve yet to find a better place in Merseyside for interesting – and really bloody tasty – South East Asian inspired food. Plus, at only £15 for three courses and a beer, it didn’t break the bank either.
I’ve yet to decide whether Host really is something special, or just a very posh Wagamamma’s. However, I will be returning there again. If only to try some more of that Pork Belly curry.