A FLANEUR’S DAY IN LIVERPOOL
By Hildebrand Staggers and Artichoke McParstit
(Our Most Matured-in-the-Cask Idlers-About-Town)
The flâneur (or flâneuse) is a personage of rare refinement and taste, and as s/he strolls the streets of this elegant city, s/he will have certain requirements that must needs be satisfied.
First, let us consider venues for light refreshment during a leisurely day abroad in the city (for any self respecting flâneur would only consider arriving in town just in time for lunch). We can recommend:
Café Tabac, 126 Bold St – good atmosphere, good food, friendly service; Just off Renshaw St: The Green Fish, 11 Upper Newington – famous all day breakfasts; and The Egg, top floor, 16-18 Newington (with attached gallery: www.eggspace.org); The Bluecoat Chambers, College Lane, (when it reopens), especially pleasant on a sunny day when one can sit outside; and next door, Brook Café, first floor in Quiggins, 12-16 School Lane.
Slightly further out of the centre: Café Kimos, 46 Mount Pleasant, for Middle Eastern food; on Myrtle Parade, Greek food at The Eureka (no.7), and excellent North African cuisine at Shisha Café (no. 11) – bring your own alcohol to the Shisha, so why not purchase it from Mr Charm School himself in the off-license opposite? Enjoy a pipe at Shisha, see the Opium Den.
Hope Street area: The Everyman Bistro, 13 Hope St – excellent ever-varying menu; and The Quarter, 7 Falkner St (off Hope St) – pasta and pizzas only, highly convivial; the two Cathedrals (either end of Hope St.) have quite serviceable cafes too – (after all, every true decadent ends up in the bosom of the Church, even if only for lunch).
Culture in the Afternoon:
Then for a spot of promenading. We recommend:
The Walker Gallery, William Brown St (next to the Library and Museum) – regular collection strong on 19th century, interesting temporary exhibitions; always worth a visit. See www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk for the Walker and other splendid places to visit in Liverpool (including the Conservation Centre and Maritime Museum)
Do not miss the Picton Room in the Public Library, William Brown St – domed reading room (1879) with an atmosphere and echo to make the more Gothic-minded yearn to be there alone at midnight…
The house of Edward Chambre-Hardman, landscape photographer, is on 59 Rodney St; run by the National Trust, visit by appointment only, see www.nationaltrust.org.uk
For more modern tastes The Tate (www.tate.org.uk/liverpool) at the Albert Dock [The Dock itself one of the major attractions of the city, but ever rising rents long ago drove the more eccentric stall-holders out in favour of faceless franchises. Still, the waterfront of the Pierhead remains one of the great sights of the world.]
The Open Eye photographic gallery, 28-32 Wood St. www.openeye.org.uk
And The Bluecoat Chambers, College Lane, built 1716-1717, for special exhibitions: www.bluecoatartscentre.com (currently closed).
For literary sustenance for the soul: but here, alas, Liverpool is somewhat wanting. There is Waterstones on Bold St, but it seems designed more for the Christmas market than for serious readers of discerning literary taste (the contrast with the Manchester branch suggesting that Waterstones management has unforgivably scant respect for levels of literacy in Liverpool); Blackwells on Hope St, a university bookshop, caters only for reading list material, and it shows.
As for second hand and remaindered – here we witness nothing short of a tragedy. Once this city was brilliantly well served, but council shenanigans in the 1990s with threats to re-route streets at the corner of Leece St and Renshaw St led to the closure of three of the finest bookshops. Most lamented of these being the wonderful Atticus on Hardman St, (inspiration behind the Winding Stair Bookshop, Dublin) - once famed, not just for its books and impeccable flâneurial credentials, but for the life-sized wooden likeness of James Joyce positioned outside, faithfully rendered in oils by a great artist, bohemian and flâneur, whose genius still patiently awaits discovery in a Philistine world. Atticus closed, on Bloomsday of course, in 1996, the premises remaining empty for years. It is now a cosmetic clinic or hairdressers (but then, isn’t everywhere these days?).
Few decent bookshops remain: Reid’s of Liverpool on Mt Pleasant, traditional 2nd hand; and Henry Bohn’s, currently in the concourse by Lime St Station, for books and classical records.
We can especially recommend Paul McCue’s fine books and art shop, Gostin’s Building, 32 Hanover St (only 200 yards from the Bluecoat – its one-time home) www.bluecoatbooks.co.uk ; and News From Nowhere, radical and community books, 96 Bold St, www.newsfromnowhere.org.uk
Shopping a Boheme:
Visit Probe Records, 9 Slater St, for your musical pleasures (usual or un).
For exotic foods, spices and every imaginable culinary requirement, Mediterranean and Asian, we cannot praise Mattas, 51 Bold St, too highly.
For stranger tastes: Quiggins (12-16 School Lane), next to the Bluecoat, a fine collection of boutiques for the eccentric, Gothic and geeky, but be swift, it is earmarked for closure, victim of property speculation. Despite a petition of 100,000 signatures, the government decreed that the compulsory purchase of the building by Grosvenor Hamilton is to go ahead (although a council spokesperson said alternative accommodation would be offered – We shall see…)
More details on: www.bbc.co.uk/liverpool/capital_culture/2004/05/quiggins
Make no mistake; we at The Flâneur applaud Liverpool’s modernisation and designation as Capital of Culture 2008. For too long this great city has languished in an economic and cultural doldrums, bled white by unemployment, underinvestment, and low immigration, battered by Thatcherite brutality, undermined by dodgy city council antics and Scally whingeing. We applaud the renovations, transformations and resurrections, and if ‘it all came tumbling down’ to make this possible, then we raise a glass to it. If this splendid city is now on course to be England’s Barcelona, then huzza say we! We do protest, however, at how much of Liverpool’s genuine cultural heritage is being sacrificed to capitalist ‘development’ and local government sponsored official ‘culture’ in the name of modernisation.
As one’s day in the city shades into evening, a flâneur may wish for cultural entertainment:
Let us particularly recommend The FACT, 88 Wood St, for films and video installations: www.fact.co.uk; and the Philharmonic Hall, Hope St, principally a venue for musical concerts (from classical to rock), also stages occasional cinematic presentations, where one of the world’s last three Walturdaw screens (there is one in St Petersburg, and another in some location unknown to us, but this is the only one that still works) rises from the platform, accompanied by a kilted organist on a classical organ (the only such in the world to be played in the manner of a theatre organ). Altogether a thoroughly unique experience (and good films too) www.liverpoolphil.com.
The Everyman (13 Hope St) and the Playhouse, (Williamson Sq.) - now in league with one another - www.everymanplayhouse.com - provide most of the best in Liverpool theatre.
The Empire (Lime St) for more West-End style shows, ballet, concerts etc. www.liverpoolempire.co.uk; The Neptune Theatre, Hanover St, specialises in comedy, www.neptunetheatre.co.uk; also The Unity (Hope Place) for more fringe and community type productions (of somewhat unpredictable quality) www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk.
At some point, the flâneur will wish to dine. Here one is happily spoilt for choice, with a world class range of international fare on offer.
Several of the places we mentioned for lunch are splendid for early-mid evening dining – Café Tabac, The Everyman Bistro, The Quarter, Shisha Café, Eureka, to name but a few.
For a leisurely evening dining, let us recommend:
Ego, Federation House, Hope St, –www.egorestaurants.com – first rate Italian food.
Puschka, 16 Rodney St and 37-39 Hardman St, www.puschka.co.uk, excellent European menu.
The Valparaiso, 4 Hardman St, www.valparaiso-restaurant.co.uk – superb South American menu [on the wall a portrait of the lamented President Allende of Chile, democratically elected Marxist head of state, overthrown and killed in a fascist coup led by General Pinochet, backed by the USA, in 1973. Pinochet’s subsequent free market ‘economic reforms’ were greatly admired by one Margaret Thatcher. By their friends shall ye know them…].
The Shere Khan, 17-19 Berry St, www.sherekhan.com - finest Indian cuisine.
In Chinatown, try the Yuet Ben, 1 Upper Duke St, www.yuetben.co.uk or
The Far East, 27-35 Berry St – the latter especially recommended for Sunday lunchtime dimsum.
Il Forno, new Italian restaurant, 132 Duke St. (www.ilforno.co.uk); and next door,
Sapporo Teppanyaki, Japanese sushi and noodle bar, 134 Duke St, (www.sapporoteppanyaki.com)
Our own favourite, without a doubt, is the magnificent St Petersburg, (7a York St, off Duke St.) - the only genuine Russian restaurant in the UK outside London. www.russiancuisine.co.uk. Sergei, your host, an honorary international flâneur of the first order.
A drink or a few?
Can we interest you in The Philharmonic Dining Rooms (36 Hope St), a veritable palace to Bacchus (with legendary gentlemens’ loos – rivalled only by the Ravenna Mosaics). The Phil is a byword in the International Seamens’ Lodge in Shanghai (it’s a long story);
The Cracke, 13 Rice St, cosy, cramped and bursting with character, where John Lennon first met Stuart Sutcliffe (the rest is mystery);
The Fly & Loaf, (once Kirklands - a much superior name), 13 Hardman St, – a lively spacious place with a fine old Irish style bar as long as the pub itself;
The Casa, 29 Hope St, once (as The Casablanca) the most gloriously seedy dive in the city, now re-opened, cleaner, but the lights are a little too bright; .
[Sadly the Flying Picket on Hardman St has been closed for demolition – more property speculation, which did for the Belvedere as well].
And when it’s last orders: why, on to the Everyman Bistro once more – the hub of Liverpool bohemia!
Then a taxi (Liverpool has more cabs per head of population than anywhere else on the planet, and jolly reasonable too!) to a nearby skip to sleep it off.
Have a spiffing day!
Staggers and McParstit (DFC & Barred for Life)
[Editors’ note: This is an entirely idiosyncratic list of places favoured by Messrs. Staggers and McParstit. Whilst The Flâneur endorses all their recommendations, we do not make any pretence that this list is remotely exhaustive. We warmly invite others of a flâneurial persuasion to send in their own recommendations of places in Liverpool (and elsewhere) that tickle their palates, by e-mailing us at the.flaneur@XXXyahoo.co.uk (omitting the XXX).
Why no mention of Peter Kavanagh's? Not visited since 2001, but used to be a great local (along with the Cracke) when I lived in Canning St. Cannot be beaten for stuffed wildlife and assorted local "characters" in L8. Go visit!
I am somewhat surprised and not a little concerned that a flaneur's day in Liverpool does not extend to an afternoon and evening in the peculiar atmosphere of Liverpool's Lark Lane. This area does tend to late night revelry along with an estimable range of cosmopolitan feeding and watering holes. It does of course contain our Amorous Cat Bookshop where you will either treated with respect if browsing our selection of Irish literature or challenged to a duel if you make unwise assertions about the supremacy of the puritan work ethic. The lane also contains many diversions where you may be tattooed, massaged, become the proud owner of a Victorian bedstead, dressed in an esoteric style, imbibe good wines and perhaps be propositioned in a manner either to your taste or otherwise.
Yours in perplexity
Ronald Albert Sear