After the success of tapas restaurant Salt House, Paddy Smith opened Hanover Street Social, a brasserie just along the road. Joe Warwick visited
Hanover Street Social occupies the ground floor of the restored Casartelli Building, a symbol of the way this once neglected section of Liverpool's city centre has been brought back to life.
Paddy Smith, formerly group head chef of Ego Restaurants, originally looked at the Casartelli's ground floor site for Salt House, his successful tapas restaurant, which opened early in 2010, on another Hanover Street site. "We thought this site would make a great brasserie from day one. The space, the size and the feel of it meant it always felt like that's what it needed to be," recalls Smith. So in September 2010, buoyed by the success of Salt House, Hanover Street Social opened its doors.
Its open-plan design, which incorporates a 110-seat dining room with a bar that seats 16, combines the industrial feel of exposed brickwork and oversized pendant lights, with smart red leather banquettes and classic brasserie style chairs and tables. It's a comfortable modern space, fun and informal but with some clever individual design details.
These days Smith has left the kitchen behind and, as he puts it, changed into his Converse, to work the front of house. He put together Hanover Street Social's menu in partnership with head chef Martin Renshaw, who previously ran the kitchen at Salt House. "With both the menu and the feel of the place we wanted somewhere that you could come in for everything from a burger and coke to oysters and a bottle of Dom Perignon," says Smith.
An all-day operation, open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, seven days a week, Hanover Street Social's menu has to cover a lot of bases. The kitchen is open from 9am to 10.30pm, opening at 7am for breakfast having been recently abandoned. It's unlikely anyone in the eight-strong brigade will mourn those early mornings.
"The menu has evolved a bit since we opened," explain Smith. "It's been a learning process. The main change has been the introduction of a list of small plates. We found people liked to sit and eat at the bar but they didn't necessarily want a full meal, they wanted a few nibbles."
Those nibbles include crispy risotto cakes; crab cakes with piquillo pepper mayonnaise; chipolata sausages; and calamari with aïoli, all priced at £4 each or any three dishes for £10. Elsewhere the lunch menu, priced at £8.95 for two courses; £11.50 for three, has boosted trade during the day. "It's worked really well with the shoppers," says Smith.
The menu proper has a touch of the classic French brasserie in the shellfish platter for two (£25). "We only sell a few but I'd never take it off the menu as they look great and create a buzz in the room when they appear," says Smith - French onion soup (£3.95) and bestsellers such as a mussels steamed with white wine, garlic and cream (£5.50).
Other popular dishes include the Hanover Street Social Hamburger (£10.50), the char grilled steaks (Hereford beef supplied by Pennys in Lancashire) served with chips and salad (rib-eye, £16; sirloin, £16.50); and the mixed grilled seafood (£15.50). The hit desserts are currently the Knickerbocker glory (£5) and the Earl Grey crème brulée (£4).
Smith is particular proud of his bread and pastries, all of which are produced by Libbys, a small bakery near where he lives in Marple Bridge.
They're currently averaging about 1,200 covers a week, with the average spend per head being approximately £8 at breakfast, £15 at lunch, and £23 at dinner.
In a city that's as adverse to pretension as it as proud of its past, Hanover Street Social has found a way to try and keep everyone happy from the no-nonsense locals, to the visiting Londoners and Scandinavians who regularly make their way to Merseyside to watch Liverpool play.
Sample dishes from the menu
Breakfast Full Social - eggs any style, has browns, mushrooms, tomato and beans £6.50
Oysters and shellfish Oyster shot - single oyster in a Bloody Mary £4.50
Starters Flaked smoked trout and creamed horseradish pâté with crostini £5.95
Roast Duck a l'orange with dauphinoise potatoes and green beans £12.50
Fish Deluxe fish pie with langoustines, scallops and prawns £12
Vegetarian Pearl barley with roasted pumpkin, red pepper, feta cheese and pomegranate £8.50
Desserts Lemon posset £4.50
Hanover Street Social 16-20 Hanover Street, Liverpool L1 4AA
Tel: 0151-709 8784