It’s not called Panoramic for nothing. On the 34th floor of the West Tower, the view from our table took in the Mersey, the delights of Birkenhead and away to Anglesey in the far distance. To our right, the open sea and, to our left, the city’s well known sights laid out before us. It’s the most dramatic view I’ve experienced since eating at Canoe in Toronto – and I reckon it bettered that.
There’s much more to like about Panoramic than just the view. There’s superbly efficient staff – smiley but not over friendly. There’s superbly comfy chairs. There’s a bar area if you just wanted to snack. There’s an interesting menu that generally delivers. And, yes, there’s the view.
It’s one of those places where you’re immediately offered champagne as an aperitif and it’s one of those places where you immediately accept. Food kicked off with a shot glass of an intense roasted cauliflower soup, little bits of it giving some texture.
From the menu description, I hadn’t realised that my starter was going to be a soup. I’m not a soup person and don’t often order it. But I’m glad that’s what it was. Still not realising what I was about to eat, the bowl was put down in front of me with nothing more than a couple of micro-slices of chicken (slow cooked and meltingly tender) and a spoonful of celeriac and apple remoulade. They’re taking the piss, I thought. But then the soup was poured in from a tea pot. It was excellent – a rich intense cream slightly sweet from the celeriac and with a hint of apple.
On the other plate, there was a chickpea fritter, surrounded by sundried tomato, roasted artichokes, olives and vinaigrette. Lovely as such, but this was really just posh falafel.
My main brought monkfish in what I can best describe as a restrained portion. Certainly delicious, it sat on a little Caesar salad. Well, truth be told, it sat on a little dressed finely shredded lettuce. Alongside, a langoustine mousse was delicate. Punchier were a squid ink sauce and a squash and chilli relish.
You can build up your expectations from what’s written on the menu. So, when you see 45 day aged beef, you have an expectation of excellent beef. When you see a plate of food priced at over thirty quid, you have a similar expectation of your experience. Put the two together and, perhaps, you think you’re going to eat some of the best beef of your life. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t at all bad. It just wasn’t that good. There was a generous portion of braised feather blade, shredded and remoulded into a disc for service. But the texture was odd – as my partner described it, stuck together like the contents of a can of dog food. There were a couple of slices of fillet – bang on for cooking if not for flavour. Accompaniments were, like my dish, restrained in flavour and seasoning – raisins, truffle, shallot puree, diced carrot and a bordelaise sauce.
There’d been a bit of a delay between each course. Not a major issue, just slightly too long. Conversation didn’t flag, but there was always the view to look at.
Desserts were faultless. There was a pre-dessert of raspberry Eton mess. A chocolate semi-freddo came with berries, vanilla ice cream and meringue. Yes, a bit like the pre-dessert but sufficiently different to be fully enjoyed. The chocolate rich, but not cloying. I had a delicious mango brulee which came with mango sorbet and a “cannelloni” made with pistachio. The “cannelloni” was excellent, good and crisp. Not so keen on the filling which tasted just like evaporated milk (and may well have been – I’ve been served a jam sandwich for dessert at another Liverpool restaurant).
So, in spite of one or two minor quibbles, we thought this was an excellent evening. I wish we had somewhere of the quality in Manchester but we just don’t . Of course, it isn’t at all cheap (although they have some well priced wines, especially by the glass). But then you’re paying for the view as well as the food. Did I mention the view, by any chance?