Wolstenholme Square's first tenant makes a striking impression. By Angie Sammons
NOT everybody who’s doing well out of Liverpool’s regeneration is a bastard. Take, for instance, the team behind Clockworks.
Or should that be Jockworks? After all, the place is run almost entirely by Scotsmen. Charming Scotsmen who big up their homeland with such resolve that pride of place on the bar is a tap from which flows a constant stream of Irn Bru.
“Made in Scotland from girders,” went the old advert for the Bru that is true. And gazing out from the tall, plate glass windows of this reimagined Georgian merchant’s house, tucked away in the far corner of Wolstenholme Square, it’s girders galore.
All around, cacophonous high-rise construction blots out even the blue of the sky. Clockworks is the square’s first tenant in a post-Kazimier/Nation world. Now there’s steely.
A wood burner going full pelt banishes any northern bite and, even if it didn’t, the young staff radiate lapping flames of bonhomie
This is no Swingin’ Sporran theme bar - although it didn’t exactly go down badly when it emerged that the teenage son I turned up with happens to be called Hamish. He was afforded free Irn Bru and refills - whether he liked it or not - for the duration of his dinner.
No, Clockworks dons the Boston chic look: bare brick, iron rail, copper forge, industrial lampshades. A wood burner going full pelt banishes any northern bite and, even if it didn’t, the young staff radiate lapping flames of bonhomie.
And it is one of the new breed of venues that barrels along from dawn until gone midnight, boasting braw breakfasts, brunches and booze at every turn.
Amid the compulsory cocktails and craft ales, (including a refreshing Goose Island IPA, £4) the food menu would not be out of place in a posh pub. Coca-Cola (only the second most popular soft drink north of the border) slow cooks the belly pork, a deconstructed shepherds pie features a lamb shank, which probably falls off the bone; the fish with your chips is beer battered (obviously) and scouse is made from brisket which is, naturally, pulled.
So we look for surprises and land on the black pudding bon bons (£5,50), crisp croquettes revealing a bosom of soft, dark centres, and, lying in wait on the side, a credible, garlicky aioli. We despatched the lot as casually and as eagerly as one would the contents of a luxury box of chocolates.
There were enough buffalo chicken wings (£6), to satisfy a fox - messy and tender - in a Louisiana sauce as hot and sticky as a Mississippi basin swamp.
Clockworks’ “classic” double bacon cheeseburger (£9) speaks for itself and this impressive stack was challenged and conquered by the lad who, when prodded, muttered that it was “decent”. Later, when he decided to give full, spoken communication a brief go, I learned that the patties had been hewn by human hand, rather than machine, the meat had retained plenty of succulence and it had been seasoned well, the onion ring was bone dry and the bacon and the fat fries were .... “Decent. Okaaaay?”
There is, perhaps, too much love for the sweet potato on this menu which, outside of African and Caribbean cookery, belongs, to my mind, in forgotten Martha Stewart cookbooks and down the bibs of mewling infants. Apparently each American eats 112lbs of them every year and everyone I ask scratches their beard and says they love them. So it's probably just me - and the people I choose to eat out with.
Thus when ordering the chicken breast (“buttered”, with bacon wrapped asparagus and a jug of red wine gravy, £9), we eschewed the proffered orange mash for real spuds, with wholegrain mustard whizzed in, the sort they offer with the scouse. The substitution wasn’t a problem, nothing seems to be a problem in here, and the result was a satisfying, if simple, plate of honest weeknight grub.
But there was no swerving them in a rather passive vegetarian chilli (£9) where they dominated, in hefty, solid chunks amid the beans. They were given a run for their money by the guacamole, fresh and vibrant, the substantial serving of which threatened to burst the seams of a taco.
Desserts, a chocolate brownie and a pina colada cheesecake with vanilla and coconut ice creams (£4.50 each), were respectively tarted up with berries and pineapple, adding necessary sharpness to an otherwise toothsome twosome.
Hundreds of hungry and thirsty residents are due the Wolstenholme Square way soon. Right on their newly-paved, shiny doorsteps they may find plenty of reason not to unpack the dishes.
For while Clockworks has been quietly ticking over since spring, one senses its chime is about to come.
All scored Confidential reviews are paid for by the company, never the venue or a PR outfit. Critics dine unannounced and their opinions are completely independent of any commercial relationships.
11 Wolstenholme Square,
Liverpool L1 4JJ
Telephone: 0151 707 0210. Website
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind in the area: fine dining v the best fine dining, Sunday roasts against the best Sunday roasts, etc. On this basis, the scores represent...
1-5: The dog's dinner; 6-9: Netflix and chill; 10-11: In an emergency; 12-13: If you happen to be passing; 14-15: Worth a trip out; 16-17: Very good to exceptional; 18-20: As good as it gets
Chicken wings: 7/10; Burger 8/10; Black pudding bon bons, 8/10; Chicken and mash 6/10; Sweet potato chilli 5/10; Desserts 6/10
Warm and welcoming
Efficient and enthusiastic