Can the Manning brothers add some Liverpudlian sparkle to their new, Wagamama-style noodle bar?

HoSt, 31 Hope Street, Liverpool, tel: 0151 708 5831

It is early evening on a bleak midwinter weeknight in Liverpool, and the place is packed with people eating, drinking, laughing and talking as if there was nothing to be miserable about. It's a miracle.

That makes brothers Gary and Colin Manning, once again, the likeliest lads in Liverpool to nail the Zeitgeist. Ten years ago, they opened 60 Hope Street, bringing contemporary dining to the elegant stretch of Georgian town houses that link the city's two cathedrals. Five years later, with the economy slowing, they opened The Quarter, a funky little café with a sunny all-day attitude, good pasta and serious cake options. Now that we have no economy at all, they have added to their portfolio a modern, pan-Asian noodle bar.

But just as I settle in with a cold Tiger beer, everyone walks out, shrugging into coats and wrapping scarves as they go. Was it something I said? No, it's Sarah Chang playing Brahms' Violin Concerto at the Philharmonic Hall down the street, with Sir Charles Mackerras conducting. Within minutes, the 1953 Charles and Ray Eames bobbly Hang it All coat racks are returned to the status of art installations. Now Liverpool's official reign as the 2008 European Capital of Culture is over, it's good to see it has regressed to being your normal, everyday city of culture.

So HoSt - as in HOpe STreet, because HoSt sounds better than PeReet – is obviously fine for pre's and post's, but is it a destination diner in its own right? We live in a post-Wagamama world, and the WaMa legacy (sorry, it's contagious), is palpable here in the bare, minimalist lines, communal tables and bench seating, the chicken katsu curry, various soup noodles, and the way dishes are served in the order that suits the kitchen rather than the diner. Other dishes, such as duck, watermelon, and cashew salad, and salt-and-pepper squid served in paper cones have a touch of Will Ricker's E&O about them.

OK, so it's not entirely original, but the Melbourne-born chef Ashley Richey does a confident, savvy Oz job with a satisfyingly fiery, tamarind-tingly red curry of duck, lychee and Thai eggplant (£9.50) and a snappy stir-fry of meltingly tender, big-flavoured belly pork, Chinese leaves, chilli and egg noodles (£8.80). I like the sound of smoked salmon with pomelo and smoked chilli (£4.75), but it doesn't work; the salmon being acridly smoky, and the pomelo's lovely juicy teardrops of flesh tasting more like dry pink grapefruit. Deep-fried duck gyoza dumplings (£3.50) are fine, but corn fritters with chilli caramel (£2.95) are blandly doughy.

Desserts are rarely a noodle-bar highlight. Nevertheless, ginger-nut cheese cake served in a glass tumbler with a jammy layer of passionfruit jelly (£4.25) is rich, creamy and classy; and a pretty mix of bought-in sorbets (orange and grapefruit; passionfruit and mango; coconut and lemongrass, £4.50) is deliciously sherbety.

The young, local staff seem genuinely helpful, and Oriental cocktails, interesting teas and a serviceable, price-conscious 20-strong wine list rounds out the options, with a Luigi Righetti Valpolicella (£18.50) one of the more spice-friendly offerings.

HoSt needs a bit more art, heart and character but there is still enough light, bright, tasty, recession-friendly food to draw a crowd, not just before and after, but during somebody else's performance. And while the recent opening of Wagamama in the snazzy Liverpool One shopping centre might be a blow, HoSt wins out on produce, variety, and sheer Liverpudlian charm.

It also confirms my belief that the best time to visit the European Capital of Culture is as soon as its year is over, when the scaffolding and tourists have gone and it's all rebuilt, repolished and re-energised. So roll on, 2010 – Vilnius, here I come.

13/20

Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

HoSt, 31 Hope Street, Liverpool, tel: 0151 708 5831. Lunch and dinner daily. Around £60 for two with wine

The crunch bunch: More noodle nuggets

Fuji Hiro

45 Wade Lane, Leeds, tel: 0113 243 9184

Leeds' favourite noodle bar is a canteen-like affair, as popular for its Japanese curry, gyoza dumplings and rice dishes as it is for its ramen, udon and soba noodles

Cha Cha Moon

15-21 Ganton St, London W1, tel: 020 7297 9800

Alan Yau, who gave the world the Japanese-inspired Wagamama, uses his noodle once again, this time with a Hong Kong theme, and nothing over £5.50

Tampopo

16 Albert Square, Manchester, tel: 0161 819 1966

Despite the Japanese name, this popular six-strong chain serves up Vietnamese pho, Malaysian kway teow and Korean chap chai as well as Japanese ramen

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
Life and Style
food + drink
News
video
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home