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
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

    £7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

    Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Sales / Customer Service Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: The role is likely to be 4on 4 off, days and ...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones