Restaurant review - Lunya, Liverpool

A Spanish restaurant, bar and deli in the heart of Liverpool has so much excellence, our reviewer is almost overwhelmed Review by Ray King

Fernando Torres may have departed for the relative footballing riches of Chelsea, but there’s one aspect of Liverpool life where Spain still reigns supreme – the rapidly transforming port city’s culinary scene.

Peter Kinsella’s Catalan deli and restaurant Lunya deservedly scooped Cheshire and Lancashire Life’s accolade as Liverpool’s Best Restaurant for 2010-11 and ‘The People’s Favourite Restaurant’ award from the Liverpool Food Festival  – an astounding achievement in such a short time and especially when restaurants bearing the names of popular national brands and celebrity chefs are piling into the city centre.

Lunya is ideally placed in the heart of Liverpool One, the city’s stunning multi-million pound redevelopment project to do what it does; and it does what it does quite brilliantly. The superbly stocked deli and dining areas, which occupy two floors in a converted 18th century warehouse in College Lane, just behind the Bluecoat School, were buzzing, as were the surrounding shopping streets when we called on a Saturday afternoon.

And while the restaurant’s extensive and authentic tapas menu – sourced both from the kitchen and the deli – is absolutely perfect as a top quality pitstop for grazing shoppers, we had a more comprehensive lunch in mind.

After enjoying a couple of al fresco draught Estrella Dam Spanish beers in the pleasant seating area at the front of Lunya’s busy, purposeful facade, we retreated inside to the downstairs dining room to enjoy a fantastic cavalcade of tip-top tasting plates.

Simple wooden chairs and tables sit on a tiled floor, decor is uncontrived – indeed the whole operation is refreshingly gimmick-free – with pastel shades contrasting with exposed brick.

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We started by sharing a basket of delightful sourdough bread - baked in-house in the wood-fired oven – which we dipped into pools rich olive oil and wine vinegar and a portion of giant queen Gordal olives from Andaluc�a stuffed with fresh orange segments and marinated in mild chilli juices. These were, quite simply, the best olives we had ever tasted and exemplified the exceptional quality of ingredients – many of them sourced from the finest artisan suppliers in the north west of England and north Wales – that sum up the ethos of what Lunya is all about.

And so to the tapas proper – the menu lists separately cheese, meat, fish and vegetable tapas with options for banquets and children (Lunya is very child friendly and on Sunday mornings hosts fun Spanish language lessons while parents enjoys breakfast with the papers downstairs).

As ever when we perceive the standard to be this high, we gravitated towards the fish dishes and ordered a bottle of Galicia’s finest white wine, Albarino, for a very reasonable �18.95, selected from as comprehensive a list of Spanish wines I’ve seen this side of the Pyrenees.

We ordered griddled razor clams (�5.75), served on their distinctive shells and dressed with garlic and olive oil; salt cod bunuelos (�5.45), delicately flavoured deep fried fish cakes with home made allioli; show-stopping hake in Asturian cider (�7.25), superb in flavour and texture, baked with green pepper and Spanish onions; and delicious seared cod cheeks (�6.95), served wonderfully with crisp Serrano ham and dehydrated Gordal olives with romesco sauce.

Now thoroughly in the swing, we shared a square of meltingly tender Gloucester Old Spot belly pork with herbs, saut�ed greens and a sliver of sublimely crispy crackling (�6.95) from the meat tapas list and, contender for dish of the day (though there were many), a wheel of deep-fried Monte Enebro – hand-made in Avila and reputed to be Spain’s finest goats’ cheese – drizzled with Catalan honey (�6.75).

Mrs K then enjoyed a luxurious scoop of Cheshire Farm ice cream topped with moscatel infused raisins, thick and sweet 20-year-old Pedro Ximinez sherry and crumbled almond turron (�4.95) while I rounded off with a glass of Formiga Priorat, a very, very superior Catalan red wine, for �5.95.

WWe reckoned we would not have enjoyed better on Barcelona’s Ramblas, let alone the King's Road. Ironic, perhaps that just across College Lane stands the ‘Reds Gallery’ at the Bluecoat, with the legends of Anfield etched into the windows. The stars were bright, Fernando.

Lunya Catalonian Fusion Restaurant and Deli, 18-20 College Lane, Liverpool L1 3DS. Tel: 0151 706 9770.


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