Lerpwl - The Marram Grass team go back to their Liverpool roots
- Credit: Celynnen Photography
Super chef Ellis Barrie and brother Liam return to their home city of Liverpool this month with new restaurant, Lerpwl.
You can't help but love Ellis Barrie. The talented chef is a fizzing ball of excitement; enthusiastic about the future, expecting a new baby and excited to open the doors on the new restaurant he launches this month, with brother Liam, on Liverpool's Albert Dock. It's been a long time coming - a few years in the planning - but their efforts have paid off.
'It feels good to be opening in Liverpool,' beams Ellis. 'The city is absolutely buzzing - a great food scene, bar scene and its art and music. Scousers love another Scouser doing well, too, and there has been so much support and energy for the restaurant.'
HIs natural enthusiasm and lust for life is probably the approach that has earned him his culinary stripes. Growing up in Liverpool, when most young boys were dreaming about becoming a footballer or a musician, young Ellis was already having cookery lessons - spurred on by the influence of talented male cooks in his family.
'My grandad was a cook in the Territorial Army and my dad's dad was a dab hand in the kitchen, too,' says Ellis, who will appear in BBC One's rebooted Ready Steady Cook. 'Maybe it was a bit unusual at the time, but all of the men who influenced my childhood were cooks. Don't get me wrong, my mum wasn't a bad cook either to be fair, but maybe if I hadn't started cooking, we might all still be eating chicken kievs and potato smileys.'
Ellis is entirely self-taught and before he had finished school he was working in professional kitchens, and went on to work at the Radisson Blu Filini, widely regarded as one of the best restaurants at the time. During a sabbatical to Australia he learned that his parents had bought a caravan site in Wales. Ellis returned home along with Liam - who had just finished a degree in building surveying. They were to Newborough to help get the business started. Ellis worked in the kitchen with his grandad and Liam worked on the campsite and built new pitches.
'And then we never left,' jokes Ellis. 'The site was run-down, and we had to put everything into bringing it up to scratch - my parents remortgaged their home. We could have just kept the café as that and earned money but we wanted more than that. We wanted to try and create something special.'
Today, The Marram Grass is widely considered one of the best restaurants in the country, with a string of accolades and prestigious awards to its name - including much coveted Acorn awards for both Ellis and Liam. As well as the restaurant, which is a celebration of Welsh produce, they also have their own pig farm on site, kitchen gardens, they have launched new rooms and cookery classes for adults and children as well as a hub for budding chefs to go and learn.
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They are now within just a few weeks of bringing some of that Marram Grass magic to their home city with Lerpwl - the Welsh name for Liverpool. The much-anticipated launch will include a main restaurant with bar for pre-dinner cocktails, a private dining area and a DJ booth used on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The menus will recognise Liverpool's maritime history. It will be influenced by Marram Grass, but both will have a distinct character.
'They both reflect a massive heritage - the Marram Grass with its farming links and Lerpwl all about the trade links the city had with the rest of the world,' says Ellis. 'We're not rolling out a second Marram Grass, it's going to inspired by the Marram Grass; how we go about creating the food, the ethos and all that embodies it has got to come through in Liverpool. But Lerpwl will be its own restaurant, connected to the city. This place has got to talk for itself.
'It feels like coming home, and we are really excited to open and show people what we have created. We're not far off opening now. We'll be there, doing our thing. We can't wait.'