We visited Vandal on a wet and windy night, gravitating towards the glow of warmth and welcoming lights reflected on the glistening, wet pavements of Palmyra Square. To step into the Treasury Building was to enter another world. The contemporary and arresting graffiti-style artwork blends in cleverly with the rich and authentic architecture of the great age of Victorian splendour and is matched by the warm hospitality of the young, enthusiastic but highly experienced team at Vandal Bar and Kitchen.

Great British Life: Modern art blends with the splendid Victorian architecture at Vandal. Modern art blends with the splendid Victorian architecture at Vandal. (Image: John Allen photography)

Warrington boasts the convergence of three of this country's greatest waterways – the River Mersey, the Manchester Ship Canal and the Bridgewater Canal – which gives the town a most interesting historical perspective and makes for an intriguing focal point. The happy coincidence of three young people working for a large café bar company, getting together to start their first venture, Bold Street House just around the corner from the Treasury building, feels more than serendipitous. Jenny and Matt Carey and their close friend Michael Butler have formed a creative partnership, running their second joint venture – the trendy new dining and cocktail bar Vandal Bar and Kitchen – since September 2022, gradually developing their imaginative and ambitious menu to meet the expectations of discerning diners who want to eat sociably and stylishly from breakfast through to a late supper with cocktails. It is rare nowadays to find independent businesses where the owners use their backgrounds and skills to start up such an ambitious venue without outside financial assistance.

The food here is generous in all respects: generous in terms of quality as well as quantity, saucing, accompaniments and spicing. The small plates are intended for sharing, for grouping or contrast. Your meal could begin and end here. It's a fun, well-paced, delicious and relaxed experience. Vandal doesn't take itself too seriously yet the ingredients are well-sourced, beautifully cooked and presented.

Great British Life: The corn dog was a delight with great sausage and the best mustard and tomato combination decoratively dripping down the sides. The corn dog was a delight with great sausage and the best mustard and tomato combination decoratively dripping down the sides. (Image: John Allen photography)

This is a mix-and-match approach and everything we chose was delicious and unpretentious. The beef short ribs, for instance, were meltingly tender but had layers of flavour that were far from simple. The barbecue pork belly pieces were equally tender and flavoursome. The gotcha chicken is a delicious pile of crispy chicken pieces smothered in a sweet sour sauce and complemented by the creamy Louisiana mayo. The lobster mac & cheese was a proper, well-flavoured cheese and lobster pasta that showed careful preparation and oodles of lobster sauce. The corn dog was a delight with great sausage and the best mustard and tomato combination decoratively dripping down the sides. For me, the simplest of dishes was a standout – the black bomber croquettes, which were a fabulous contrast of flavour, texture and smothered in a tangle of cheese and truffle oil on a delicious sauce.

Vegetables are a great feature of the small dishes selection and the roasted broccoli reared up from the lava of harissa and honey labneh, chickpeas, dukkah and a roasted lemon like an Icelandic volcano. The sweet potato, hasselback-style, with roasted butternut squash and a red pepper hummus, dressed with chimichurri, pomegranate molasses and a generous dollop of tzatziki was delicious in its own right, but would equally be a great side dish to any of the large plates. This is a menu to be considered carefully and with enjoyment as you sip one of the many cocktails on offer.

Great British Life: Vandal's teriyaki burnt ends. Vandal's teriyaki burnt ends. (Image: John Allen photography)

I started my deliberations while enjoying a Vandal sour and John, an aromatic Virgin Mary full of spice and almost a meal in itself. We enjoyed an unpretentious glass of Italian white Pecorino, which was dry and elegantly mineral with our small plates and a truly delicious Hancock and Hancock Shiraz Grenache from Australia to accompany our steaks. This took us both back to the wonderful rich wines of Penfolds and other famous Australian wines that took the UK by storm in the 1980s.

The fillet steak proved to be an irresistible choice. Perfectly cooked, a beautiful piece of tender beef with a seared and flavourful crust, came accompanied by hand-cut chips, a roasted shallot and a maple-glazed carrot. You can, as I did, ask for peppercorn sauce but it was almost like gilding a lily, particularly as I'd been unable to resist asking for a portion of gravy mayo to go with the chips. Delicious, and the ribeye steak John ordered proved to be equally complemented by the same choices except for the piquant béarnaise sauce, which perfectly anointed the beef.

We couldn't resist ordering the lobster tail, chargrilled and served with garlic butter. Surf and turf, if you like. The simplicity of the lobster, which looked stunning as it was served, was perfect.

Great British Life: Crispy chicken, bacon and cheese burger Vandal-style. Crispy chicken, bacon and cheese burger Vandal-style. (Image: John Allen photography)

A welcome pause before we considered puddings, allowed me to enjoy the original and striking artworks decorating the walls. There are two main artists at work here, the wall graffiti by @artworkby_joe and the framed art by Matt Grainger. They add to the informal atmosphere, which has a great buzz all day through to the evening with people of all ages, large and small groups, down to guests dining individually and comfortably, up at the bar or in the restaurant just beyond. Not forgetting the open kitchen, which is a great and unique feature of Vandal, a standout and a magnet for foodies and nosy parkers like me. Beautiful lighting and a variety of seating options created a great ambience and the happy and relaxed personalities of the chefs working made for fascinating watching.

We rounded off our feast with three contrasting puddings. The tart creaminess of the lemon posset was a perfectly light, sweet and sour finale, but we couldn't resist the temptation of the chocolate cheesecake with a handful of crisp honeycomb and a hot fudge sauce. The creamy texture of the chocolate cheesecake and the crumbly biscuit base complemented the honeycomb and fudgy sauce perfectly and would be a great choice to end any meal. But for me, the big surprise came with the spiced apple Dutch baby, which was the most marvellous riff on a sweet Yorkshire pudding served in a skillet. It was was precisely as described, except for the baby, which refers, apparently, to the size of the pancake or pfannkuchen batter that forms a thick Yorkshire pudding when placed in a skillet in a very hot oven.

Great British Life: Matt Carey, owner and head chef, Vandal. Matt Carey, owner and head chef, Vandal. (Image: John Allen photography)

Vandal offers so many options you are quite simply spoilt for choice; the versatile kitchen serving many delicious things from breakfast onwards. This is a place where you can enjoy the in-between times; a quick bite or a long, luxurious lunch with friends; and increasingly more popular – those times between work and home. Or just a coffee (exceptionally nice and locally sourced). Bottomless appears in many guises, accompanying Bottomless Brunches, Bottomless Fridays from 4pm to 9pm and Steak Club, where on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4pm to 8pm and Sundays from 3pm to 6pm you can enjoy a 285g ribeye and chips along with 90 minutes of bottomless red, white and rosé wine.

All this can be enjoyed whatever the season within the three elegant rooms with their opportunities for intimacy or group sharing. Looking forward to summer days there is a roof terrace, as well as the outside seating overlooking the square. In the meantime, enjoy the gentle whiff of woodsmoke and the warm glow of contentment Vandal wraps around you as winter turns to spring.

Small plates: £4.50 to £11.50.

Steaks, burgers and lobster: from £12.50 for a veggie burger to £34.50 for fillet steak, up to £69 for a 1 kg tomahawk ribeye on the bone. The lobster tail was £31.95. These include hand-cut chips, roasted shallot and a maple-glazed carrot.

Puddings: £5.95 to £7.50

Wines: from £6 a glass

Bottles: £24 to £80

Our bottle of Australian Hancock and Hancock Shiraz Grenache was priced £46

Vandal Bar and Kitchen, Treasury Building, Palmyra Square South Warrington WA1 1BL 01925 948900 vandalwarrington.co.uk