Review: Maray, Liverpool

About a day after I’d booked the table I noticed yer man Jay Rayner’s piece bemoaning this whole Sharing Plates shebang. Doesn’t like ‘em, doesn’t Jay. Worried that he might end up with the woody end of the asparagus; or literally the shitty end of the stick, if you will.

Not fussed, me. As long as nobody double dips in the aioli or moves the chips too far away all is convivial and all is well. Swerve anywhere doling out “British Tapas” of course. Read: bisected pork pie; three pickled onions; handful of crinkle cut crisps.

Maray, a deep, slim room up there on Liverpool’s Bold Street, is a small-plate speed-walk around Europe’s sunnier spots via a stop-off in the Middle East. In less capable hands such a whistle-stop menu could sound like a potentially terrifying mass of mismatched stuff cobbled together to please as many punters as possible. Not the case here though. “Balanced”, I believe, would be the word a proper writer would use to describe what we chucked down our necks over a genial couple of hours.

I’m not sure when restaurants started getting nerdy about bread but if anyone can track the exact date it should, I reckon, be made into a national holiday. This tangy sourdough from local bakery Wild Loaf continued the run of good bready gear I’ve had of late, the accompanying swoosh of airy butter delivering on the kick of smoked chilli promise.

Like any deep-fried cheese, a globe of breadcrumbed brie – crunch and ooze – could’ve walked a dangerously cloying line but a dredge through the deceptively fruity sauce stopped things getting too claggy. A superior version of that mozzarella dish you get in your local good-but-shit Italian, basically.

Pearly white octopus see-sawed texturally between crozzly roast spud (thin end) and plump, translucent scallop (fatter end). Didn’t get much of the pickle from the courgette but, well, it’s only courgette so no great loss. Probably had a summery glut.

Cauliflower, once the soulless, insipid ITV of the veg world, continues its renaissance here with half a slab of the stuff slathered in crunchy almonds, tahini, pomegranate, fiery harissa and cooling yoghurt. Let’s be honest, even I’d taste half decent basted in that ensemble, and although it’s a cliche to say that we licked the plate clean, we licked the plate clean.

Three buffed up pucks of lamb kofta brought with them the hit of roasted spice you get when you walk into a Bradford curry house, and even a portion of first-rate fries were given extra heat and crunch from various guises of chilli.

If you can restrain yourself from ordering too much too soon – a lesson only recently learnt on my part – this kind of scoffing can be as generous on the wallet as it is on your attempt to appear cultured and urbane. We paid 86 quid, and over half of that was on booze.

About 6 quid a dish then, give or take, and with life getting pricier by the month I reckon that we could do with more of the Marays. Thoughts turn to Bundobust, too, who may well soon be spotted spreading the Vada Pav word to the Merseyside masses.

Booze: get stuck into cocktails from £7, a compact wine list (interesting bottles from £16) or be proper cool and stick to beer (from £3.50).

Maray website.

More of this blather on twitter.

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