From the team behind the old Everyman Bistro comes The Pen Factory, an inviting restaurant with a knock-out craft beer list.
Way back in the mists of time, when the closest thing Liverpool city centre had to an American-themed restaurant was the local Wimpy, there was the Everyman Bistro. It wasn’t much to look at – an underground cavern with lurid orange walls, rickety tables and “understated” lighting that gave it an atmosphere of eternal night all year round. But it was cosy, it was convivial and it served some cracking salads. It held a very dear place in the hearts of Scousers, so much so that its closure to make way for the shiny new Everyman induced a state of mourning in many (myself included). It felt as though a piece of Hope Street’s heart had gone, with very little to show in its place.
No wonder then that there was citywide rejoicing when the team behind the Everyman Bistro announced that they would be returning to the area with The Pen Factory. Situated in the basement of The Annex building – a mere hop, skip and a jump away from the theatre – it has all the post-industrial tropes you’d expect from a hip new restaurant (whitewashed walls, bare brickwork, exposed light fittings) yet it still feels incredibly welcoming. It is one of the few places where diners are positively encouraged to linger with a good book, a well-poured pint and a crisp butty (which feels a bit like an affectation but goes surprisingly well with their house lager. The crisps, naturally, are cheese and onion).
The Pen Factory’s menu has obviously been crafted with care. There’s the usual array of soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as a fine selection of nibbles – such as the moreish fried broad beans – designed to be picked at while you enjoy a glass of wine or two. My Southport shrimps came delicately spiced with nutmeg and packed beneath a thick pat of melted butter, perfect for heaping onto thick slices of white bread.
My beer board came with capers, thick slices of honey roast ham, tangy Montgomery mature cheddar and delightfully tart homemade chutney. And then there was the scotch egg. I’m a sucker for a scotch egg and while this one was a tad under-seasoned (and could have used a dab of brown sauce), it came with a satisfyingly gooey yellow yolk.
Factor in utterly lovely waiting staff and a craft beer list so good that it’s been mentioned in the Guardian and you can see why this place is always packed to the rafters. I can’t remember the last time I had a solo lunch in a place that made me feel so welcome, and left me so reluctant to leave.