Rocket & Ruby
Castle Street, Liverpool
By Lawrence Saunders | Small plates | £££ | 55 Castle Street, Liverpool, L2 9TN | 0151 227 4004
The first weeks of a new year aren’t great are they? We’re all brasic, stuck at home, off the booze and breaking resolutions for fun.
So for these reasons I was fully on-board with a mid-month excursion to Castle Street’s Rocket & Ruby.
Named after the owner’s pet dogs, this self-styled neighbourhood café from Red & Blue Restaurants fills the space vacated by Cheese & Co last March.
The owners are no strangers to Liverpool’s food and drink scene as the team behind Salt House Tapas, Hanover Street Social and the nearby Bacaro.
Given their track record, and despite developing a slight aversion to small plate restaurants after a bad experience at one of the city’s most highly rated tapas joints, it was with high expectations my wife and I arrived on a rather deserted Castle Street for our 8pm booking.
After being shown to a table adjacent to the classy open kitchen, we were left to inspect the evening menu which, much like Bacaro, contained a mixture of meat, fish and vegetarian options.
Informed by our attentive host that most diners plump for two or three each, I thought a portion of roasted baby chorizo with honey (£4.95) would help us choose.
Mini smoked sausages smothered in warm sugary syrup? Readers won’t be shocked to learn they were magnificent.
By this point our small plates had been ordered so whilst my partner and I waited for the main event to begin it was time for a cocktail each.
With not a drop of booze past my lips in weeks, light work was made of a copa verde (£8.50) – an energising blend of tequila, lime, avocado and agave.
Whilst my partner didn’t knock her mandarin sherbet (£8) back with equivalent vigour, she certainly enjoyed the invigorating mix of mandarin vodka, orange and citric syrup.
It was soon chow time again and for those unfamiliar with the small plate concept, dishes are brought to your table as and when they’re ready – something I’d yet to see work smoothly at other Liverpool restaurants.
However any issues I might have had with the food delivery system were quickly forgotten with my first mouthful of chargrilled flat iron steak (£8.95).
Served medium rare with rocket, Chimichurri and straw fries, it was a cracking start to the plate procession.
The last time I’d tried straw fries (very thinly cut chips), they appeared more a visual garnish to my meal rather than anything added for culinary causes but this time, combined with a mouthful of flawlessly prepared steak, it all made sense.
Thoroughly immersed in my cattle and carb combo, I forgot my wife and I had agreed to share each plate.
Fortunately she was happy enough with her Caesar salad (£8), remarking that the dish, served with pancetta and a soft-boiled egg, was well seasoned and boasted just the right amount of dressing on the crunchy lettuce leaves.
Next to arrive was the torched mackerel (£6.95), served with a lime and ginger dressing, Zhug (hot sauce) and crispy Enoki mushrooms.
The dish certainly looked the part and, taken in isolation, I couldn’t fault the fish or mushrooms, but as a complete plate of food it didn’t quite hit the mark.
One of the accidental side effects of the small plates system is increased interaction with serving staff.
Consequently the temptation to order more drinks than one might usually with a meal is a strong one.
My second cocktail, therefore, was a cold brew colada (£8.50) made using Kraken rum, cold brew coffee, coconut and pineapple.
Served in a classic milkshake glass, the initial smooth coffee taste was supplanted by a pleasantly warming alcohol sensation and complemented with a refreshing hint of tropical fruit.
My wife went for the white chocolate and violet cocktail (£7.50) – a mix of vanilla vodka, milk, cream and violet liqueur which produced a flavour she likened, with positivity, to the iconic Parma Violets sweet.
Back to the food and whilst the slow roasted Char Sui pork belly (£8.50) served with plum sauce, hispi cabbage and chilli could have been a couple of degrees warmer it was big on flavour – the classic sauce wedded seamlessly with the succulent meat and sweet greens.
The evening’s finishing small plate was a cold noodle salad (£6.95) served in a peanut sauce with sesame, red cabbage and carrot.
A vibrant end to our savoury selections, the light, fragrant bowl of veggies graciously left my date and I with enough space left to split a pudding.
That dessert was an elegant Pâte à Choux (£5.50) construct filled with decadent praline and hazelnut cream.
If all the elements on the mackerel dish didn’t quite come together they were unquestionably in delicious harmony here.
With refreshingly professional staff, speedy service and a menu with something to suit every palate, Rocket & Ruby is a more than welcome addition to Castle Street’s bustling restaurant scene.