Wheelers’ of St. James’s
The Pullman Hotel, Kings Dock, Liverpool
Review by Lawrence Saunders | Seafood & Grill | £££ | The Pullman Hotel, Kings Dock, L3 4FP | 0151 945 1010
Liverpool was enjoying an inexplicably prolonged period of gorgeous weather, the sun was perched low over the River Mersey and I was heading down to the waterfront for a slap-up meal with my wife-to-be.
The perfect setting to sample one of the city’s ‘most rewarding dining experiences’ I’m sure you’ll agree.
Wheeler’s of St. James’s became Marco Pierre White’s second restaurant in the city when it opened in the second half of 2017 – joining his Chapel Street Steakhouse Bar & Grill.
Wheeler’s, which is modeled on an original fish brand dating back from 1856, is located within a hotel – the four-star Pullman Liverpool, a stone’s throw from the Echo Arena.
Given the restaurant’s lineage you would expect to find a menu dominated by seafood, but there’s a significant smattering of pub grub standards to match the seafood selection.
Shepherd’s pie, steak, ham and eggs, and roast chicken are some of the homely options for non-fish fans.
As the sign outside broadcasts, this is a oyster bar so I thought it best to sample the famous delicacy to start.
Having never tried the crustacean before, Oysters Rockefeller (£8.50) – based on the original recipe created in 1899 at a New Orleans restaurant – sounded like the ideal way to begin my oyster odyssey.
Three oysters baked in their shell, topped with finely chopped greens and Parmesan cheese – surely a winning combination? I’m afraid not.
Oysters are known for being somewhat of an acquired taste but this was just plain unpleasant.
Each mouthful was dominated by the pungent vegetable garnish which stubbornly overpowered any sea born savour.
My partner, meanwhile, wasn’t exactly wolfing down her starter – Marco’s Lobster Macaroni (£16.50) with black truffle, sauce lobster bisque and Gruyère cheese.
Despite its fancy sounding title, it was a decidedly desperate dish. Bland and thoroughly uninspiring – this would have just about passed for a Tesco ready meal.
Moving onto the mains and my date and I were hoping things picked up for the better, sharpish.
Wheeler’s built its reputation on serving the finest Dover sole, so it seemed prudent to give the kitchen a shot at redemption by ordering a menu standard.
Whilst it didn’t make up for the first course false start, the fish dish (sold at market price) was a marked improvement in every department.
Bathed in a creamy white sauce and served with a bowl of new potatoes, this was a light, tasty, and skilfully seasoned dish – exactly what I’d been expecting from Wheeler’s.
Unfortunately my other half wasn’t as enamoured with her Mr. Lamb’s Shepherd’s Pie (£15.50).
Just like her starter, she struggled to get enthusiastic about what was another bog standard plate of passionless food.
Time for afters and eager to end on a positive note I plumped for the most decadent sounding dessert on the menu.
My Banana and Caramel Mess (£6) was the definition of a guilty pleasure. A twist on the classic Eton Mess, crammed with chunky meringue pieces smothered in cream and lashings of caramel sauce, it was a proper pud.
Equally as indulgent was my date’s Cambridge Burnt Cream (£6) which was essentially a huge crème brûlée. Again, it wasn’t exactly subtle but it got a definite thumb’s up.
A jack-of-all-trades and master of none, if Wheeler’s plans on sticking around longer than some other recently departed chain eateries it needs to decide what it really is.
For a pricey restaurant keen to trade off its illustrious seafood heritage, a menu serving up sub-standard dishes which wouldn’t look out of place on a Beefeater specials board just doesn’t cut it.
Dover sole – just the sumptuous fish dish I’d been hoping for at Wheeler’s.