Yet another eatery in Liverpool to adopt the sociable small plate dining style that is becoming familiar across the city is The Pen Factory, perfectly hidden under the ground of our Georgian Quarter. The Pen Factory has been around for a couple of years and continues to impress with its small but perfectly formed menu that takes food influence from all over the world and a wine list which will impress even the most knowledgeable of connoisseurs. Whether you’re heading out for an absolute feast or just want a few nibbles and a drink, the Pen Factory combines a relaxed, stripped back atmosphere with a quirky bare brick interior, meaning there’s something for everyone from the humble hipster to the busy businesswoman.
You can easily miss the Pen Factory if you’re not clued up on its location but once you step off the street, through the door and down the stairs you’ll be welcomed by a roaring log fire, a friendly waitress and the smell of the evenings menu choices tempting your taste buds. The interior is quite large, with benches for casual drinkers and dining tables for those that wish to sample the chef’s choices. The Pen Factory has small menu which is available to view online, but they also have interesting specials that change nightly which not only means that there is plenty of food to choose from, it’s also an excuse to return and try something else next time.
After ordering an urgent bottle of chilled white (it had been a busy day) and filing our glasses, we settled down to look at the menu and decide what we’d have between us. There are plenty of options for both meat eaters and vegetarians alike – so everyone in our party was satisfied. With everything sounding super fresh (including the kitchen’s special) we eventually decided on the Veggie Tapas Board (Hummus and Manchego in the same dish is the absolute dream), the Baba Ganoush and Feta, the Za’Tar Halloumi with Harissa Yoghurt, the steak with fries and Chimichurri and the chorizo in cider and honey – a solid mix of meat and veggie dishes. We were also curious to give the special of the evening a go which was duck ragu with orzo so ordered a couple of those as well. Feast incoming!
As is usually the norm with small plate hangouts, the food arrives as and when, which I personally don’t mind because it keeps things fresh and exciting and ensures there is always something new to taste! The sharing board came first, and honestly, it was the most impressive one I’ve had to date (and I have had my fair share). Piled high with different types of soft, warm bread, olives and capers, allll of the cheeses, piles of hummus drizzled with olive oil and dusted with paprika and even a parmesan flavoured potato tortilla which was all kinds of delicious. The waitress sat the wooden board in the middle of the table and we dug in immediately. Sipping wine, munching on bread and olives and chatting with friends, it was hard to believe we were only a couple miles from home.
As the dishes began to arrive (and we started to wonder where on our average sized table it would all fit) it was clear we’d made some great menu choices. The Baba Ganoush was a Lebanese dream topped with creamy feta a scattering of pomegranates and accompanied with the softest, warmest flat breads. The steak was delicious and pink, paired, as any steak should be with a mountain of crispy fries and a tangy Chimichurri. My favourite dish has to the spicy, succulent chunks of chorizo smothered in a sticky honey glaze (#lifehack – also perfect for bread dipping) – I just could not get enough. The only dish we couldn’t get on board with was the duck ragu. Although the meat was cooked well and the orzo al dente, the ‘ragu’ itself wasn’t the rich, tomato-ey flavours I’d been expecting and instead was a little watery. We likened the taste to tinned tomatoes and called the waitress over to say we didn’t think it was up to the standards of everything else on the table. After a couple of minutes she returned saying the chef agreed, offered her apologies and took it off the bill. Absolutely no harm done and if anything speaks volumes for the quality of the rest of our meal.
So with the Pen Factory, in my opinion, being up there some of the greatest independent eateries in our city (and don’t we have a lot) I would strongly recommend a quick (or long) visit down the Pen Factory’s stairs for a relaxed, casual yet great quality dining experience. Another credit to our foodie scene!