Some things are worth the wait, and my visit to Liv, in the heart of Belgravia, most certainly slots nicely and snugly into this category. My first attempt thwarted by a freak flooding, which closed the restaurant. After a month-long wait, I was back and raring to go.
Self-styled as a neighbourhood eatery, it’s pretty hard to believe Liv is located a hop, skip and a jump from Victoria, one of London’s busiest rail stations.
Instead, it feels both exclusive and homely, in equal measure. Nestled in fairly exclusive shopping enclave, just off Sloane Square, I half expect the cast of Made In Chelsea to sashay in at any moment. Sadly, this did not happen.
Some complain they find central London restaurants a little on the chilly side, when it comes to service. Not so here. Each and every one of the three staff we encountered couldn’t have been warmer, which began with a beaming smile upon arrival – always a promising start.
The cool vibe is in part explained by the Antipodean behind the helm. Damien Monley’s passion for good produce harks back to his younger years, foraging for ingredients for his family’s restaurant in the beautiful countryside around Wanaka, on New Zealand’s south island.
He’s gone on to run several successful Australian restaurant and hospitality businesses – so he knows his stuff.
Provenance is all at Liv, with a contemporary menu, incorporating produce from top British artisanal suppliers, taking diners from breakfast and brunch, through to lunch and dinner.
Any one of these sittings can be complemented by a bespoke Neopolitan roasted coffee blend.
The lunchtime menu is a simple, uncomplicated affair, which admittedly at first glance of the dinner menu before my arrival left me feeling a little short changed.
How wrong I was. Having been, seen and eaten, the lunch menu, available from noon until 5pm, cleverly fuses super healthy dishes with plates that are a total treat, worth indulging in.
We three ladies lunching together chose a starter each, which we positioned for sharing. Keeping items ordered to ourselves was not an option as they were all so good.
In no particular order, mini crab brioche rolls, light, fresh and best described as summer on a plate.
Gorgonzola croquettes, dipped in quince ketchup to remove the sharpness of the blue, and pumpkin aranicini and sage aioli – a trio of dishes that brought both happiness and joy to our trio. Each priced at £9 seemed reasonable.
And so on to the main course and leaving the naughtier dishes behind.
It proved pretty difficult to spend our daily calorie allowance – healthy options, using hugely fresh ingredients but not skimping on taste.
Red lentil fritter, pea hummus, herb yoghurt, baby spinach, sprout and herb salad, delivered massively, when it came to zesty flavour.
Looking somewhat like falafel, it was £13 as a stand-alone plate, or served with grilled halloumi, add £3.50 or with a poached egg (£2).
This seemed a good time to order rosemary fries to redress the balance, and what a sterling idea that proved to be.
My friend “oohed” and ahhhed” at the mere mention of ‘chicken crackling’.
For those of you confused, it’s what used to be called crispy chicken skin.
Why swap something everyone knew for a description few understand?
Still, a minor moan that we can’t actually pin on Liv, it’s just what restaurants are doing now.
I suppose, at least it lived up to its promise, providing an unparalleled salty crunch, keeping the meat underneath moist in the process.
We couldn’t try them all but managed one more, crab linguine, unsurprised by the £19 price tag – white crab meat is eye wateringly expensive but oh so worth it.
Beside, I’d happily pay not to stand there picking a crab to pieces.
So many dishes caught my attention and this is definitely my kind of menu.
Monley’s Australasian lightness of touch evident in the array of innovative, yet crowd pleasing dishes, with strong Asian influence.
Tuna poke bowl, with miso, edamame and radish, green bowl – avocado, soft egg, feta, beetroot hummus, lemon and cashew dressing both sounded delicious, causing the palate to tingle from the description alone.
I could go on forever and a day about the menu but perhaps find an occasion to try it for yourselves?
My only unanswered question: who is Liv? I don’t suppose it matters, but long live the Belgravia Liv.
Paloma was a guest of Liv, 18 Holbein Place, SW1W 8NJ.