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Wheelers Of St James Liverpool
Tel. 0151 945 1010
The Pullman Hotel, Kings Dock, Monarchs Quay, Liverpool, L3 4FP [map]
Wheeler’s of St James’s is an oyster bar and grill at the four-star luxury hotel Pullman Liverpool at Kings Dock on the banks of the River Mersey.
Wheelers Of St James

Wheelers Of St James, Liverpool ~ overall reviews

Wheelers Of St James, At The Pullman ~ our review
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Wheeler's Of St James Entrance Warm Baked Sourdough (£3.95)

Everybody knows the name Marco Pierre White, or MPW as he's usually referred to in the hospitality industry.  There's the old and now well versed headlines; being the first British chef to be awarded 3 Michelin stars, famous for his rock and roll life and cooking style, infamously being in the room when Gordon Ramsay happened to cry, impulsively throwing customers out when they were seemingly acting badly, along with the publication of his book, White Heat, which illustrates most of the latter points.  A lot has changed since those days, during Marco's time at Harvey's on Wandsworth Common, a stint which many staunch food fanatics still to this day see as representing Marco at his best and most pure.  This was well before my time in the game, even before he landed those 3 famous stars at another restaurant, The Hyde Park Hotel.  If I could eat at any restaurant which no longer exists, it would be Harvey's in 1989/1990, even if it would be proper old fashioned nowadays.  But had that kitchen and its team not existed, the current landscape of British top end restaurants would look a lot different in 2018.

Almost 30 years on and times have changed even though his legendary status hasn't, and Marco now represents a very different world.  These days he's all about classic, accessible food, done simply, in good looking places.  He has pubs, steakhouses, stock cubes, New York Italian places, pizzerias, juice bars, and even once ran a chain with jockey Frankie Dettori.  Marco is all about giving the people what they want, rather than championing a Michelin style experience.

Now Wheelers of St James; a brand which was once synonymous with quality seafood, have linked up with Marco to operate a small number of dining rooms, one of which is on Liverpool's stunning King's Dock, housed within the luxury 4 star Pullman Hotel in one of the city's fanciest spots.  Opened in mid-2017; they have a new menu which we visited to check out.

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Seared Sea Scallops And Black Pudding (£13.95) Wheeler’s Crab Cocktail With Avocado (£11.50)

On approach, you couldn’t miss the venue; a great looking building fronted by an iconic photo from the aforementioned White Heat book.  The one with Marco wielding a meat cleaver.  Exactly the impression that you want in your mind ahead of critiquing a dining experience guided by a famously fiery Chef, who openly lacks having a massive amount of regard for critics.  In his own words, even the very best critics will never know anywhere near as much as the Chefs who feed them.  I can't disagree to be honest. I likely wouldn’t even if I actually did, especially not when a meat cleaver is involved.

Whilst settling in we had some Warm Baked Sourdough (£3.95), which was more like a mini baguette, sliced into wedges, which gratefully came with some lovely seasoned butter.  Simple, and did what it said on the tin, albeit a bit under what you'd expect for four quid in truth.

We began our MPW adventure with Seared Scallops and Black Pudding (£13.95), which was pretty solid with classic flavours across the board. More colour on the scallops would have given it another visual, textural and deeper flavour element, but they were really well seasoned and cooked until perfectly translucent inside.  The bacon crisp was just that.  Porky, crispy, lovely, and set the whole dish off.  The classic Wheeler’s Crab Cocktail With Avocado (£11.50) was a touch under par though, sporting mushy crab which lacked any light, sweet flakiness, sat atop half a well ripened avocado, dressed with nice Marie Rose sauce.  It was a bit tricky to eat from its skin with a knife and fork, and would have both looked and eaten way better had it been scooped out into slices for plating.  It was ultimately a bit flat next to the scallops.
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The Governor’s Fish And Chips (£16.50) Roasted Yorkshire Herb Fed Chicken With Wild Mushrooms (£15.95)

Between courses we sat taking in the stunning views over the Mersey, and during another glance at the menu noticed that a 10% 'discretionary' service charge is pre-added.  Apart from in London where it's the cultural norm, it's something that you just deal withand internally sulk like a miser.  I always tip good service because I know what it's like to be a server.  Asking for the 10% to be removed though, even if warranted, will only ever result in all concerned feeling awkward, which isn’t what eating out is about unless you're a sadist. 

On this occasion though, the 10% was well earned.  Our charming server was helpful, bubbly and a total pleasure.  She gave great advice on the wine list as we were picking something which broadly paired with all our dishes, since it was a being-professional single bottle evening.  On this occasion, the Waipara Hills NZ Sauvignon Blanc (£23.99) did the trick perfectly, with the classic fresh Marlborough notes of gooseberry and grapefruit.

Main courses stepped up a gear.  The Governor’s Fish And Chips (£16.50) was a winner, with great hand cut chunky chips in a generous portion, underneath perfectly cooked fish in lovely crispy batter. The tartare sauce was perhaps a bit chunky so not usable as a sauce as tasty as it was, but the mushy peas more than compensated.  The Roasted Yorkshire Herb Fed Chicken With Wild Mushrooms (£15.95) was another tasty plate.  Chicken breast cooked until still juicy, yet with crispy skin, sliced down the middle, seasoned properly, alongside an array of wild mushrooms, wilted spinach and a slice of Dauphinoise-esque potatoes.  Classic cooking, done simply, which hit the spot.
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Wheeler’s Bitter Chocolate Mousse (£6) Box Tree Eton Mess (£6)

Already full by this stage in truth, we soldiered on and ordered puds, taking in the ambiance.    It was another line-up of total classics on the sweet section of the menu, and we struggled to pick just two.  Trifle, crumble, tiramisu; this was probably the one course which led to the most indecision. 

We eventually opted for Wheeler’s Bitter Chocolate Mousse (£6) which was superb too, being rich, dense, gooey, and very indulgent indeed, as anything chocolate should be.  I've never complained about portions being too big, which is why my cholesterol is too high, but this could have perhaps been smaller, and would have defeated anybody less gluttonous.  I finished it though, happily, which is beside the point.  The Box Tree Eton Mess (£6) was a nod to the iconic Ilkley based Box Tree restaurant which Marco worked at when he was a teenager, still loves to this day, and now owns part of.  Good quality meringue, whipped cream, fresh strawberries, layered on top of a hidden surprise via some vanilla ice cream.  A Knickerbocker Glory married to Eton Mess, and a great, light way to end our meal on.

We were well and truly full, so made our way home, looking back at a cleaver laden Marco over our shoulders as we headed towards the water to ponder the evening.  It’s a touch pricy yeah, and added on service charges never go down too well up north even if you'd have paid it anyway.   But Wheelers of St James sums up what Marco aims to do these days, and does a good job in delivering.  A bit of glamour, serving true old school British classics, with generous portions, in a friendly and accessible dining space, looked after by charming staff.  And let's be honest, traditional British restaurants away from a pub setting are pretty much gone these days, which is a crying shame because whilst we do an amazing job of embracing authentic flavours and taking input from cuisines all over the world, just as Liverpool's own docks themselves have historically also done, we all too often fail to embrace and retain our own precious food cultures and history.  It's something which pains me on a regular basis.  Maybe more people should take an old school leaf out of Marco's legendary book?
Sandra & Chris Restaurants Of Liverpool ~ Wednesday 14th November 2018

Wheelers Of St James, At The Pullman ~ members' reviews
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Disclaimer: All information correct 14/09/2016. can not be held responsible for any differences experienced at the premises listed. All images and information © 2002-16 Pride Of Liverpool