After taking a seat at the bar amidst a Saturday evening service at Salt House Bacaro last year and enjoyed a glowing orange glass of Aperol Spritz, I found myself wanting to return with an empty belly to partake in the colourful and wonderfully put together dishes that were coming out of the kitchen. I just knew I would have to visit for food the next time I was in the city.
After seeing post after post on social media of the new menu and subsequent specials, I was insistent that when I was in Liverpool in October that I would pay the gang at Salt House Bacaro a visit. Responsible for the successful Salt House Tapas and Hanover Street Social, Salt House Bacaro offers a take on Venetian small plates inspired by the back street bacaros of Venice. Designed to be shared or enjoyed as a collective meal much like tapas, you can easily enjoy a quick bite to eat mid afternoon or indulge in a full meal washed down with a selection of classic Italian cocktails such as Bellini’s and of course, a traditional Spritz (with Aperol or Campari)
After being explained to that the dishes would come out as and when they were ready which we were more than happy with, our waiter talked us through his favourite dishes on the menu including specials. It was refreshing to have that amount of input when some servers simply reel off a “everything is nice” response when asked what they would recommend. With his input we ordered more than enough to feed a small family as opposed to just the two of us – whoops!
First up to order, spuntini. Similar to starters or small bites, spuntini are most likened to Venetian cicchetti. With a varied selection on the menu we ordered 2 x arancini (deep fried risotto balls) and 2 x braised beef croquettes – 2 of each and the goats cheese pearls with honey and walnuts. The goats cheese pearls really stood out for us. The bitterly creaminess of the goats cheese against sweetness of the honey topped off with the bite of the walnuts is the perfect mixture of sweet and savoury. Sadly we only ordered one and begrudgingly shared it but I could have quite easily eaten several to myself.
We ordered four dishes from the main menu which were a mix of fish and meat (pesce and carne). Pan fried sea bass, beetroot and celeriac remoulade and buttered spinach, Grilled Mackerel, sauce vierge, parsley purée from the fish menu and ham hock balentine, ham consommé, pea and cucumber and the braised lamb and portobello mushroom rigatoni with pecorino cheese from the meat. The grilled mackerel and ham hock were highly recommended from the specials menu and were absolutely delicious and the mackerel looked almost too good to eat with its edible flower presentation and was cooked to perfection. The beetroot and celriac remoualade of the fried sea bass was sweet and crispy and worked well with the buttered spinach and the sauce of the rigatoni dish was rich and tasty with the lamb melting in your mouth and the pasta cooked al dente as favoured in Italy (with a bite). Being a lover of risotto (whats not to love about lovely warm comforting and creamy rice?) I just had to order the watercress risotto, honey goats cheese fritter and orange oil. Eaten on its own, the watercress risotto was somewhat bland but once enjoyed with a fork full of the goats cheese fritter the flavour combination was amazing.
I often feel like you can over order with small plates (hey, I usually like a large plate). You’d be right to think that after a mouthful or two you’d be left wishing you’d ordered more bread to mop up any leftover sauces, but they’re deceivingly filling and we regrettably didn’t manage to finish off everything we ordered NOR did we have room for dessert.
What I loved about all of the dishes was the presentation and attention to detail. Crockery is often an under looked element of presentation but the blue and white patterned side plates for the spuntini and granite bowl for the rigatoni just added a certain touch to the overall presentation. In fact, Salt House Bacaro has a simple and elegant feel to it in design which somewhat echoes the style of traditional Venetian bacaros that have evolved from being simple workingman’s bars to more “hip” and “trendy” places to eat for a new generation while still maintaining authentic taste and overall feel.
The excitable buzz of “try this, you HAVE to taste it” is what makes these small plates my favourite way to eat as opposed to a conventional sit down meal. There’s often a rigidity to starter, main and dessert that feels very formal and I find that when I’m out with family or friends there’s a real excitement about experiencing different foods, especially when the dishes are inexplicably mouth watering in description like those at Salt House Bacaro. It makes dinner time much more social and that’s certainly the atmosphere at Salt House Bacaro. Diners chattering animatedly whilst sipping glasses of wine and perusing the food menu or those sat the bar enjoying a tipple with a selection of shopping bags at their feet.