From a landmark birthday to a key anniversary, there are certain moments when it’s really worth pushing the boat out.
Fortunately, we’re blessed in Merseyside, Cheshire and Chester with an array of restaurants that can step up to the mark when in need of a special dining room that offers the all-important ‘wow’ factor.
So put your feet up, scroll through our guide, and plan your next celebratory meal. And with all restaurants listed less than a 20-minute walk from the nearest train station, you won’t even have to think about taking the car.
Panoramic 34, Liverpool
If you haven’t yet visited this jaw-dropping restaurant in the sky - one of the UK’s highest – then you’ve missed out on one of Liverpool’s most impressive dining experiences.
Located on the 34th floor of the West Tower building on Brook Street, from the moment you step out of the lift into the swish reception area, you’ll be blown away by the grandeur of the dining room, the stunning 360-degree views of the city, the Wirral and beyond that can be seen from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the superb service.
But it’s the food that will really seal the deal. Whether you go for afternoon tea (from £25 per person) with its selection of hand-made sandwiches and pastries or the seven-course tasting menu (from £89 per person), which showcases dishes such as Native Scottish Salmon and Goosnargh Duck Breast, you won’t fail to be impressed by the quality ingredients served up so beautifully that you’ll be unsure whether to photograph it, eat it, or both.
Nearest station: Moorfields – ideally the Old Hall Street exit but after hours the Moorfields exit.
Walking distance: 5 minutes from Old Hall Street, 11 minutes from Moorfields exit.
The London Carriage Works, Liverpool
Since opening in 2003, The London Carriage Works on Hope Street has maintained its status as one of the city’s best restaurants; an accolade that has been boosted by the fact that it has long held two AA Rosettes and has won a whole host of awards.
This is due in no small part to the former Food & Beverage Director Paul Askew, who has since moved on to open his own gastronomic hit (more of that later).
While other, hipper restaurants may have moved into town in recent years, this dining room has maintained its reputation as one of ‘the’ places to go for those with something special to celebrate – and for good reason.
Definitely a place to see and be seen, the huge windows looking out on to the street below are fantastic for posing or people-watching, and the bright, contemporary interior gives a distinctly upmarket feel.
Food-wise, you’ll find a wide variety of menus, from breakfast and lunch to afternoon tea and evening; each of them brimming with culinary delights, with the main courses on the evening menu, for example, offering mouth-watering dishes such as Halibut with Spinach, Mussels, Clams, Buttermilk and Nasturtium. And as you would expect of an AA Notable Wine List award winner, there’s sommelier’s recommendations listed alongside each of them.
Nearest station: Central
Walking distance: 13 minutes
Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms, Aughton
When a restaurant clocks up two Michelin Stars within two years of opening, you know they’re doing something right. And that’s certainly the case with Moor Hall, an extremely exclusive dining hall set in a beautiful Grade II listed sixteenth-century farmhouse.
With chef-patron, Mark Birchall, who previously made his mark as executive chef at fellow two-Michelin-starred holder L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, at its helm, this impressive dining destination offers its guests so much more than just a nice meal out.
As well as the lovely surprises you’ll experience (none of which we’ll spoil), you’ll be blown away by the beautiful décor, and the food on offer, all of which is befitting of its Michelin Stars and five AA rosettes.
Think Smoked Eel, Oyster, Monkfish and Westmorland Duck and you’ll understand the kind of quality ingredients that go into each and every dish.
Of course, all of this excellence comes at a price; a four-course lunch menu costs £65 per person while an eight-course dinner menu is priced at £125 per person, but this very special place is worth every penny.
Nearest train station: Town Green
Walking distance from station: 19 minutes
Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor, Chester
Holders of a Michelin star since 1990, winners of four AA Rosettes, an AA notable Wine List Award, recognition as ‘Best Hotel Restaurant’ at the European Hospitality Awards . . . there are numerous reasons why you might want to consider Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor for your special occasion meal.
The fact that executive chef Simon Radley is the creative genius behind the menu is just one. The atmospheric and tranquil dining room, with its beautiful interior and waiting staff that make you feel like royalty is another.
Then, of course, there’s the food itself, with main courses offering dishes such as Duck and Deer, Dover Sole and Turbot, all presented with the sort of detail you’d expect from such a work of art. There’s an eight-course Tasting Menu too, priced at £69 per person.
And with a Tasting Menu Wine Selection available to be added at a cost of £55 extra per person, you just might be glad you decided to take the train . . .
Nearest station: Chester
Walking distance: 15 minutes
The Art School, Liverpool
Something of a stalwart of the Liverpool food scene, Paul Askew has worked hard to raise the bar when it comes to the city’s dining credentials over the years, and previously spent 12 years launching and building up the reputation of the aforementioned London Carriage Works.
Five years ago, he decided to go it alone; The Art School is the result. Located in the former Victoria Home for Destitute Children on Sugnall Street in the city’s Georgian Quarter, the restaurant’s dining room is contemporary, boasting pillar box red dining chairs set against white table cloths, and food that’s as modern as its setting.
For a special experience that’s not quite as intense as a tasting menu, the Menu Excellence (£75 per person) is hard to beat. Offering pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan versions of the entire menu, diners are greeted with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Champagne with a selection of Chef’s seasonal canapes before choosing a starter, main and dessert, with cheese and coffee options available at a supplement.
There’s a wide range of dishes available, ranging from Roast Breast of New Season Scottish Grouse (Menu Excellence) to Asian-marinated pan-fried tofu with charred onion (Vegan Menu Excellence) and much more besides.
With so many delicious-sounding meals, the only problem you might have is deciding which menu to opt for.
Nearest station: Liverpool Central
Walking distance: 14 minutes
Sticky Walnut, Chester
Over the next few weeks, it’s likely we’ll all be talking about restaurant entrepreneur Gary Usher because of The Rebel Chef - the Channel 4 documentary tracking his mission to open the first restaurant in Prescot for 30 years.
But the discerning, cool clientele that frequents one of Usher’s other restaurants (he has six), Sticky Walnut in Chester, has been talking – and Tweeting – about this particular bistro for years.
Situated in Chester suburb Hoole, this award-winning restaurant has won a whole host of fans thanks in no small part to its creative menu, skilfully put together by Usher and his team.
If starters that include Squid Ink Risotto (£12) and Wood Pigeon Breast (£11), and mains that offer Roast Chicken Breast (£23) and Butter Roasted Monkfish (£28) sound right up your street, then you should definitely book now, before there’s a stampede for Usher-owned restaurants.
Kids are welcome too, with their own versions of Chicken Schnitzel, Sunday Roast and Tagliatelle dishes. Just try not to pinch too much of theirs.
Nearest station: Chester
Walking distance: 13 minutes
Conjured up by Marc and Michaela Verite who wanted to bring a French-style restaurant to the Birkdale area, Bistrot Vérité doesn’t fail to disappoint.
The cosy dining room is the perfect antidote for those left cold by those with more contemporary designs, and stuffiness is a definite no-no for staff who want to create a relaxed atmosphere in which their guests can enjoy great food.
The menus are every foodie’s dream, with the dinner menu offering an extensive range of courses, and starters such as Crispy Satay Spiced King Prawns and Kohlrabi Salad (£11) sitting alongside Rustic Chicken Liver & Smoked Bacon Pate with Onion Chutney (£7.50).
Mains are equally as mouth-watering, with Bowland Lamb (£20), Truffle Roasted Chicken Breast (£17) and Roasted Fennel (£12) all crying out to be ordered and devoured.
Children are welcome, and have their own menu, which sit alongside Light Bites and Lunch offerings too. But be warned; this place gets busy, so you’ll need to book in advance.
Nearest station: Birkdale
Walking distance: 1 minute