We visited Liverpool last week as we had tickets for Genesis, The Last Domino? We stayed for 3 nights and had time to visit a few places of interest: as my husband and son had not been to Liverpool before I suggested walking to both cathedrals and exploring the area in between. I also knew that I wanted to see inside the Philharmonic Dining Rooms, located in Hope Street midway between the Anglican and Roman Catholic cathedrals. I don’t know about parking as we walked there but it’s on a bus route and the tourist hop-on hop-off buses stop nearby.
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, locally known as ‘The Phil’, is Grade1 listed on account of the building’s architectural interest, being one of the finest public houses in England and the pinnacle of the ‘gin palace’ form of pub. It was built from 1898 to 1900, as a gentlemen’s club; the exterior is in what Historic England calls “an exuberent Free style” and the interior is also highly ornate. It was designed by Walter W Thomas for Robert Cain’s Liverpool brewery. Thomas also designed the nearby Vines (Grade 2* 1907) for Cain. As the Dining Rooms are opposite the Philharmonic Hall there are references to the building’s musical links as well as to Liverpool’s maritime history. The building is large, with 3 storeys plus attic and cellar. We only saw the ground floor but apparently above that is a dining room, bar and commercial kitchens and there is also storage space, offices and a staff flat.
Paul McCartney is said to have played at the Phil when he was young. It is now a Nicholson’s pub so we decided to go inside for a drink and a meal so we could see the interior. We’d checked earlier and were told that on Mondays food was served in the lounge until 8 pm so as we were going to the Liverpool Arena in the evening we had a very late lunch at 3.30 pm. The main entrance from Hope Street has Art Nouveau wrought iron and beaten copper gates which are considered to be one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau metalwork in the country. There was no indication inside as to where we should go so we wandered past the mosaic and panelled bar, turned right between two small snugs with signs above the entrances – ‘Brahms’ on one and ‘Liszt’ on the other – although I suspect these signs are fairly recent additions. At the end of the corridor was a large room with Grande Lounge above the door. It was furnished with dark wood dining tables and we seated ourselves at a corner table. There was one menu on the table and instructions to order and pay using a QR code or app. My son was delegated to carry out this annoying task but after trying for some time he failed to access the app so my husband went to the bar near the entrance with our orders and came back with our drinks and news that the app was off! The website states that anyone signing onto the app can get £5 discount for £20 spent. The food choice was typical pub grub with lots of pies, burgers, pasta, pizza, steaks etc. Everything in the pie section of the menu was served with Chanteney carrots and greens. My choice of pulled lamb Lancashire hotpot topped with sliced potatoes was listed in the pie section and cost £13; my husband was tempted to the steak and kidney pudding but changed his mind and had the same as me while my son had macaroni cheese with garlic bread plus a side salad (£7 + £3). My husband reported back from the bar that there was a good choice of beers and he chose Nicholson’s own pale ale. Annoyingly there were no prices on the wine menu so I just chose a Shiraz anyway.
While waiting for our food we had a good look round our high ceilinged room, originally a billiards room, at the beautifully crafted features – Arts and Craft style copper repoussé panels of animals and birds, Jacobean style ceiling plasterwork and wood panels, gilded plasterwork, stained glass skylights, fancy cornices, etched mirrors, crystal chandeliers – and much more. Our food arrived and the hotpots were in dishes sitting on plates surrounded by vegetables (actually carrots, green beans and peas) in a large pool of gravy; the hotpot was delicious with a good amount of slow cooked lamb but I would have preferred the vegetables without so much gravy. My son’s macaroni cheese was quite small but it was only £7 and he enjoyed it although he had to leave one of the three slices of garlic bread.
After we’d eaten I sent my husband in search of the gentlemen’s toilets with instructions to take a photograph if there was nobody else there as I’d heard they are amazing; he reported back with a photo and the toilets are certainly ornate with the original sanitary ware in a mix of pink marble and rose coloured imitation marble; Art Nouveau tiles decorate the walls and there is a patterned mosaic floor. I went to the ladies’ toilets but they are, as expected, modern as when the pub was built it was for men only, however the corridor outside the toilets retain their original wall tiles. I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the pub, if only for a drink, just to be able to see the wonderful decorations. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it is an architectural gem.