The city of Liverpool is home to a whole host of world-renowned tourist attractions, Instagram-famous bars and must-visit restaurants.
There are the city’s two incredible cathedrals at either end of Hope Street; there’s the iconic waterfront, home to TATE Liverpool, the Liver Building and the Royal Albert Dock; there’s the Beatles museum, the Georgian Quarter parks, the Philharmonic Hall, and the Anfield and Goodison Park stadiums belonging to the city’s rivalling football teams.
On the food and drink front, the obvious places most Googled guides to Liverpool will steer you toward are the likes of the Baltic Market for independent street food, Panoramic for its 360-degree vistas of the cityscape, and the hive of urban activity known as LiverpoolONE.
All worth a visit while you’re in the city – but what lies beyond the beaten track? If you want to reveal the clandestine bars hidden in plain sight and the unassuming restaurants you’d blink and miss then keep on reading.
(Staying in Liverpool for a while and on the hunt for somewhere unique to host an upcoming baby shower, bridal bash or party dinner? Look no further than Jam Restaurant and cocktail bar – a covered venue on Sir Thomas Street, also offering one of the most popular Afternoon Teas in town!)
Cafes and restaurants off the beaten track in Liverpool
Here are just a few of the restaurants and cafes that those in the know herald as must-find hidden gems in the city:
Stroll along to Nelson Street and you’ll come across the Chinese Arch. Step through the arch and you’re in Liverpool’s Chinatown where you won’t be surprised to find some of the best noodle soup and dim sum in the city.
What you might be more amazed to stumble upon is The Bagelry – a local cafe and bakery distinguished by its red and green facade.
Here can sink your teeth into an entire menu of sweet and savoury bagels, breads, bakes and pastries, then wash them all down with a cup of locally-roasted coffee.
Seasonal specials have included the famous rainbow bagel and the apple crumble donut. Menu staples include the Hash Stack bagel with smoked cheese sauce and the Chilli Cheese Steak bagel.
Vegans and vegetarians will feel right at home here too – from veggie breakfast bagels to vegan donut holes with hazelnut chocolate dip.
Down the Hatch
Duke Street is a hive of food and drink activity, including the popular Duke Street Food & Drink Market.
Take your explorations below ground-level though and you’ll find Down the Hatch – an underground restaurant serving up drool-worthy vegan junk food, shakes and cocktails.
Also known as ‘Seitan’s Basement’, Down the Hatch is the original pioneers of plant-based anarchy in the city, luring in vegans, vegetarians and curious carnivores with homemade wings, dirty fries, Sunday roast, fry-ups and towering burgers.
The Buyers Club
This bar, restaurant and live music venue is a much-loved hotspot among the locals but easily overlooked by those who meander up Hardman Street without being aware of its existence. When the weather’s wet and windy, cosy up inside in the ultra-cool bar and restaurant with a glass of wine, a cocktail and some delicious small plates or pizza from the Italian-inspired food menu. In balmier climes, hit the twinkling terrace bedecked in fairy lights, with a cold craft ale and a soundtrack of live music.
Some other honourable mentions include:
- The Egg Cafe – for hearty, healthy, homemade vegetarian food and local art.
- Free State Kitchen – a popular burger joint and beer garden.
- Bunch – an intimate independent wine bar specialising in natural wines from around the world.
- Coffee & Fandisha – “Liverpool’s coolest independent coffee bar”.
- The Baltic Triangle – an area of the city bustling with independent cafes, bars, breweries and bakeries (including Coffee & Fandisha).
Hidden gem bars in Liverpool
Delve a little deeper beneath the surface – quite literally in some cases – and you’ll find a number of bars that aren’t common knowledge to visitors of the city, including:
Berry & Rye
If you walked down Berry Street oblivious to this prohibition-style bar, you almost certainly miss it.
Concealed behind a shabby black door with no signage, no front window and a covert doorbell pushed by only those with the secret, Berry & Rye is the epitome of a hidden gem.
The small speakeasy is lit by flickering candlelight, filled with soft jazz and lined with only a handful of tables and chairs for a truly intimate experience. If you’ve a hankering for an Old Fashioned, this is arguably the best in town.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a gin or sherry connoisseur, you’ll be spoilt for choice as you pour over the cocktail menu buried in the pages of an antique hardback book.
Paying homage to the debauched gambling and drinking dens of 19th Century Victorian Britain, The Oracle is not one to be missed. Signposted by a single black door, spotlit by an overhead lantern, this clandestine bar combines the craft of cocktail-making with sleight of hand magic.
Sip your way through the extensive list of signature cocktails in one of the dimly lit games rooms and catch one of the circling magicians to show you a trick or two. Out for the night?
Dare to sample The Oracle’s notorious Green Fairy cocktail laced with absinthe. Fancy something specific? Speak to your bartender who will be more than happy to muddle you up something more bespoke.
Like your cocktails to come with a side of retro video games? Look no further than NQ64 – a basement bar on Colquitt Street that also doubles up as an old-school arcade.
Think Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and classic console games, as well as Guitar Hero, dance mats and various racing car games.
While away the hours in the pitchy den, lit by splatters of neon paint and the familiar flashing lights of your favourite childhood pastimes. Drink from a rotating roster of craft beers and a selection of games-themed cocktails like the Mad Max and the Princess Peach.
This one is definitely a little off the beaten track but worth seeking out, that’s for sure. You’ll know you’ve found the hush-hush bar on Vernon Street when you come across a bright red phone box against a black brick wall.
Enter the phone box and pick up the receiver to be granted access into the plush subterranean space beyond via the secret code.
Classic, signature and sharing cocktails are all mixed with premium spirits to create a drinks list that you won’t forget anytime soon – even once the hangover has subsided the next day.
The modern speakeasy is famed for its disco-inspired cocktails, including Insta-worthy ingredients like popping candy and miniature donuts.
Now that we’ve highlighted some of the city’s most coveted nooks and crannies, all that’s left for you to do is hunt down those hidden gems and enjoy Liverpool like a true local.