There was a time when the city of Liverpool was known for not much more than two rivalling football teams, girls who wear rollers in their hair as a mating tactic and the kind of clientele that ‘would rob the wheels off your car’. I put that last bit in inverted commas because as a Liverpool-born girl, if I had had a quid for every time I heard that joke at uni - the one about me nicking the wheels off somebody’s car - I could have bought a car. I just about know how to screw the petrol cap on and off my Fiat 500, pal so I don’t think me and my shellac are going to be doing a Phil Mitchell on your motor any time soon.
What I lack in automotive knowledge, however, I more than make up for in roast dinner connoisseurship. Liverpool has undergone quite the rebranding over the past few years, shaking its unsavoury reputation substantially and is now an Aladdin’s Cave of rich culinary culture. There are authentic delicacies from all corners of the globe at the mere push of a Deliveroo button these days, from Lebanon to Vietnam but one thing that’s not so easy to come by is a good old fashioned Sunday lunch.
So on my quest to find the best of the best within the confines of my mother city, how did Alma de Cuba’s Gospel Sunday Brunch fair up? Let me fill you in…
Venue & Atmosphere
Venue and atmosphere is something Alma de Cuba has in complete and utter abundance. You might think it brazen that it brands itself as ‘Liverpool’s most spectacular restaurant and bar’ in its Google meta description but hey, they aren’t far wrong. I mightn’t quite describe their edible offering as ‘spectacular’ (more on that in just a moment) but when it comes to the venue, the aesthetic and the bricks & mortar they’ve got going for them, it’s nothing short of stunning.
Built in 1788 and serving as the city’s oldest Catholic church until 1976, the Grade II listed premises now functions as a popular restaurant and bar, still with its original jaw-dropping altar, stained glass windows and second floor galleries. The decor pays homage to the venue with its dark wooden furniture and its signature candelabras, but the modern day events offering and menus influenced by Latin vibrancy are quite contrapuntal. I’m not sure what Him above might think of scantily-clad dancers shaking their sequin bikinis over Samba Afternoon Tea at the altar but what I can confidently regale is my own personal verdict of Sunday Service Gospel Brunch…
Food & Drink
If you find yourself dining from the regular Alma de Cuba a la carte menu then you’ll be picking from an eclectic choice of dishes including things like Fish Taco, Burnt Tomato & Goats Cheese Bruschetta, Mojito Lamb Rump and Squash Cassoulet. Reserve your table on a Sunday and you’ll be served a bespoke Gospel Service menu. The list is entitled ‘Sunday Brunch’ which I consider to be a tad misleading as nothing on there is remotely brunch-like but swap the B in ‘Brunch’ for an L and I’m sold.
For our first course, we went for some Sweet Potato & Chorizo Croquettes (£7) with red onion salsa and garlic mayonnaise and a big, hearty bowl of Tomato & Basil Soup (£4.95) with crusty bread. The crusty bread was definitely… crusty to say the least but other than that, our starters were delicious. The three croquettes were packed with a filling which was both sweet and savoury in equal quantities and sat on a rich garlic dipping sauce that would certainly fend Dracula off for the foreseeable. The steaming, vermillion soup was the indulgent, creamy kind which comes served with a fancy swirl of creme fraiche and freshly plucked parsley on top.
For mains we both succumbed to the seduction of a Sunday roast; one Roast Rump of Beef (£15.95) and a Homemade Nut Roast (£12.95). Both came served with roast potatoes, crushed carrot and swede, cauliflower and broccoli florets and a boat of red wine reduction and vegetarian gravy respectively. As far as roast dinners go, these shot in at a respectable 7/10 on the quality scale. As somebody who has eaten at (and been disappointed with) Alma de Cuba in the past, I’m pleased to report that my latest visit was the most triumphant in terms of taste and calibre of ingredients. The meat melted in the mouth and the kitchen staff were more than happy to oblige when I cheekily requested an extra Yorkshire pudding with my nut roast - a gal’s gotta have her Yorkshire pud.
All in all, there is lots to like about Alma de Cuba, especially between 1.30 and 4pm on a Sunday afternoon when there’s a gaggle of gospel singers onsite to sing you through a decent roast dinner and a couple of expertly-muddled cocktails. If the hair rollers aren’t working anymore and you’re looking for a new mating tactic, this venue is guaranteed to impress. It’s equally appealing to friends, families and anybody else you fancy sharing an extravagant beverage with in bloody stunning surroundings. It never quite elevates itself to a religious experience for me in terms of food but if I turned up to the pearly gates and they had ‘Alma de Cuba’ emblazoned over the top, I definitely wouldn’t be turning down the invitation.