Sandwiched between the Town Hall and Crown Courts, Liverpool’s Castle Street has more of a reputation for business than it does for pleasure. That is, until the sister restaurant of some of Liverpool’s most popular bars and boozers (think: Salt Dog Slims and Santa Chupitos) decided to set up shop with a late night Brazilian-style pizzeria. I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to see what it was all about.
The Venue and Atmosphere
The décor at Santa Maluco is cool but classy. A well thought out graffiti wall, metal chairs and tin-can cutlery pots sit harmoniously alongside the beautiful Castle St architecture and imposing bay windows. Despite it being quite the rainy weekday evening, the venue was buzzing by 7. Helped along by the long benches and enormous booths, the venue is perfect for big groups of mates, colleagues or casual business acquaintances alike. This place is built for sharing so, despite going as a twosome, we decided to be sociable and found a spot for dinner on one of the big tables, smack bang in the middle.
The Food and Drink
Like its siblings, Santa Maluco has an eclectic and original cocktail list. I opted for the infamous Five Dollar Shake (£8) with ice-cream, milk and blueberry jam spiked with a shot of vodka and Chambord, served in a classic glass milk bottle and ceremoniously topped with a mountain of whipped cream. A grown-up take on a childhood milkshake. My guest went for a more sophisticated option in the shape of the Red Vesper (£9.00) a potent mix of vodka, sloe gin and sweet vermouth. Certainly more elegant but a little strong for a school night.
Next, we moved on to the food. Here you can order an enormous 18inch pizza to share, or you can make like the Brazilians and order it Rodizio style (£15.00 after 4pm). Imagine an all-you-can-eat affair where you don’t even have to leave your seat... we were ultimately sold. You simply turn a traffic-light wheel to green to tell the staff you’re good to go and the pizza just keeps on coming. Like many things in life, I can liken our dining experience to that of waiting at the bus stop: you start by waiting a while then 3 come along at once. The big difference being these buses aren’t the 86 to Liverpool One, more of a one way trip to pizza overload.
If you’re expecting a slice of classic pepperoni then you’re in the wrong place- toppings are fun and original and reflect the spirit of the Carnival. We started with a slice of the Doug Life with ham, wild mushrooms, parsley and garlic oil. It was fresh, smothered in cheese and the crust had a gentle lick of charcoal from the traditional wood-fired pizza oven. Delicious, but trumped almost immediately by our favourite slice of the night - The Ma-Donner. Imagine Saturday night’s staple kebab recreated on top of a slice of pizza - slow cooked lamb shoulder, cabbage, onions, yoghurt dressing and sriracha. It tasted exactly like the real thing, spicy, crunchy and packed with flavour and so different from any pizza we’ve tried before. Other slice-highlights included the Carbonara, What the Duck? and our second favourite of the night the Lo Pan Loco. This slice generously provided a spicy relief from the carb onslaught with curry sauce, red chillies, spring onions and sui mai. Full to bursting, we unbuttoned our jeans and made room for dessert. You guessed it - Dessert Pizza topped with thick chocolate ganache, cream and raspberries - a delicious and fitting end to the meal.
Overall we had lots of fun trying out the huge range of slices at Santa Maluco. I’m slightly ashamed to say I only managed to finish 5 before I threw in the towel, my date polishing off an admirable 8. If you reckon you can beat us, then put on your loosest trousers and sign yourself up for the Sunday Slice Challenge - eat as many as you can in an hour to get your bill for free. Be warned though: last time I checked, the record stood at 15.