Vicky Andrews wonders if the food here will be right up her alley
The closure of my beloved Rocket & Ruby last October came as quite a shock. One minute I was writing about their flat-iron steak as my death-row last dinner, the next they’d disappeared off down the Green Mile. The restaurant turnover rate in Liverpool at the moment is pretty dizzying isn’t it? On Friday night you walk into a Spanish tapas bar; by Monday morning it’s a Japanese izakaya serving poke bowls, smashed avocado and craft ale.
PINS has made ten pin bowling sexy again with a glamorous makeover for a new generation
When Rocket & Ruby announced that they’d be returning as restaurant providers for the new PINS Social Club, I was over the moon. In fact, I became a bit of a private detective while it was being built, monitoring their social media updates and making excuses to drive up and down Duke Street to see how everything was coming along.
When the wait was over and the food menu was finally revealed, I must admit to feeling a bit short-changed. My favourite small plates from the old place are nowhere to be seen, having been replaced by a selection of gourmet burgers, hotdogs and fried chicken. Bacaro have brought their legendary stone-baked pizzas to the table and there’s a ‘Lanes’ menu with sharing trays loaded with waffle fries, onion chips, nachos and dough balls. I might not find myself rekindling an old flame here, but the new venture is still pretty cool in its own way.
PINS has made ten pin bowling sexy again with a glamorous makeover for a new generation. The trials and tribulations of bowling shoes at the retail park are infamous; one friend tells of a time she walked home in her loaned pumps because the shoes she came with were stolen. It’s a dog eat dog world. These days bowling shoes are no longer essential and as long as you’re wearing decent flats then you’re good to go in your own trabs.
As well as 12 bowling lanes, including four VIP ones upstairs, there is also ping pong, beer pong, shuffleboard, pool, karaoke, live music and a proper dining area. The building is absolutely jaw-dropping; an enormous brick warehouse across two floors that’s equipped with a stage for live bands and one of the longest bars in the city. There are television screens everywhere and infinite Instagram opportunities, from a convertible Morris Minor 1000 in the foyer, to a giant mirror in the ladies’ toilets. There are also plans to open a roof bar which will be awesome if it looks out onto Penelope in Wolstenholme Square.
On the Saturday night we visited I’d managed to bag one of the last bowling sessions online for 9pm, so we turned up an hour before to get some food in the restaurant. It’s bright and loud and the air is thick with the promise of fried food from the open kitchen, but overall it’s a likeable play on a Fifties-style American diner. The place was booming as we took a couple of window seats and hollered across the table at each other above the sound of the live band. Our server was super-helpful and happy to point us in the direction of the house cocktails, so we got the ball rolling with a Pins-star Martini (£9.50) and ‘On the Flip Side’ (£8), a sweet blend of Havana especial rum and Giffard banana du Brazil liqueur.
From the ‘Rocket & Ruby’ menu, I had the buttermilk fried chicken burger (£10.50) which was a well-presented meaty treat topped with bacon mayo, lettuce, cheese and crispy onions, all packed within a perfectly toasted brioche bun. A big burger like that usually leads to a big butt, but the BUT here is the fries it came with. Underdone, underseasoned and underwhelming, these chips left me feeling like a bit of a chump.
You can always rely on a Bacaro pizza and the Neapolitan with coppa di parma ham, chilli glazed pineapple and fontina cheese (£11) bowled us over, praised by my celiac dinner guest as the best gluten-free pizza she’d ever had. My side dish of ‘frickles’ (£5) wasn’t gf so she had to watch me chomp my way through a bowl of crunchy deep-fried dill pickles, matched with a creamy ranch dip. If you only order one thing here, make it frickles and beer.
The PINS experience is life in the fast lane, plus it’s dog-friendly, veggie friendly, gluten-free friendly and even child-friendly until 5pm. The ten pin bowling and other games are loads of fun (even for this sore loser) and I hoped the food would be right up my alley, but I think you might still catch me wandering past 55 Castle Street looking for news of a Rocket & Ruby revival. You never forget the first moment you were love struck.
PINS Social Club, 45-61 Duke St, Liverpool L1 5AA
Follow Vicky Andrews on Twitter @PlanetVicster
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Chicken burger and fries 6, pizza 8, frickles 6
The Big Lebowski
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