Flicking over from an apartment display centre to a food hub, Liverpool’s former 1868 historic paper mill is now home to a quartet of restaurants and eateries, known collectively as The Paper Mill Food.
Taking advantage of the beautiful saw-tooth roof line, designer Paul Papadopoulos from DS17 (the team responsible for Nour Sydney and Alpha Restaurant’s fine interiors) has showered the original brickwork with loads of natural light.
While the eateries and airspace are all interconnected, this review will focus upon Firepit, The Paper Mill’s premium offering, which offers table service and its own dedicated eating area running from fountain to firepit in the rear.
Firepit is a very attractive dining proposition, with fake plants dangling from overhead steel girders, and a range of modular private dining rooms down one side.
They are separated from the main space with glass walls that open to allow airflow. Inside them, the aggregate floors are softened with plants, woven basket lights and floor-length, flowing grey drapes.
To escape prying ears and eyes, pull aside the quirky, porthole-mounted door in the rear to find a special mirror-decorated space fit for an intimate board room dinner.
We’re seated in Parisian, red and white woven chairs in the main space.
They add a pop of colour to an area that’s mostly furnished with post-industrial metal framed seats. The metal carries through to a steampunk-inspired clock with Roman numerals and its gears on display, right over our heads.
Eye-catching black, white and gold tiles set apart the service areas, including the marble-topped charcoal station, where a white-clad chef is toasting focaccia batons over licking red flames.
Backed by a pair of wood-fired ovens and a rotisserie, the flame grill is the restaurant’s key attraction, so I weight my meal towards the offerings cooked over charcoal.
It’s no coincidence that Wood-Roasted Oysters Rockefeller ($26/6) were named after the richest man of the day (1899), John D. Rockefeller. The warm bivalves are rich and buttery, with a big garlicky, parsley kick that needs a good squeeze of lemon to cut through and actually taste the oyster.
The 2017 Vinum Chenin Blanc ($54) is a classic oyster wine, with lemon and a bit of butter, made in Stellenbosch in South Africa. Entry-level wines scrape in just under forty bucks a bottle on the compact but interesting wine list. There is also a treat yo’self section where you can crack into French bubbly like Pol Roger ($230/bottle), Dom Pérignon ($230/bottle) or Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque ($520/bottle), if you’re rollin’ with homies richer than my mob.
Scraped onto a charred focaccia baton that I watched the chef firing earlier, Wood-Roasted Bone Marrow ($18) is expertly handled. Topped with a well-dressed salad of parsley, red onion and green olive, with a scrape of hot English mustard to cut the fat, the warm veal marrow toast is rich and indulgent.
From the rolling hills of the Darling Downs, the 300g F1 Rump Cap ($55) arrives well rested at our server’s recommended medium. Served tagliata (sliced) with beer battered fries and your choice of sauce, it’s smoky (from the grill) and satisfyingly chewy, without blood pouring onto the large oval plate. Unable to choose just one condiment, we try it with excellent Béarnaise, and pleasantly spicy fermented green chilli.
While there are a handful of well-dressed leaves, some extra vegetables wouldn’t go astray. Charcoal Sugar Cabbage ($13) arrives beautifully blackened on faro and whipped ricotta, with a mint and lemon dressing, playing to the strengths of Palestinian-born, executive chef Nader Shayeb.
What I wasn’t expecting from Shayeb was the best Pork Ribs ($59) I’ve eaten in Australia. With rashers of surprise bacon glued to them using a beautifully balanced barbeque glaze, this smoky rack is so good, it will have you throwing away your cutlery and gnawing on the bones to make the most of your high-priced, but supremely good, baby back ribs.
Sticky fingers give you a good reason to check out The Paper Mill Washroom. With period appropriate concrete trough sinks, and gorgeous glass and metal detailing over the dunny doors, every last detail is well-considered in Liverpool’s first multimillion-dollar food hub.
The Paper Mill
20 Shepherd Street, Liverpool
Ph: (02) 8742 4033