AS a restaurant, to stand the test of time in a vibrant seaside town such as Hoylake, Wirral, is a fine achievement. In an ever changing and highly competitive modern world with a variety of places to choose from as regards dining, to continue to thrive as Lino’s has speaks volumes for consistent quality and unrelenting passion. Whilst new bars and restaurants have opened around it and corporate chains have flexed more muscle, Lino’s has stood strong and stuck to the high standards set when it first opened back in 1983. Lino’s is a wonderful success story of a family business prevailing over four decades and as an Urbanista writer I was keen to sample some of the quality that has kept discerning clientele coming back for years.
Born near Genoa in Italy, Lino moved to the U.K whilst undertaking a scholarship where he met his wife, Barbara, and worked in many prestigious restaurants throughout the North West. In 1983, Lino and Barbara opened Lino’s, where they were accompanied by their son, Enrico, who has since helped to develop the business and menus before taking over the reins. A master of his refined dishes with unique twists, Enrico has seen Lino’s win some notable awards in its time such as Essence Magazine Restaurant Of The Year and it has been a long standing fixture in Hardens Best Restaurants guide.
I attended on a Friday with my dining partner for the evening, Amanda, and upon entering the restaurant I was hit with a sense of traditionalism and professionalism. Dark wood and classy decor provided an feeling of sophistication whilst our hosts, Ian and Jean, welcomed us in a well spoken manner and took our jackets — Enrico was busy behind the scenes creating culinary masterpieces in the kitchen. We were seated at a cosy table in the corner and I noticed how the stone walls added to the traditional feel whilst a large glass mirror really opened the place up. As we had arrived at 8pm, we had just missed the Tues-Fri offer of ‘Pasta & Pudding’ for £10 (served from 5.30-7pm), so we instead opted for the Set Menu of two courses for £17.95 (available all evening from Tues-Sat). Our mouths watered as we perused the cultured menu and it was clear that each dish was a well selected speciality of Lino’s.
Getting warmed up
Ian proved to be timely and patient whilst awaiting our respective decisions and assisted us with a fine Italian Pinot Grigio — a crisp and soft whit wine with pear and citrus undertones. Amanda opted for the King Scallops to start, cooked in a hot coconut cream curry sauce with spiced couscous, whilst I chose the King Prawns which were pan seared in garlic butter with bacon, capers, spinach, pine nuts and diced tomatoes. Whilst we waited we were presented, once again ever so politely, with a variety of fresh, warm bread with warm butter rolls and when our first courses arrived we were thoroughly impressed with both the presentation and the quality of the food itself. Amanda’s scallops were soft and sumptuous, melting in the mouth with a spicy kick, whilst my king prawns had a rather colourful, flavourful Mediterranean feel. So far so amazingly good.
The Food and Atmosphere
As we talked and shared wine in between courses, with relaxing acoustic music in the background, I overheard a conversation between our host, Ian, and an American couple who were dining on another table. The couple talked of how they were discovering the area and wanted traditional, authentic fine dining — having researched thoroughly they found that Lino’s was a place for the true connoisseur and those with a sophisticated palate. Our American visitors had come to the right restaurant and when our main courses arrived they were testament to that. Amanda opted for the Dover Sole, grilled, with lemon and parsley butter and with plenty of veg on the side — the sole itself is freshly caught in the North Atlantic daily. The light, delicate sole tasted like a delicacy should and was wonderfully complimented by the lemon, whilst the long stemmed broccoli and veg were steamed to perfection. I had selected the 8 oz Scottish Sirloin Steak and found it to be juicy, tender, flavourful and with peppercorn sauce that wasn’t too overpowering. The garlic butter, crispy chips, giant field mushroom and petit pois a la francais rounded off a well balanced and hearty dish. In both cases, ‘Bellissimo!’
Appropriate time was given in between courses by our charming hosts and we talked more over wine before completing our fine dining experience with a very special dessert. I state with conviction that the Iced White Chocolate Parfait is truly the most delicious dessert I have ever tasted. Surrounded by a dark, smooth and warm chocolate sauce and white chocolate pieces, the Lino’s parfait is a rich medley of chocolate and ice cream that simply must be experienced to be believed! I am tempted to say that Lino’s is worth a visit for the parfait alone, but Lino’s must be experienced for many reasons.
Having dined in such a way, I understood why Lino’s has continued to thrive where other restaurants have opened and closed around it. Lino’s is a family business based on quality food and quality service — and that basic ethos of high standards has not wavered in the slightest over the years. After our dessert we were joined at our table by Enrico, who answered my question about the secret of the long term success of Lino’s:
“There is no magic or mystery as to why we have continued to do well for many years. It is about focusing on the basics. Quality food, quality service and consistency whilst always ensuring we are good value for money. There are no gimmicks at Lino’s — new places come up with these fancy ideas which are great at first, but people soon lose interest. Here at Lino’s we keep it simple, focus on the basics and consistently maintain the highest standards whilst never losing the passion for what we do.”