Last year we dined at Lino’s in Hoylake and interviewed the owner, Enrico Galantini, to find out the secret to its long term success. The family restaurant has stood the test of time for 33 years in a difficult market, whilst many other bars and restaurants have opened and closed around it. We discovered that there was actually no magic or mystery behind Lino’s longevity — just solid family traditions of good food at a reasonable price, good service and maintaining consistently high standards that keep a discerning clientele coming back. We returned recently to sample the new menu and see if anything had changed….
The first thing that struck us was the newly refurbished bar area — slick, modern and ideal for relaxing in style prior to dining. We were greeted by Ian and Jean, who have served Lino’s for 19 years and 14 years respectively and who have refined their skills to deliver quality service with effortless charm and an air of sophistication. As with our last visit, soft music danced behind the buzzing conversation of a full restaurant, with that same feeling of ambience. Whilst perusing the new menu, we noticed the canvas pictures on the wall of owner Enrico’s parents (Lino an Barbara) and Lino’s beautiful home town of La Spezia in Northern Italy — a lovely new touch, giving diners a personal insight into the Galantini family behind Lino’s. What aperitifs did we drink before being seated? A Peroni and a Cinzano of course — what else?
After being shown to our table and having been provided the customary warm bread and butter selection, we couldn’t decide on a wine. Fortunately, the cultured Ian suggested the ‘unsung hero of the menu’ — the Terra de Lobos, a Portuguese Cabernet Sauvignon with a bright purple cherry colour and soft, smooth and elegant to drink. Lino’s still have their great offers of Pasta & Pud for £10 per person (Tues – Fri, 5.30pm – 7pm) and Set Dinner for £17.95 per person (two courses, Tues – Sat all night), but the new menu was intriguing with a diverse selection of dishes. I opted for Avocado Barbara (named after Enrico’s mother) — a breadcrumb coated infusion of prawns, avocado and a creamy sauce that fell apart on the plate and melted in the mouth. My partner, Amanda, chose the King Prawns — a creamy and slightly spicy creation, cooked in lemongrass with a hint of coconut and served with egg noodles.
Following our unique starters, the mains of choice were Pork Fillet Medallions and Leg of Roast Duck. I requested my Pork Fillet Medallions dish to be extra spicy — and that it was! Loaded with jalapenos, it produced a fiery kick and also came with a rich and creamy sauce, mushrooms, potatoes and a selection of vegetables. The thin, tender slices of pork were lean and delicate — a great combination! Amanda’s Duck was, in my opinion, the slight winner here — the scent of orange from the marmalade jus was enticing and the crispy coated duck fell off the bone whilst eating. Together with honey, thyme, mashed potatoes and vegetables, this was a clearly well crafted dish. The orange undertones made this such a fascinating main and the next time I visit this will be my selection.
Despite the new menu having some interesting new dishes, some tried and tested favourites remained. This certainly applied to the desserts and Lino’s heavenly Parfait thankfully remained on the menu — it couldn’t arrive quick enough for me. In my last article I exhausted the dictionary with superlatives when attempting to describe the rich, gooey concoction of vanilla ice cream and white and milk chocolate. Last year I declared this dessert the best I’d ever devoured and my sentiments remain the same — well worth a visit to Lino’s for this alone. Amanda enjoyed her crisply coated creme brulee, another classic dessert remaining on the menu, although nothing comes close to the Parfait in my eyes! Ok — have I gone a bit too far with the Parfait? Try it for yourself!
The changes to the interior and the new dishes on the menu have only added to the allure of Lino’s but one thing remains the same — the family traditions and simple values that have kept Lino’s secretly successful for over four decades. Following our evening of delectable dining, I sat with the owner, Enrico Galantini, to discuss the past, the present and the future….
Urbanista: Your family home town of La Spezia in Northern Italy looks beautiful on the canvases on the wall! Tell us a little about the place and the food there.
Enrico: The pictures on the walls around the restaurant are mainly of my father’s village, San Terenzo, situated in the ‘golfo dei poeti’ (bay of the poets) in the province of La Spezia, south of Genoa on the north west coast of Italy. Being a coastal village, most restaurants will serve mainly fresh fish — lots of different types including shellfish, squid, octopus, various flat fish and breams, bass and soles.
Urbanista: During 33 years of trading in Hoylake, you must have seen some changes around you. How do you feel Hoylake has changed over the years?
Enrico: Sadly, the popularity of large supermarkets, online shopping (food and clothes), Liverpool 1 and other large retail sites has seen a decline in local shops on the high street staying in business for long, including restaurants. I think we may be the longest continual single owner serving restaurant around.
Urbanista: So what’s inspired the new look menu and the new dishes?
Enrico: I try to change the menu around twice a year, keeping some old favourites and bringing new ones in. Some people like the changing of menus and some don’t — it’s difficult to please everyone.
Urbanista: Of all the dishes on the menu, what is your favourite starter, main and dessert?
Enrico: My favourite starter is the Avocado Barbara — named after my mum who concocted created it 30 years ago. It’s been on and off the menus ever since. Main course would be Lamb Shank with roasted veg. Dessert would be your favourite, Justin, the White Chocolate Parfait — divine as you’ll no doubt agree!
Urbanista: What’s next for Lino’s? Are there to be any more changes?
Enrico: Next for Lino’s is to sort the front signage and new colour scheme — storm Doris took its toll on our lettering so it’s time to have a little change and also some new tables — going for wooden tops to modernise us a little.
122 Market Street
0151 632 1408
Images courtesy of Amanda Toovey