Is Birkdale becoming a destination for foodies?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 February 2016
If dining out in this Lancashire village is good enough for Albert Roux, it's good enough for us
Marc and Michaela Verite (left) and the team; Josh Thong, Sean Arslanian, Caitlin Ogden, Daniel Simpson, Connor Branigan, Michael Angelucci, Adrian Slee and Darren Booth
Marc and Michaela Verite
Joanne Halliday at Halliday's Fishmongers
Alison, Ray and Andrew Core at Stanley's Fruit Stores
Lathams The Bakers
Shirley Edwards, Dawn Love, Vivien Sharrock and Trish Pyke at Lathams The Bakers
Birkdale Village shops
Birkdale Village shops
‘I couldn’t believe it when he walked in. To have him in the restaurant was the epiphany for me,’ said Bistrot Vérité’s Marc Verite, reminiscing about the time legendary French chef Albert Roux dined in his Birkdale restaurant. ‘When I was growing up, the Roux brothers were the kings of gastronomy. They still are.’
So did the owner of Le Gavroche receive any special treatment while dining at the French-style bistro on Liverpool Road? ‘His friend who brought him told us not to make a fuss, so we just did a normal service. He’s an old school chef, and his food is a similar type of classic French dishes that we cook. The biggest compliment he said to me was that the menu does what it says. And that’s quite apt.’
Bistrot Vérité opened in 2009, and since then Marc and his wife, Michaela, have been pleasing hungry diners with this classic, seasonal menu – and have received the recognition to prove it. In March 2015 the restaurant received two AA rosettes, and recently received a review from The Sunday Times.
‘It’s a lovely feeling to know that some people travel from the likes of Preston to dine with us. When you glance down at the booking sheet, you don’t just see the Southport telephone numbers. We also have regular customers which is nice as they get to know us.’
Marc, who after working extensively in Belgium and France returned to his home town of Southport to work at Steven Gerrard’s Warehouse restaurant. He was head chef there for 15 years before opening his own place. ‘The time was right. Our three children were older and not as reliant, and I had always wanted to be on the French scene with a cosy, family restaurant.’
What the family have come up with wouldn’t look out of place in a Parisian neighbourhood, and with the couple’s experience abroad, the authenticity is just right. ‘We wanted a buzzing and cosy restaurant, with French classic bistro dishes with a twist. Having worked in international restaurants, we wanted a flavour of that, but, of course, we couldn’t leave fish and chips off the menu!’
If you don’t fancy dining out, there are plenty of local, independent suppliers in Birkdale to fill your kitchen cupboards. We meet the people behind a few of the stores to find out more.
Stanley’s Fruit Stores
‘I’ve been involved with fresh produce for 46 years,’ said Ray Core, who runs Stanley’s Fruit Stores in partnership with his wife, Vivienne. ‘Aged 15, I started working with my father who was in the business of secondary wholesale to fruit shops. Once a year, as members of Halsall School PTA, we would run our own charity fruit and vegetable stall. We enjoyed it that much that we thought lets go into retail.’
Ray opened his store in Birkdale village 25 years ago, selling a variety of fruit and vegetables. A real family business, his daughter, Alison, and son, Andrew, work alongside him to provide a quality service. ‘I’m also looking forward to getting my Saturday girl in, my granddaughter Rebecca. But she’s only nine months old!’
‘Everyone has a great relationship with one another in the village. There’s always someone reliable to lend a hand.’
Hallidays of Birkdale
Fresh fish, seafood and seasonal game specialists, Hallidays of Birkdale, have been serving the village for more than 20 years. ‘The actual company has been in business for over 100 years. I married into it!’ said Joanne Halliday, owner of the Birkdale shop, which also specialises in outside catering. ‘I think we’re the oldest established fish monger in the area.’
At the time, with 13 market stalls and shops, Joanne was keen to open a branch in Birkdale. ‘I just thought there were some really nice food shops here, and it warranted a fish monger. For ten years I tried to get in the village before this shop became available.’
Joanne said that it’s Birkdale’s community spirit that keeps the village alive. ‘I have shoppers coming in every day. I couldn’t wish to be anywhere else, there’s a great feeling here.’
C.H. Latham the Bakers
Another long-standing business within the village is Latham the Bakers. Chris Latham started baking at the Southport premises in 1967, and has since opened five stores - making them the largest, local retail baker in the Southport area.
Shirley Edwards, manageress of the Birkdale bakery, has been with the company for 21 years and worked at this location for nine of them. ‘This shop is well cemented in the village. Since opening in 1999, people know about us and some will travel a distance for our goods. One gentleman travels from Sheffield for our Eccles cakes, and another customer purchases pies to take down south.’