New Moon Co has unveiled its latest restaurant and bar, The Old Blind School, in Liverpool. Pictures by Natural Focus Photography
Over the past four years, Dave Mooney and Paul Newman have gained an enviable reputation – and a growing number of awards – for their business, New Moon Co. Starting out with the Lord Binning in Kelsall in Cheshire, they have gone on to open destination gastropubs including The Old Sessions House in Knutsford, Cheshire, and Beef and Pudding in Manchester city centre as well as Mockingbird Taproom restaurant and bar in Chester. For their latest project, they have travelled further west to Liverpool, creating a two-storey restaurant and bar, The Old Blind School.
The Grade II-listed building dates back to 1791 when it was built as the home of the Liverpool School for the Blind in London Road – and moved brick by brick to its current location in Hardman Street in 1851. The imposing building, which is a local landmark, later went through a number of uses, from Merseyside Police headquarters to the Flying Picket music venue, but fell into neglect in recent years. Paul and Dave have totally restored and revamped it into a contemporary gastropub with Lee Birchall and his team at architecture and interior design practice DV8 Designs.
“As an iconic building, it was important that the venue remained true to its roots in many ways,” Lee says. “Therefore, we kept many of the building’s original architectural elements while adding a contemporary flair to the design and completely bringing it back to life.” With a capacity of 280, the new interior has more than 200 covers for diners over the two floors plus a state-of-the-art kitchen, a bar area and a 70-seat terrace.
To balance heritage and current trends, they added many “ultra-modern” details, Lee says, including visually exciting art installations and exaggerated furnishings to the restaurant floor. As part of the venue’s “playful” interior design, the restaurant floor and bar area have been given a “stripped-back rustic edge”, he adds. “The overall aim was to create a look that perfectly mirrors the venue’s laid-back ethos and relaxed atmosphere and capture its quirky vibe.”
As chef patron, Dave has worked with The Old Blind School’s Liverpool-born head chef Paul Feery to develop a menu specialising in classic British dishes such as mature dry-aged beef steaks, smoked haddock fillets, squash and chestnut crumble, and Vimmy Duck – Gressingham duck breast with black pudding hash cake and Vimto gravy. Open from 10am seven days a week, it offers breakfast Monday to Friday and brunch at weekends, from porridge, eggs benedict and Belgian waffles through to a full English breakfast dubbed Mouth of the Mersey.
The brunch menu also features a selection of proseccos and champagnes as well as champagne cocktails, ranging from a pink grapefruit twist on a Mimosa to a Thyme French 75 made with Beefeater gin, lemon thyme syrup and lemon juice. As with New Moon Co’s other sites, there is a strong cocktail list in the restaurant and bar, from classics through to original recipes, priced around £7.50 to £8.
Twists on the classics include Howling at the Basil, combining Velho Barreiro cachaça with lime, basil and a special hot sauce, and the Hardman Street Fizz, a refreshing mix of Aperol, grapefruit, passion fruit, lemon and rosé prosecco. Bold flavours can be seen in recipes such as the Motorcycle Diary combining Aba pisco with apricot, lime, egg white and nutmeg, and Any Port in the Storm with Chivas Regal 12 Year Old whisky, peach liqueur, Sandeman LBV port, lemon and bitters.
The Old Blind School also continues New Moon Co’s championing of cask ales from the north-west, with a regularly rotating selection from independent breweries, including seasonal specials. Alongside these, beers such as Pioneer, Freedom and Leffe are available on draught with more in bottles such as Negra Modelo and Pacifico. Along with a good selection of teas, coffee and soft drinks, the bar also has its own food menu from sandwiches and smaller bites through to favourites from the main menu.
The Old Blind School – or #TOBS, as they call it – has proven to be a successful recipe for Liverpool, with live music and Sunday roasts also thrown into the mix. “We are delighted to have found the perfect site to showcase our thing in Liverpool,” says Paul Newman who knows the city well – it was the location for the second outing for The Living Room bar that he worked on in 1999 as part of the Living Ventures team. “We have been looking for the right site in Liverpool now for a while and it has always been our intention to be in this fabulous city.”
New Moon Co is already developing another bar in the city – a second Beef & Pudding which is due to open in the former home of The Noble House restaurant and bar in Brunswick Street. It will take Dave and Paul’s business up to nine sites, showcasing once again New Moon Co’s winning formula of good-quality British food, cocktails and craft beers in an imaginative interior.
The Old Blind School, 24 Hardman Street, Liverpool L1 9AX
Tel: 0151 709 8002
Behind the scenes
Interior: DV8 Designs
Lighting: E2 Lighting
Bars: TJM Projects
Furniture: Carlick Contract Furniture, Chesterfield Sofas
Bric-à-brac: LCT Interior Solutions
Catering equipment: C&C Catering Equipment
Originally published in the September 2015 print edition of Bar magazine.