As I begin writing this, I can already feel my bias creeping through. Make no mistakes, this eatery is one of my all-time favourite indie restaurants in Liverpool and with good reason. Seasonal, fresh and clearly drawing inspiration from around the globe, Maray is distinctive (and the fact that I haven't reviewed it until now is quite frankly a bit of an outrage!)
Maray is home to the 'disco cauliflower', and much, much more. If you're unfamiliar with the Bold Street branch, then a first-time visit may render it unimposing, with the humble bare brick walls, pendant lights and shabby-chic surroundings not giving much away in terms of its hidden delights.
Settle in for a cosy concoction of cocktails and small plates. But careful not to get too complacent - you're about to have your mind blown!
I kicked things off in style - by ordering one of the only whisky-based cocktails on the menu - The Secret Handshake. I knew they meant business as my tumbler arrived at the table, spherical ice ball in tow. Imagine the Boulevardier's fruitier cousin, but it's not for the faint hearted. The rain pattered against the windows as I savoured each deliciously pungent sip. Perfection. Time for the main event ...
I don't know about you, but I'm not one for mindlessly Instagramming photos of my food, however, ordering the half-baked cauliflower will make you reconsider for sure. If you're new to this dish, then I can only describe what you're about to be presented with as nothing short of a work of art. Slathered with generous lashings of tahini, yoghurt and harissa and sprinkled with flaked almonds for good measure, this is a Maray staple and a treat for all the senses. In theory, it's simply half a cauliflower, baked. Nothing special, right? Wrong.
We shook our heads incredulously and asked "how can such a boring, bland, literally BEIGE vegetable taste (and look) so sensational!?" I tucked into mouthful after moreish mouthful, every few bites interspersed with the gentle crunch and pop of a pomegranate seed, adding a whole new dimension to the dish. A small streak of genius if you ask me, food porn at its finest.
Although I'd love to waffle on all day about the cauliflower (and oh, believe me, I could) there was so much more to offer and no time to waste as we worked our way through the eclectic selection of small plates. Admittedly not the biggest fish fan, we none the less explored this section of the menu and opted for the humble scallops. For me, this type of shellfish can often be a 'what you see is what you get' kind of dish, so we mounted our forks not expecting much. However, once again we were pleasantly surprised as the delicate and light scallops melted in the mouth married against a phenomenally flavourful apricot based sauce. Practically decadent!
In an attempt to eat our greens, we elected to share the Fattoush salad - and boy, were we glad we did! The subtle refreshing flavours of feta, cucumber and radish contrasted perfectly with richness of the other dishes, allowing us to dip in and out of our other selections with gusto.
If your diet is best described as modest or conservative, then Maray simply isn't for you. Even the fries are served up with their own Maray twist - slathered generously with a dollop of hummus and topped with crunchy fresh red chilli and a sprinkling of spring onion - a much-welcomed treat as far as I was concerned!
After such an eventful mains experience, we figured it would be rude not to take a peek at the dessert menu at this point. The verdict? When it comes to afters at Maray, less is more. With only 4 selections to choose from, including a cheese plate sharer, the decision was a no brainer for me - I opted for the Fernet Branca chocolate tart served with cream, mint and a drizzle of raspberry sauce. After-eight mints eat your heart out, this light yet indulgent slither went down a treat, rounding things off to a T.
As their flagship Liverpool venue, the ever popular Maray Bold Street is quaint and often busy so booking is certainly advised. Call or use their online booking for a no-fuss experience. Vegan specials are available regularly and if you happen to be visiting through the week, then don't forget to get involved with their 'meat free Mondays' offer (4 veg plates for £22)
Having recently made it onto the 2018 Good Food Guide, if you're still yet to check out Maray, then do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a table before the year is out!