I’ve been to the same place for my lunch these last two days. This hardly ever happens, unless I’m eating at home. You know, in our own place. That looks exactly the way we want it to and is full of the food we’ve selected or made. So it has to be somewhere else good to get me there on consecutive days.
Behold: The Pen Factory is open for business.
I didn’t think it would be open though. Certainly not by Christmas. Early in November I’d just come out of the Everyman one evening and met Paddy Byrne locking up his would-be new venture after a day’s, clearly, hard physical work in there. It looked like this.
“It might not look it but actually we’re nearly done in there’ Paddy told me.’I think we’ll be ready enough to open in about three weeks!”
“Ever the optimist” I thought. And indeed it was a bit more than those three predicted weeks. But it’s open now and I’d be surprised if you didn’t want to go there. Here’s why.
As I say I’ve eaten there two days on the run now. But I’m not going to write about the food, other than to say it’s fresh, simple and quite certainly better than anything I could cook for myself. If you want to know any more though, before you go and try it for yourself, Liverpool Confidential have been in for a comprehensive taste and their splendid review is here.
No, when I first went in yesterday and asked Paddy how it was all going he said:
“I think we’re getting there. There’s a lot still to do but the feeling’s there. It feels right, there’s a vibe.”
I think he’s right. So I want to try and write about this ‘feeling’ thing. What is it? How is it happening?
I doubt it. Lots of places have been doing this sort of thing for a long time now.
Getting closer with the seating and the tables certainly.
Again, not particularly special in itself. Though there is something very special about what’s being done in there.
Certainly these help. For one thing the light makes the place feel utterly different from the old Everyman Bistro. As will the garden out there when it’s finished and things start to grow and flourish.
Well yes it is. The warmth of the welcome from the place and the people working here. And the feelings created by all the light and designs and ideas above. All though, combined with and combined by The Pen Factory’s walking around thinking about things single most magical ingredient. Paddy Byrne himself.
In all my times of sitting around and observing café life in Liverpool only Natalie Heywood with her Leaf ventures has been able to do anything like the sort of thing that Paddy has once again pulled off here. Created a place that feels so straightforwardly done only Paddy Byrne could have done it. And I know he’s thought long and hard about it because I’ve spoken to him several times in the years since the old Everyman Bistro closed. Paddy, always exploring, always thoughtful. Always curious and opinionated about what works and why?
Well I always think that truly great art happens where the artist knows when to stop and what to leave out. Like who? Well I could and may write a whole post about this but in music, say, the rhythmic subtlety and yet simplicity of Al Green, of Free. The quiet elegance of mid-period Joni Mitchell from Blue to Héjira. Of Erik Satie or Paul Buchanan, where nearly everything is left out.
The Pen Factory is a work of art. A work in progress, as Paddy says. And yet already well into the realm of perfection.
And yes, here’s the feeling. This is what I hoped might turn up if I sat here and thought and wrote for long enough. It feels like a place I will want to go to and make things up. A factory to sit round in having ideas. A canteen we will all fill up with conversations about what next, this might work and shall we give it a go? It feels like a resource for all of us.
But much more than these basics, so effortlessly achieved that they’ve obviously taken a great deal of thought and work, is how the place feels.
For the child in all of us that never ages but continues to dream. ‘How can I make this better? and where shall I meet my friends to talk about it?’ Liverpool has a new answer and the answer is The Pen Factory.
As Liverpool Confidential said of their own first visit, the place just makes you smile. An astonishing piece of magic for a brand new place to pull off.
So delighted was I to be in there both of these days that I entirely forgot to take a photograph of the outside so you’ll know where to look for on Hope Street.
Obviously, being Christmas, The Pen Factory’s shut for a couple of days now. But they’ll be open again on Saturday if you want to go. Or ring them to see when else they’ll be open over the next week or so – 0151 709 7887.