My Ernst debut and some fantastic students

Some of the best meals I’ve had have been as much about the service and setting as the food, and last night’s visit to L20 Hotel School in Liverpool was no exception.

Never have I seen such determination (and pleasure) on a group of students' faces – none of who seemed phased by the 60-cover restaurant packed with friends, family, restaurateurs and guests.  They showed real gumption and delivered a first class service to be proud of.

The reason for my visit was that my newest client Ernst Van Zyl from The Lord Clyde was the guest chef.  He’d agreed to take a 58 strong group of catering students under his wing for two days, inducting them into his world of creative flavour combinations and attention to detail.  The food was knock-out in every way. Presentation was beautiful, flavours were challenging and unexpected, and my senses were left morealive than they’ve ever been.  My particular highlight was the celeriac starter with fennel, blue cheese and hazelnuts (err Ernst, i think I need the recipe).

The L20 Hotel School is part of one of the UK's first hospitality visitor economy career colleges for 14-19 year olds (their words, not mine), offering both academic and practical preparation for the world of work.  For me that's the most exciting part. It's a live restaurant project - it looks like a restaurant, it works like a restaurant. It IS a restaurant.  Students learn their craft in a real life setting and gain valuable experience working alongside some of the UK’s best chefs.  Ernst isn’t the only one to make the trip, so have Matt Worswick, Daniel Clifford and Simon Radley too.

My preconceived idea of what the night might entail couldn't have been further from the truth.  I'd expected canteen tables with a tablecloth hurriedly thrown over and nervous students fumbling with the plates and watching the clock.  The reality was a beautiful restaurant with crisp white table linens and well polished crockery,  confident and attentive students who clearly loved every minute and wonderful food that made a cold night in Bootle more memorable than I'd have thought.

I can’t recommend the food or the setting enough (you might have noticed) so to try Ernst’s food visit The Lord Clyde in the lovely Cheshire village of Kerridge (Call 01625 562123) and to see tenacious students at work, get yourself to the L20 Hotel School (Call 0151 353 4518).