I’ve never eaten in a building that used to be my bank. I’ve eaten in plenty of buildings that used to be a bank, but never my bank. Now a bar and restaurant has opened on Silver Street in Hull inside what used to be the NatWest; the very NatWest I used to go into a couple of times a week back when going into banks was still a thing you had to do.
After a few years empty, this glorious building is being brought back to life. There will apparently be a boutique hotel taking over the upper floors but first out of the blocks, and taking up the entire ground floor, is Silvers – an upmarket restaurant, bar and late lounge.
Silvers is the latest project of Karl Jeffrey, who owns and runs several bars, clubs and eateries around the city. Silvers would appear to be intended as his flagship establishment and while I admire his sense of entrepreneurship, I’m less a fan of what he’s created in my old money-lender’s abode.
Notionally, much of the bank has been preserved; the superb domed ceiling remains; the columns, the coving, the wood-lined manager’s office, they have all been retained. Almost everything has been given a makeover, though, and this means that there is fake marbling or mildly garish lighting everywhere. A huge, upside-down, fairy-lighted, plastic tree is being fitted as a centrepiece and the walls are lined with very odd drawings of TV and film characters with animal heads. Dawn French with a giraffe’s head and Danny DeVito reimagined as an orang-utan at least give you something to talk about while you’re eating, I suppose. They’re all a bit disconcerting, though.
The cuisine is pan-Asian, whatever that is. Starters (£4-£6.50) are offered on the menu under the header “Starters Vs Tapas” for reasons unknown. I’m fairly sure Spain isn’t in Asia. You are encouraged to order a few dishes for two to share and it’s a very pleasant way to start a meal. I liked the kheema patties with a yogurt dip, although they were a little dry. I think the baby gem pork cups with a soy sauce dip are a neat idea but very hard to eat without the lettuce losing their load. The duck rolls with hoisin sauce were pretty taste-free, however, as were the pork parcels with soy. A mixed bag, really but all served in a samey way – a couple of things on a rectangular plate with a bit of salad and a dip.
There is a different menu at lunchtime and in the evening. At night, out go the wraps and sandwiches (neither of which I’m too sure are Asian staples) and in come things like soft shell crab and lobster. As it was two in the afternoon we tried lamb teriyaki (£11.95) with noodles (£2.95). It was honestly nothing I couldn’t have knocked up at home in five minutes flat and I had to ask for some soy sauce to help boost the taste. I was informed that, after being open six weeks, I was the first person to ask for chopsticks. This makes me worry that Silvers is struggling to attract customers with a genuine appetite for or knowledge of Asian food. Surely its target audience?
The decor, music and general feel of the place appears more aimed at evening drinkers than foodies. I can see a certain constituency of late-night customer enjoying a cocktail or two while standing round the circular bar or in the comfy private rooms, but I can’t see Silvers being stuffed to the gills with serious, discerning diners. For the most part, the theme and size of the menu and the lack of stated provenance of ingredients would support this theory. But there are gems to be found. Rajasthan red lamb (£11.95), for instance, is a delicious slow-baked curry. The lamb melts in the mouth and the whole dish has an excellent balance of herbs and spices.
I don’t think I’m alone in being in two minds about Silvers, judging by the amount of people who wandered in while we were eating only to then wander out again. It would appear that potential customers are struggling to grasp what the place is meant to be. I will probably go back – there is just enough intrigue in the menu to make me want to try the evening options. I do think, though, that if it is to prosper as a restaurant rather than just a townie bar it needs the stamp of a good chef to pare down the menu or the presence of a decent maître d to help guide diners through their experience. The waitresses are perfectly nice (and there is a certain buzz to be had from feeling like a benevolent Sith Lord when they order your drinks remotely via a headset and the barman leaps instantly into action) but there is no sense of anyone really being in charge. Maybe it just needs a manager, a bit like it had when it was a bank.
• Silvers, 19 Silver Street, Hull HU1 1JG. 01482 212101, www.silversbarhull.co.uk. Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 12 till late.
DRINKS SELECTION 3/5