“I must say 2017 has been the most incredible, fantastic year in every way but also the darkest one – unlike any other year I’ve had in my life.”

“From the Art School point of view, it has been an incredible journey since it was announced in February that we were included in the Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants. Then we had Open Table and Square Meal. We have also just found out we are placed at number 58 in the Harden’s UK Top 100 which is a guide we’ve not featured highly in before.”

“The most satisfying for me was the Taste of England Award. A Liverpool restaurant, to my knowledge, has never won that before. Nor have we ever had a Harden’s Top 100 or Sunday Times Top 100 in Liverpool before so these are all firsts for the City and I think for me, it is showing that we are producing capital city standards, we can do it in Liverpool. We can use our best produce, our best local people enhanced with an international feel amongst our brigade. It just shows the mission of what we started to recreate or indeed, better, in Liverpool. I’m not going to say it’s done yet but largely the momentum has carried us towards the very precipice of that, so that’s been amazing.”

“The opening of The Art School Cellars is something that I’m incredibly proud of because it’s made the dining room a much more relaxed place. The staff now know there is no rush with the tables anymore or any stress regarding space for guests to enjoy pre and post dinner drinks. We have a lovely little bar in the restaurant but sometimes it can be a little too cosy. The knowledge that we now have such a lovely space to work with, not only for restaurant guests but also people coming from the outside is wonderful.”

“Most recently, the completion of the Moriarty Room, for me that’s the final asset that we need at The Art School. To be able to provide a top-class food and beverage service for all eventualities. For me it’s a world class bar and dining room and now a world class private dining space. We’ve invested just as much behind the scenes as we have on the public areas. I do not want the staff to be hamstrung with not having the right equipment, the correct tools to deliver the job I want them to do. To have the new pastry room dedicated purely to the making of bread, desserts, chocolates and sugar work. The possibilities are endless now and any restaurant or hotel would be proud to have that space to operate in.”

“Also for the Private Dining room to have its own kitchen, bar, it’s completely self-contained so it has no impact on the rest of the business. Nobody will have to wait any length of time for their food. They will have a dedicated team working purely on the event they are delivering. When you can really get the staff to focus on the magic and the detail that hopefully make us a little different from the norm. As always, we try and exceed expectation, rather than meet it. You can’t do that without an infrastructure and a lovely space. I’m really pleased as to how it has turned out.”

“We are looking forward to a builder free zone in 2018. I mean that in the nicest possible way. We have had some marvellous people working with us onsite over the last year but it is time we got back to the job in hand and polish and perfect the assets we have created. It’s time to take it up another level. The Art School menus will dictate what happens in the Private Dining room and in the Cellars. We will be fully staffed and ready for the New Year. My only hope is that we go up one or two notches and achieve some of the other things that we have in mind. I won’t name the obvious thing but I’m sure people will be able to read between the lines and know what I’m aiming at.”

“This year is a year where we’ve got the three areas we needed in my opinion, that were required to complete the Art School offering. To give people the facilities for every occasion whether it be a private event, a restaurant table or a bar experience, that is all of significance and the highest standard possible. Now what we must do is perfect all that and polish everything we do from an operational point of view. To make sure the guests are consistently treated perfectly and build upon what we have done over the last three years.”

“There is a lot coming up in Liverpool next year. We have the International Festival of Business, the 10-year anniversary of the Capital of Culture, so the city is going to be bouncing this year. We know it is going to be very busy from the bookings we have already.”

“Of course, on the flip side, it has been a very difficult year for me personally. The couple of months in the middle when the wheels came off with the loss of my dear Mum. I think the creation of the Moriarty Room, named affectionately in her honour, has been a great help with that because I know there is a little tribute to her. It’s a nice way of displaying some of her travels, her experiences mixed in with a little bit food and drink from my side. Whether it be the picture of Escoffier on one wall or a picture of Cavolo Nero or Swiss Chard on another. Mum was a keen gardener, she loved vegetables and vegetation and of course for me, those pictures depict a lot of the ingredients that us Chefs get very excited about. Believe it or not but we are quite sad and do get genuinely excited when the first Mange Tout of the season arrive or the first Heritage Carrots for example. It’s the ingredients that inspire us to write the menus that we create.”

“All in all, it’s been a remarkable year. The two tv appearances, The Great British Menu and Saturday Morning Kitchen. The book, Onwards and Upwards, which has been very well received and I’m really chuffed about that. Hopefully it’s a reflection of what we have done over the last three years since we opened but for me it’s also the culmination of 36 years of being in the business of food and beverages and of course Christmas is a time when we all enjoy our food and drink. I hope the merriment continues for one and all and that we look forward to a 2018 with an extra vigour before we go again.”

“All my very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy, healthy and wealthy 2018 for us all.”

Chef Patron, Paul Askew