Monday, 15 August 2011

Puschka, Liverpool

Puschka, it has to be said, is a rather unusual name for a bistro on Rodney St, Liverpool, serving locally-sourced British food. We asked the owner about it, and apparently it was a pet name for a friend of theirs who helped them decorate - "We saw all the other restaurants in the area called things like 60 Hope Street and wanted to stand out". I suppose I can sympathise, but I still think "16 Rodney Street" would have spoken more eloquently of the style of food and vibe of the place, and not had people (like me) thinking I might find a menu of dumplings and vodka. But hey, the decision has been made and Puschka it is.

It's an interesting menu, thanks to the attractive-sounding dishes and ingredients (potted shrimp, soured mackerel, hake) but there are some quite punchy prices attached to them. I realise £7.50 for a goat's cheese starter or £17.50 for a trout main course isn't a fortune in the grand scheme of things, but for a fairly new (edit: Puschka is 10 years old! No idea what made me think it was new) restaurant in Liverpool it's a certain statement of intent. And you might expect house bread or nibbles of some kind to be included if you were spending the best part of £30 a head just on food, but not here - the long wait before the starters turned up (the menu did warn us that waits could be long in busy periods) only served to highlight the lack of these little extras.

But, quibbles aside, when the starters did finally arrive they were very good indeed. My shrimp and crab arrangement was served with a freshly-baked loaf of rather collapsy but tasty bread (soda perhaps) and was very enjoyable - I particularly liked the fact the shrimp came from Southport instead of the more usual and further afield Morecambe Bay, although I can't really say they tasted any different. Chicken livers were huge and plentiful, soft and tasty and properly seasoned, the addition of some medjool dates working surprisingly well. Most impressive of all was a daily special of pigeon breast, served confidently rare and with a lovely gamey flavour. In the starters at least, Puschka's much-advertised sourcing (they proudly list all their suppliers in a special box on the menu titled "Provenance") seems to have been worth the effort.

What a shame, then, that the main courses didn't reach the same level of quality. Best was the trout, which was a gut-bustingly generous portion, cooked to just slightly under in the middle and sitting on top of a huge salad containing lovely fresh crab. My duck, though, was verging on room temperature, underseasoned and lacking in flavour despite, again, there being a hell of a lot of it. And finally, a daily special of tuna, ordered specifically because it was supposed to come with samphire, arrived without any samphire at all. When we pointed this out to our otherwise charming waitress, she shrugged "I don't know what the chef's playing at today". Well, it's kind of your job to know, actually. That's what we're paying you for.

Desserts looked good; in fact, looking back, I'm not quite sure how any of us managed to resist the lure of the Sticky Toffee Pudding, but in the end we were full and reasonably content and so we paid the bill - £33 each or so with a bottle of excellent house white - and headed home. And although not perfect, Puschka still has enough to recommend it as a place to eat your dinner, although perhaps only if 60 Hope Street (just around the corner, very similar in price and quite a bit better) is full and you're not in a hurry to get anywhere afterwards. Judging by the boisterous, capacity crowd on Saturday night, there are more than enough people in Liverpool happy to make an evening of it.


Sorry for the bloody awful photos but it was very dark in there

Puschka on Urbanspoon


Gary said...

There are some great places to eat in Liverpool. It's really becoming a place to go for great food and newly established Liverpool Food & Drink Festival is testament to this.

One place in particular, that is worth a visit is a vegetarian venue called The Egg Cafe, situated off Bold Street.

Sharmila said...

Just had a question on this - is this a fairly new restaurant? I remember eating here in 2002, and it was called Pushcka then? Unless it's changed hands.

Remember it being a nice space, though not as expensive!

Chris said...

Gary: Yes have heard good things about the Egg Cafe, despite it being *the V word*

Sharmila: It's not new - 2001 I think it opened.

Gary said...

Being a meat eater I was wary about the 'V', but I didn't miss it at all

Miss Cay said...

Another vote for The Egg Café here - it's especially good for breakfasts. Apparently we even have our own Polpo-esque baccaro here in Liverpool too, Schmooze (which is a bloody awful name, I have to say).

Anonymous said...

I've not been to Liverpool for years but keep hearing good things about places to eat! By the way, I share your frustration with dark restaurants and dodgy photos!

Hannah @ Love to Dine

Caroline said...

I went to the egg cafe once, totally average as I remember, maybe I ordered wrong.

Sid Miller said...

I had very similar experience when I ate at Puschka, good starters but went down hill from there.

I'll add another vote for Egg cafe, always interesting food for very little money.


Anonymous said...

Your pic suck!You should not even publish them!