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
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