Friday, 6 April 2012

Puschka, Liverpool

If Cilla Black was a restaurant, she would be Puschka: brassy, bold, preposterously camp and as much a part of the fabric of Liverpool as The Beatles and the tracksuit. This wonderful little place was the location for my best pal Anders' birthday dinner during a recent visit to our lovely North-West dwelling friends Sarah and Ian, and I'm now as big a fan as I am of Miss Black.

Opened by local couple Greg and Doug - as hospitable a pair of chaps as you could ever hope to meet - on Rodney Street in Liverpool's old Georgian Quarter in 2001, behind Puschka's smart black frontage is a riot of a room incorporating fuschia pink walls, floral cushions, squishy banquettes and place settings bearing the image of a winged Oscar Wilde (look, I said it was 'preposterously camp' so don't act so surprised). Sarah and Ian had had to book weeks ahead for our Saturday night table; the place was packed and buzzing.

Puschka's menu is solidly British with some trendy, modern European touches. Provenance is taken seriously and great pride is taken in the use of local suppliers, who rather than being tediously name-checked in descriptions of individual dishes are afforded their own box on the menu itself - a nice touch I'd like to see other restaurants taking note of. The menu's concise, just six starters and  six mains, with a couple of daily specials for each course which were described with such enthusiasm by our incredibly lovely waitress that I feared if none of us ordered them she would take it personally.

Our hosts Sarah and Ian - aren't they gorgeous?
Fortunately that fear was unfounded as we ordered both from the specials and a la carte. In my and Sarah's case this meant for starters a fantastic dish of balsamic-drizzled, goat's cheese-stuffed figs wrapped in air-dried ham from the specials, while Anders enjoyed local mussels in a beautiful liquor of cream and cider with fat lardons, served with a cute little loaf of bread in its own tin.

Ian's starter induced the most plate envy. Puschka's signature dish - well you gotta have a gimmick - of confit duck 'shepherd's pie' was superbly rich, surpassed in the artery-clogging stakes only by the foie gras-topped bad boy at London's The Balcon, although there was perhaps rather too much of it for a starter. Puschka has so many doctors as neighbours on Rodney Street that it's known as 'the Harley Street of the north'; the calorie count in that dish must surround them with sorrow.

I ordered from the specials again for my main course, a table neighbour having repeatedly told me how 'A-may-zin'!' the sea bass with langoustines, sautéed potatoes, capers and shallot butter was. She was absolutely right, although there was so much going on on the plate that the flavour of the putative main ingredient - a beautiful piece of fish by all accounts - was a little lost. I was also taken aback that nowhere in the description of the dish did it mention the inclusion of two thick tranches of treacled pancetta; don't get me wrong, there's no dish in the world that can't be enhanced by the addition of pork, but if a pesky pescatarian say had ordered this, Puschka would rightly have had a complaint on their hands.

There were unexpected (but similarly, not-at-all-unwelcome) extras, this time some luscious plump scallops, in Ian's sea trout in lobster bisque, the lightest and most elegant of our main courses. Its polar opposite was Anders' huge sirloin of beef which he described as 'the biggest steak I've ever seen'. With potato rosti, caramelised veg and buttered kale included in the £22.50 price it could happily have fed two, though he and Sarah gamely managed one each.

Increasingly stuffed but so impressed by the quality of everything thus far that we figured it would be remiss of us to miss out on desserts, Sarah and I went for the special of white and dark chocolate panna cotta with dark chocolate sorbet and peanut butter crumb - yes reader, yes, it was every bit as bloody brilliant as it sounds - Ian for chocolate fondant with orange ice-cream and Anders for burnt English vanilla custard with lavender shortbread. If the latter was fine but unexciting - no bad thing for a pudding - Ian was three-for-three with the fondant which, more hot, gooey chocolate centre than sponge, contrasted wonderfully with the citrusy cool of the ice cream.

Puschka's gorgeous  gentlemen owners Doug & Greg
We drank a couple of bottles of a versatile 2009 Finca Antigua Garnacha from a list which, while ungreedily marked up, rather glaringly omits years - a confusing oversight in a restaurant where elsewhere there is such evident attention to detail. Brownie points were won back by the bringing to the table of large bottles of regularly-replenished tap water.

Our bill for three pretty-much faultless courses, wine and a couple of digestifs both alcoholic and non came to £190 before tip; service was so warm, attentive and friendly throughout - mainly from the one waitress but also from one lad who was so knowledgeable and passionate that we were amazed to find out it was his first night - that we very gladly whacked one on. 

Puschka's a lorra lorra fun, run with love and delivering food of a standard that would impress anywhere, not just in its home city. I'll admit to having doubted Liverpool's culinary credentials before this experience; to anyone similarly prejudiced I say step inside, love, and something tells me you'll be in for a very pleasant surprise, surprise.

Puschka, 16 Rodney Street, Liverpool, L1 2TE Tel: 0151 708 8698

Puschka on Urbanspoon

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...