Tag Archives: Gary Usher

Wreckfish Bistro – A Masterclass – Liverpool

Wreckfish…..(great name for a bistro) is the fourth in a natty little run of openings by Gary Usher, the infamous, crowdfunding, twitter speak chef. Having raptured through Sticky, Burnt and Hispi (reviewed previously). it was time to get ‘wrecked’ in Liverpool. This time to luxuriate in an all day masterclass with the maestro himself. The winnings for stumping up a few bob to help this wonderful Seel Street edifice spring to life.

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Its set in what seems to be quite a hip neighbourhood, smart urban boutiques and bars abound. That said Wreckfish itself leaps out. Its smart two-tone grey exterior with understated branding cuts a serious dash.

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Table and kitchen ready, preparing, torching and crowning a pigeon

I’m early, but i’m made more than welcome by FOH Pete. He sees me right with a brew and a danish in the well-appointed bar area. The street level floor is flooded with natural light and has already been converted into a multi chef workspace. Long tables are set with folded aprons, towels, squirty bottles and sharp knives. The flash, stainless kitchen is bristling at the far end. Gradually the other fourteen contestants slip in. We’re all a bit nervous until Gazza steps in with the itinerary.

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Preparing the vodka cream, gossamer thin, golden pasta, lentils and pork at the ready

The demos are fronted by Gary. We all listen and laugh at the right places. He’s good, he’s got the obligatory rock star tats, he’s charismatic, he articulates with his hands as well as explain the tricks with his confident Cheshire brogue…..And he can cook……but not only that, so can his team that have stepped in to help today. Rich, Luke and Ryan are on hand to correct him and sell their improvements and help our little pairings pull off the steps. It’s important we do a decent job as most of the gear will be sold in the restaurant later, as well as becoming our afternoon lunch! No pressure then!

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Rich shows us how to pipe ricotta, pasta making and serve with parmesan and squash puree

We start by making pasta. Given I often make my own I’m thinking this is going to be straightforward. But no, I hadn’t bargained on the passion and attention to detail that they all exude. It’s only egg yolks used here, no salt….Oh and don’t forget to add the saffron reduction for that spectacular golden hue. Its kneaded forever before being cling filmed for posterity. Suitably rested the whole team support Gazza in rolling out the longest piece of gossamer thin, golden plastic. We ‘squodge’ the ricotta to one side along its length and then communally fold and tease into tortellini ready for our starter later.

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Salmon time! blow torching, set with pickled cucumber and our vodka cream

Next it’s the salmon. This is our next course. A huge slab is presented to our teams of two. Again, easy this, just carve up into sections. But no, first up slice along the base 3 mm above the skin to cut out the bloodline! Slice in two and take out more of the fat. Cure in sugar and salt for fifteen minutes, ready for cooking in the water bath and being finally blowtorched for presentation and flavour. I was nearly right!

Vodka cream next. A chefs palate test. Who gets the vodka, sugar, salt content right? They all do I reckon.

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Paul ties up ‘our’ pork belly. Served with lentils and salsa verde

We then stuff a glorious slab of well hung pork belly with a mix of bread, prunes and sautéed onion. Its rolled then we all learn to do the butchers knot and tie up this wondrous dish. It’s all in the double twist of the hand and the pulley system. We learn this is normally cooked for over ten hours after an initial blast to get the crackling going. One or two get the chance to prepare some pigeons.

We then take turns in the kitchen finishing off the dishes and getting to work the pass and shouting “service”. I totally loved it. I was buzzing.

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Action shots!

I was on boiling pasta duty with partner for the day Paul, whilst others got to dribble beurre noisette, blowtorch salmon, roast pigeons and plate up pork. We then had the enviable task of eating it all washed down with plenty of white wine. We even slurped a champagne toast during an impromptu Q&A.

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Rich’s Madeleines – sublime

Sadly, after a sumptuous four course meal, it all came to an end, though not before a flourish with a trio of Rich’s glorious madeleines. Then it was hand shakes all round and we all ventured off. A magical day and further confirmation that the latest venture Wreckfish is up there with the best.

Armed with Gary’s infectious drive and his uncanny knack of building empowered teams, each with the freedom to develop the brand, maintaining consistency and quality along the way, it seems inconceivable that Wreckfish is the last. Surely its just the start? I reckon this story will run and run. Cant wait to get back to Wreckfish……and another masterclass.

Wreckfish Bistro
60 Seel Street
Liverpool
L1 4BE
0151 7071960
http://www.wreckfish.co

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Hispi – Didsbury, Manchester

“There cant be many better bistros in Didsbury named after a cabbage?”

Im probably a bit late. Gary Usher’s latest, crowdfunded eatery blistered onto the scene a few months back. Every dish has been ‘socially media’d’ and all the big reviewers (well the paying ones)! have been and gone. Glowing trails of foodie prose lies in their wake. We all loved ‘Sticky’ and ‘Burnt’ (click to read how much) and so it was expected that Hispi would follow suit.

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We romped in on a cold Sunday afternoon. We had booked, you have to it would seem. The place was packed when we got in. Set moments from the centre of Didsbury Village it cuts a startling dash in its boxy, sagey green exterior.

We were met enthusiastically and set into the lower room. The other two or three rooms move upwards a bit, one gets set in the roof. Decor is smart and uncluttered. Walls are either clean exposed brick or super smooth off white paint. Various shades of contemporary wood fill in the rest. The big crowdfunders get their own mirror. Nice touch.

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Our Sunday menu was printed (as ever) on one side of an A4 sheet. Three courses for £22, two for £18. You get four choices of start and dessert with five go’s at a main. As ever I could have had any. The Flame as ever, struggled a bit! The menus vary slightly depending on time of day, there’s an early doors menu and an evening dinner menu. It probably goes without saying that they then vary seasonally.

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For start The Flame edged into the Squash soup with curry oil, yoghurt and rye bread, though she requested that chef left out the curry. It turned out rather good. Velvety, hot and super tasty, she loved it. I went for the charred mackerel, Jerusalem artichoke, lemon tapenade and parsley. Im not too sure I got all that but it was presented rather nicely and the mackerel itself, with a touch of all the trimmings on each forkful, provided a good few mouthfuls of delight.

It was then a rather over long wait for the mains, as I said they were busy. I had selected my new favourite fish, pan roast skate wing, mace butter, saffron potatoes and spinach. The only downside was that i could have had about four wings rather than the one. The golden spuds were delish too.

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The Flame having furrowed her brow at the choice, mentioned in passing that she loves chicken! She ordered the beef, only for Ashley, our super waitress, to inform us that chef could rustle up a turkey dinner. The Flame was in raptures, and even more so when it turned up. A glorious chunk of moist, yes moist turkey, with a sausage meat patty and cranberry topping. Lovely jubbly.

We then had the cheese course, a Beenleigh blue, with rye crackers and chutney and a whipped fromage blanc with pear, meringue and almonds. The dessert whilst not looking too great and being over simple was actually flipping gorgeous, just up my street. Perhaps it may have looked a bit better in a dark bowl, but hey Im being super churlish here.

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All in all another great little outing at an Usher gaff and get this…ahem…the ‘cookery’ is always ‘on point’ (whose been watching Masterchef? – Ed) and always well presented using great local produce. The DNA set by owner Gary Usher washes through the place. As if to emphasise, we were wonderfully served by Gareth and the ever bubbly Ashley. Both bright and confident with the right tinge of humour.

As the late AA Gill commented, something along the lines of “Your local restaurant should be treasured, use it, cherish it and it will pay you back in spades”. Didsbury has been dealt a good hand with this smart little bistro. I reckon every town and village should have one. Maybe the city’s should have one too, perhaps even Liverpool? Think it should be called ‘Wreckfish’…..watch this space.

Hispi
1C School Lane
Didsbury Village
Manchester
M20 6RD.
Tel: 0161 445 3996
http://www.hispi.net

Burnt Truffle – Heswall, Wirral

“It’s above average so I reckon you should go”

The Flame and I finally kick-started our way over to the rather quaint little hamlet of Heswall on the Wirral.  Previously known as golfing territory for the scouse footballing hierarchy but now known as the locale of Head Chef, Gary Usher’s latest bistroette ‘Burnt Truffle’. Burnt is the younger sister of the now infamous ‘Sticky Walnut’ of Hoole (reviewed here). Burnt also has some significant media history in that it bagged hundred grands worth of Kickstarter crowdfunding in record time.

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We were greeted by young Emma one of several, very pleasant, aproned up helpers and whisked up stairs to our blonde table for two. I was mildly disappointed* that the red Formica topped tables; a relic from a previous eatery had been jettisoned! It was all dead smart now. On trend chalky blue walls and soft comfy seats.

 

As I had already stumped up a fifty note pledge to get the gaff up and running we presented our voucher. This quickly turned into two glasses of very welcome fizz. A cracking start. Seconds later, oil soaked sourdough with truffle infused butter. Oh my lord. The Sunday lunch menu running from 12 – 2.30 was up next. Just up my street. Single sheet of crisp A4. Four starters, four mains, four desserts and some trimmings. £18 for two of ‘em, £22 for three. Boom, what else do you need?

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The two starts were superb. Flamed mozzarella with beetroot, raisin and pine nut dressing. I’ve never had flamed cheese before but it needs to be had again. Looked pretty as a picture too, unlike my image which is blurred!

I had the sea bream, pickled mooli, with samphire, courgette and basil. What a stunning little offering this was. The flavours were still resonant** hours later. Never a fan of pickles but I’m getting there, and when placed with the hot fish it was indeed a thing of real beauty.

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I went fairly trad for the main. Roast beef, carrot puree, green beans, red cabbage, spuds and Yorkshire coupled with a side of honey roasted carrots. Beef pink, veg hot and seasoned, carrots historic. Perfection.

The flame loves chicken and endlessly complains when it’s not on as a choice. Here it’s done many ways. Moussed and truffled, poached and rolled, with pancetta, fat potato, shitake mushroom and caramelised onion. I managed to purloin the odd forkful before it was eagerly devoured. Total ‘chickeny’ heaven.

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Chicken, roast beef, carrots and a jokey truffle!

Sweetie bits to finish, and it’s all as good as the first two. Orange and almond sponge with butterscotch and quenelle of crème fraiche. Topped with fruit The Flame was in raptures. Piping hot, moist, sweet, sticky, you name it, it was all here. I had one of my favourite sweetie bits of all time, lemon curd with blackberry and apple. It came in a freezing glass complete with a cigar of marshmallow, crisps of coconut meringue and a few other ‘textury’ bits. All totally historic.

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Couple of strong, dark coffees and we were done. Three sublime courses, all perfection. Another aspect we both felt was just right, was portion size. Morsels of quality rather than quantity. We were pleasantly satsiated as we biffed off for a pleasant stroll down nearby Parkgate prom. And its look out Chorlton, latest sibling Hispi is waiting in the wings. Eyes peeled to help get this one going.

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So if it’s Burnt, Sticky or gone a bit Hispi you can’t go wrong. This Usher chap and his team have got the bistro business sorted. Get there pronto.

*I wasn’t really
**Nicked from Marina O’Loughlin

 

Burnt Truffle
106 TELEGRAPH ROAD
HESWALL
WIRRAL
CH60 0AQ

0151 342 1111

http://www.burnttruffle.net/book.html