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Restaurant review: Sober thoughts

Lew Baxter and chums take a wander around Asia, via Skye, and discover there's more than chopsticks to Geisha

Published on December 13th 2007.


Restaurant review: Sober thoughts

A decade or more back, in what was a more bucolic and indulgent age, three of us, sons of the quill - in the fashion of a Boys’ Own adventure - had trekked north of the Border by train in search of cultural enlightenment, but more so to gargle with the hallowed “water of life”.

Lunchtime boozing
is now a mortal
sin among the chattering classes who slurp, largely,
on mineral waters

This trio of chums was an unlikely – yet most suited – alliance that included the esteemed Daily Post arts editor, Philip Key, a man whose catholic tastes sweep up saucy seaside postcards through to jazz, dance and murder books, and his rival on the Liverpool Echo, the ebullient Joseph Riley, a grandly witty and urbane kind of chap, recently maligned by lesser mortals who are fondly persuaded that public relations is a purposeful career rather than parasitic.

We gallant pals found ourselves on a wet December Sunday in Portree, the granite-faced capital of the lovely but remote Isle of Skye. Those unaware of the nature of the term “the Wee Frees” need to know that it does not refer to generous lashings of unpaid-for drams – and certainly never on a Sunday.

Thus it was revealed to us, particularly a stunned Mr Key - a bloke more inclined to the mellower charms of Devon - that storm-tossed Skye is dry on the Christian Sabbath.

Even the hip, young hotel receptionist fixed us with a gimlet eye when we suggested that, as guests, perhaps a noggin or hot toddy wouldn’t bring down the wrath of God.

We shuffled aimlessly around in a dreek rain until drawn to a shop – closed of course – on the harbour front. In its window was a fish tank. A label declared that its sole (ahem) resident was the famous Janet the Piranha that had thrilled tourists and locals for ages.

We stared at Janet for longer moments than propriety expects and shared a chortling notion that she’d surely make a tasty morsel. Yet, unconditional softies all, we wept buckets when told a while later that Janet had gone belly up, so to speak – as reported on the front page of The Scotsman newspaper.

This jaunt was recalled with glee when we three gathered for lunch some weeks ago in a new Liverpool restaurant as guests of the inimitable impresario Ellen Kent, who was in town promoting her fabulous operas and ballets.

Geisha – close to the Philharmonic Hall on Myrtle Street – is another of those inspirations by the folk behind Alma De Cuba, Korova and Negresco, venues that have lifted the bar (cough) for “gourmanding” in the European Capital of Culture.

The décor is veering towards Oriental matched with Satanic Goth: black and red with dark veneered wood and exotic moving images and sculptures dotted around the walls. At any moment I expected to see either Darth Vader striding towards our table or hear Meat Loaf pounding out Bat Out of Hell.

It was a convivial affair as we chattered and tucked in to an extremely palatable confection of dishes that have been culled from a largely, erm, pan-Asian range.

We were intrigued by the interesting combinations that included a “dim sum” experience that wandered around China, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and, presumably, Liverpool with the all encompassing Chef's Bento Box (£12.95) of assorted nibbles. Personally, I was bemused at the marriage of pink prawn crackers with poppadoms and a chutney selection, which came as “Lite Bites” (£2.55) but then I’ve always regarded faggots and peas as a culinary bloomer.

Hearty chomping sounds filled the void as we devoured such delights as crispy chilli beef with noodles, a soy and molasses Scottish fillet steak (£15.95) served with kow choi, Malaysian tiger shrimps (£11.95) in a fiery hot chilli coconut sauce, Madras loin of lamb (£11.95) infused with Bombay spices, although Geisha’s menu does admit it is from a Welsh beast, and a Korean green chicken curry (£9.95).

Once upon a time the only gastronomic joy in Liverpool was Paddy Byrne and Dave Scott’s Everyman Bistro and Martin Cooper’s Armadillo restaurant in Mathew Street – oh, and the legendary midnight Lava Pie stall at the former Pierhead bus terminus. Ah, how things change.

Lunchtime boozing is now a mortal sin among the chattering classes who slurp largely on mineral waters, like my tee-total self these days - although I never glower at others who relish a swig or two.

Ellen, however, being an acknowledged wine buff - and not one of the new breed of alcohol evangelists - decided to share a bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, gloriously called Shingle Peak, with the chums.

A glass each, you understand – just in case moralistic PR wallahs are hovering around this column.

Rating: 14/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
4/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: Geisha
Myrtle Street, Liverpool
0151 707 7097

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Charlie CDecember 13th 2007.

Not had the food at geisha but i like going to the bar and the music is quite cool. I hate the red curtains everywhere. They would be a fire hazard if it wasn't for the smoking ban.

Myrtle StreetDecember 13th 2007.

Does it still have the roof terrace and outdoor areas for an sophisticates who might call in and want to smoke? Or is it aimed at the same old blokes without ties who suck lager from the bottle?

Smokin' GunDecember 13th 2007.

It has a very nice roof terrace indeed

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