Gerry Corner finds the new seafood venue needing to practise its scales

THE rain was bucketing down as we crossed Beetham Plaza, literally so in the case of the Piazza Fountain, its pivoted pails, welded by workers at Cammell Laird, perpetually in the act of filling, tipping and emptying, since 1976.

The water feature, which locals know as the bucket fountain, shares the square with two restaurants: superior sushi house Etsu, which sounds like Japanese for sneeze, and newly-opened Hudson House.

A mouthful of fish scales does not make for a pleasing hors d’hoeuvre

The latter, a self-styled “high end seafood restaurant and bar”, is at the spot previously occupied by Home Canteen, Puschka’s luckless push into the business district.

Before that Michelin man Paul Heathcote had been the building’s first anchor tenant and Simply Heathcote’s had seemed in good fettle until the footbridge over the Strand disappeared and so did its clientele.

The new owners have expanded across Beetham Plaza, creating a garden terrace which, with its potted fir trees, fairy lights and artificial grass, put us in mind of Santa’s grotto crossed with the picnic zone at Farmer Ted’s, although that may not be what they had in mind for their executive al fresco dinIng and cocktail crowd.

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They wanted to take advantage of “brilliant views” across to the waterfront, which is fine but the picket fencing and planters also have the effect of distracting from the restaurant’s wave-shaped all-glass exterior that is its most striking feature.

Inside, the decor is quiet and tasteful, brown and cream, white tablecloths and an ornamentaal screen which – featuring water streaming down a large glass pane –  was the mirror image of the rain-strewn window at which we were seated.

You are ushered to your table by meeters and greeters whose look is as precisely achieved as the creases in the napkins. Unfortunately, the same care was not evident in the food preparation.

Salmon crackling (£3.45, main image, top) was roasted shards of skin - but without the scales removed. Take it from me, a mouthful of fish scales does not make for a pleasing hors d’hoeuvre. A schoolboy error, which we were prepared to forgive until the oysters, in shallot vinaigrette, came.

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At £12.50 for a half dozen, they were good value on paper. In reality, it was a toss-up which was their least appealing aspect: that they looked like they had gone 12 rounds with Tony Bellew, that they tasted more of Sarsons than the sea, or that small fragments of shell had been left in among them.

Southport potted shrimp (£8.75) came with strands of pickled carrot and cucumber and two Jenga blocks of brioche toast that were pretty but utterly impractical.

Either the chilled clarified butter, holding together the shrimps, needs to have been brought to room temperature or the toast needs to be hot enough to soften it up. In this case, the toast was cold, the butter fridge-hard; not the end of the world but the sort of things you need to get right if you want to be taken seriously as a high end restaurant, which is clearly the aim here.

My friend’s moules mariniere (£14.25) was fairly blameless, the mussels “nice and sweet”, the sauce a little thin for her liking, our only real problem being the “dipping bread”, two pieces of low-grade focaccia where good crusty French bread would have been better appreciated.  

At £24.25, sole meuniere was going to need to be a bit special. It wasn’t. This classic of French cuisine is all about the nutty brown butter, which wants to be rich and generous; in this version, the fish was cooked okay, but the butter content sparse enough to satisfy Weight Watchers requirements.

Side dishes, both £3.95, comprised uninspiring seaonal vegetables whose low-point was cauliflower tainted by an unpleasant tang, and hand cut (wow-wee!) chips whose straight-from-the-fat sizzle was all fizzled out.

Puddings came in the form of a pretty decent chocolate tart (£7.75) and a creme brulee (£7.25)  whose custard content was fine but the shell, rather than gently cracking, broke into two and plunged to the bottom of the dish.

It’s early days for Hudson House and all is by no means lost, but if it wants to be known for its crayfish tails as well as its cocktails, their food preparation requires some urgent attention, at least on this evidence.

Scaling fish and serving oysters should be basics for a seafood restaurant and had the bill for lunch not come to £125.40 for two (they had added in their own tip), it would have been easier to overlook the shortcomings. 

Hudson House, 
25 The Strand, 
Beetham Plaza, Liverpool, L2 0XJ.  Tel: 0151 370 0118.

Overall score 12/20

Service 4/5 
Ambience 3/5
Food 5/10

(Salmon crackling 2/10; oysters 1/10; potted shrimp 6/10; sole 6/10; moules 7.5/10; veg 3/10; chips 5/10; chocolate tart 7/10; creme brulee 6/10)

12/20
  • Food 5/10

    (Salmon crackling 2/10; oysters 1/10; potted shrimp 6/10; sole 6/10; moules 7.5/10; veg 3/10; chips 5/10; chocolate tart 7/10; creme brulee 6/10)

  • Ambience 3/5

    Bright and chic

  • Service 4/5

    Cool and efficient