David Adamson finds an Asian-inspired spot lacking inspiration

Liverpool's East Asian restaurants are plentiful and plenty of them are excellent. Such is the influence of this cuisine on the city's eating habits that you can't turn a corner without being greeted by somewhere to get a good dish from that side of the world.

So when you turn onto the beautifully Georgian surroundings of Hope Street and see Liu Shi it looks promising, if an altogether bougier affair thanks to its entrance being festooned with flowers. On first impressions alone it suggested some mix between Beijing and Bridgerton. You never know, they might be onto something. 

2024 05 31 Lui Shi Ext
Outside Liu Shi Image: Confidentials

Inside, you would never guess that Liu Shi serves East Asian-inspired food. It's all very Jamie Oliver. Safe, inoffensive, a sort of vague mist of interior design that doesn't really register, which considering the building it's in is something of a shame really. 

Obviously I'm not asking for them to fill the place with lanterns and dragons, but visual clues can help inform your understanding of what's going to be brought to your table shortly. The framed photographs of sepia days gone by, landmarks and the words 'Liverpool' let you know where you are, but apart from that you could be anywhere. File under 'British Restaurant (General)'.

2024 05 31 Lui Shi Interior
Inside Liu Shi Image: Confidentials

Slightly thrown but no less hungry, I was greeted by two very friendly staff and shown to my table, a brushed steel type with chopsticks laid out next to hammered metal cutlery. 

I ordered a Pijiu beer (£5.25) and looked through the menu. I'd initially considered coming to try the 'Lunch for £16' menu, what with it being a very reasonable set lunch price that could prove to be an understated winner in a part of town where £16 would maybe get you a main course. The starters and mains on the course change very regularly, and it just so happened the day I turned up it wasn't quite what I was after. No trouble, a la carte it is then.

2024 05 31 Lui Shi Interior 2
Inside Liu Shi Image: Confidentials

I started with the Damn Hot and Sour Soup (£6.50), a ruby red concoction of chilli, soy, sesame, noodles, tofu and mushroom. Hot and sour soups are a perfect Asian starter in my view; kicking things off to just the right degree without filling you up and ideally giving you an introduction to the sorts of spices and flavours that the place likes to deal in. A short film before the feature. 

I always look forward to them because of the brothy aspect of it. Let's be honest, in its simplest terms it's bones and water with plenty of spices then some meat and vegetables thrown in. That's the beauty of it. There's no frills, and no hiding behind something weak and watery. 

This wasn't watery, only because I'm afraid it was closer in consistency to Heinz Cream of Tomato. Far too viscous, almost a sauce, it was a peculiar and slightly unsettling experience. The chilli was certainly present, creeping up on you and then sticking around, but none of the fresh tangs and varying textures of a good Asian soup were apparent here, it was all a bit, well, soupy, from the noodles to the tofu via the mushrooms. A confusing start but let's kick on.

2024 05 31 Lui Shi Hot Sour Soup
Damn Hot and Sour Soup Image: Confidentials

For main course I chose the Mandarin duck with butternut, orange sauce, carrot and tender stem (£23.95). Written down, this ticks every box: duck is made for East Asian flavours along with orange notes, carrots can withstand more pickling than a pissed-up thespian, and squash and tenderstem can be bent in many directions to suit the dish. 

Unfortunately this had almost no sense of being Asian-inspired, and in fact bore a much closer resemblance to something you'd see three quarters of the way down a gastropub menu. A perfectly serviceable main course if you're in a country pub and are tired of corn fed chicken or rump steak, but surely not something that could be called an Asian dish. 

The duck was cooked well, a suitable tinge of pink without it nearly quacking out the door, and it was well presented. The skin flirted with being crispy but could have been much crispier. The butternut was very tasty but in its pureed form totally at odds with what you'd expect from something with 'Mandarin' in the name. Again, would fit well on a pub dish. 

The saving grace could have been the orange sauce. I'd recently myself made Vietnamese duck braised in orange juice with chilli and star anise, and the citrus snuck chilli through like a Trojan Horse. It blew my head off and was beautiful because of it. This, meanwhile, tasted very much like Hoisin sauce. Plummy and with very slight citrus notes, it was in desperate need of plenty of chilli to cut through the viscosity. The carrots missed an open goal by not being pickled, and seemed to have been simply boiled. A disappointment.

2024 05 31 Lui Shi Duck
Mandarin duck Image: Confidentials

Giving it one last go, I ordered dessert - the Mandarin brûlée. What separates this from your French or Catalan versions is the inclusion of tangerine at the bottom. The creme itself was well made, the right consistency of creamy and with a strong enough note of vanilla. The brûlée top was nice and crunchy and it made for a solid dessert. I know you can include shortbread biscuits, but that doesn't mean you should. Strange but better executed than the rest.

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Mandarin brûlée​ Image: Confidentials

In Liu Shi there’s clearly a marriage of East Asian flavours and British plating to be explored, and I don't doubt plenty would wish the union well. However as things stand it feels like they make a good show of it for friends and family, but sleep in separate rooms. 

Liu Shi, 60 Hope Street, L1 9BZ

2024 05 31 Lui Shi Menu
Liu Shi Image: Confidentials

The Scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials.com and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 5.5/10

    Damn hot and sour soup 5, Mandarin duck 6, Mandarin brulee 6

  • Service 3.5/5

    Attentive and friendly. Perfectly nice.

  • Ambience 3/5

    Sorely missing the opportunity a building like this offers. Falls between two stools style-wise and ends up not really anywhere.