New Mediterranean gastro-cafe has its finger on the pulse of Bold Street - but is it any good? By Gerry Corner
MANY a chickpea has been smashed on behalf of Confidential food reviewers. It’s one way to take the pulse of the city.
We’re talking hummus here – a handful of chickpeas smashed with a dash of tahini, a splash of oil and water, laced with garlic and a squeeze of citrus.
In Liverpool, it’s become as common as the burger, and as variable. On Bold Street alone at least half a dozen places have hummus on the menu. Cafe Tabac? Check. Love Thy Neighbour? Absolutely. Elif, only one ‘m’ but it’s humus all right. “Loaded hummus” at Leaf, a beetroot variety at Kasbah.
Falafels, soft hearted, crisp coated, gently spiced, are about as good as they get. Served with more hummous, which is fine with us
Meanwhile, another day brings another restaurant opening on Bold Street, this time Souk, a “Mediterranean gastro cafe” where they too pulse the pulse and hummus has been turned into an art form.
In the manner of many of its neighbours on the street, Souk’s a hospitable sort of place; relaxed and bright with, obviously, a bike hanging off one wall. Basil plants adorn the tables, add your own garnish.
The Mediterranean covers a multitude of sins hence France (“French baguettes”) Italy (pizza, pasta, focaccia mozarella), Cyprus (halloumi) Greece (lamb kofta), north Africa (tagine) and the Middle East (hummus, falafel) all get a look in. Oh, and they do burgers, but then who doesn’t?
First comes spicy hummus (£3.20); ridges of the smooth, creamy sand-coloured paste running from the centre of the plate, like a wind-blown Mediterranean beach; the hollows in between forming tributaries trickled with oil, while here and there stripes of paprika form flags of convenience.
Bread, made in the pizza oven that morning, comes with a loose, oil-rich pesto of peppers and olives which we polish off double quick.
Falafels (£5.90), soft hearted, crisp coated, gently spiced, are about as good as they get. Served with more hummous, which is fine with us.
A dish of excellent marinated Greek olives (£3.20) are meaty and enlivened by herbs and scraps of garlic and gherkin.
Elsewhere, freshly made meatballs (£5.90) in a “Napoli” tomato sauce are good. So too calamari (£5.90), cooked just right in grease-free batter, served with a simple undressed salad and a wedge of lemon. There’s a dish of harissa mayo too, but the mayo’s bought in and a little cloying so instead we dredge the calamari through a dish of tzatziki, whose clean, fresh character is perfect for it.
A burger (£7.20) makes a dramatic entrance, the skewer which holds it all together piled with onion rings. The patty, despite being freshly formed, is ordinary, the meat too fine and densely packed. And while a side salad is satisfactory, the fries and those onion rings do not give an impression of the home-made.
Back on familiar ground, “tagine of the day” (£5.50) is big and hearty and filling with hunks of chicken, slices of courgette and red pepper and carrot, then olives, peas and potatoes, all piled on top of proper steamed couscous and served in the traditional earthenware pot.
Much of what they turn out from the kitchen at Souk is crafted in-house, but I’m not sure you can call yourself a “gastro” anything if your fries and your mayonnaise come in catering packs. That said, the burger aside, there is much to enjoy at Souk.
Stay close to shores of the Mediterranean and it ought to go swimmingly.
All scored Confidential reviews are paid for by the company, never the venue or a PR outfit. Critics dine unannounced and their opinions are completely independent of any commercial relationships.
49 Bold St,
Liverpool L1 4EU.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind in the area: fine dining v the best fine dining, Sunday roasts against the best Sunday roasts, etc. On this basis, the scores represent...
1-5: Save it for the dog; 6-9: Netflix and chill; 10-11: In an emergency; 12-13: If you happen to be passing; 14-15: Worth a trip out; 16-17: Very good to exceptional; 18-20: As good as it gets
Hummus 9.5/10; Falafel 9.5/10; Olives 8/10; Meatballs 6/10; Calamari 5/10; Tzatziki 6/10; Burger 4/10; Tagine 6/10
Laid back charm
A sunny disposition