Pay now, eat later: Gary Usher moves closer to Liverpool restaurant dream

THE scaffolding that held up the old watchmaker’s workshop in Slater Street had been there so long, it was in danger of outliving the actual Scaffold – the Gorman/McGough/McCartney pop poetry partnership that scored 1960s success with Lily the Pink.

So when the renovated building finally emerged from its steely exoskeleton last year, the physical transformation might have been cause for celebration all on its own.

A £300 pledge pays for dinner for six, while £500 means you can forget the Aldi turkey this year and enjoy a three-course Christmas feed for 20 people at one of Usher’s venues.

But the news that the celebrated chef Gary Usher – creator of Hoole’s Sticky Walnut, Heswall’s Burnt Truffle and Didsbury’s Hispi – wanted to open a bistro called Wreckfish within its walls really got Liverpool's tastebuds going.

Never one to be hidebound by convention, Usher’s first move was to throw open the doors and welcome diners in to a one-week pop-up version of the restaurant. The aim was to give the city a taste of what it could have, and begin the process of raising money for the project long-term.

Read: Restaurant review: Wreckfish

If nothing else, it proved that Liverpool was hungry for Usher’s brand of informal bistro grub. All reservations were booked up in ten minutes, and this in a building without gas, electricity or running water.

At the beginning of May, things moved up a gear as Usher launched the Wreckfish Kickstarter – an online appeal for funds to enable him to keep those doors open for good. And hopefully get those essential utilities plumbed in.

Nine days in the campaign has raised over £71,500 towards the ultimate target of £200,000 – the highest sum any UK restaurant has ever attempted to raise on Kickstarter.

But Usher is quick to point out that he isn’t asking for something for nothing.

“We’re predominantly selling meals,” he says.

“It’s £50 for a lunch voucher, £100 for a dinner voucher. We pool all that together, then with that £200 grand, we then open a restaurant. No one’s getting mugged off.”

Even if you don’t have £50 to throw into the pot, you can still earn yourself a drinks coaster bearing the words “We came, we cooked, we fucked off” for just £15 – and so far, nine backers have chosen to be sworn at in this way.

Wreckfish Liverpool17
Gary Usher hard at it during February's Wreckfish pop up - which was, incidentally, very, very good Pic: Angie Sammons

There’s also breakfast or brunch available for two people in return for a £25 pledge. A Little Chef ‘Breakfast Burger’ is almost half that all on its own, which makes the Wreckfish offer seem like something of a breakfast bargain. 

There are plenty more options for those with a bit more cash up front, all offering generous rewards and experiences in return for their quids.

A £300 pledge pays for dinner for six, while £500 means you can forget the Aldi turkey this year and enjoy a three-course Christmas feed for 20 people at one of Usher’s venues.

Should you be a bit of a money bags, £8,000 will get you the first wedding breakfast slot at Wreckfish with food and hospitality for up to 100 guests. And if you’re not getting hitched any time soon, maybe you could just pretend?

The Wreckfish Kickstarter is an all or nothing deal, so if they don’t hit that big 200k, like a forlorn Bullseye contestant of yesteryear, they’ll be left looking at what they could have won.

And Liverpool’s bereft Usher-lovers will be left to drink a drink a drink to drown their sorrows.

Find the Wreckfish Kickstarter campaign here.

Wreckfish - The restaurant that could be from Natural Selection Design on Vimeo.