Everyone’s talking about chef Gary Usher and his six bistros across the north west right now, it seems.
Following a crowdfunding initiative, Gary’s King Street bistro Kala became the fastest restaurant project to reach £100k in Kickstarter’s history when it opened earlier this year.
In the past week the Channel 4 documentary The Rebel Chef: My Restaurant Revolution followed Gary’s earlier crowdfunding quest to open Pinion in Prescot, Merseyside.
Earlier this month, Kala was praised by Jay Rayner for The Observer. The critic was won over by the “classy, appealing food you’d like to eat repeatedly, and at a reasonable price,” with a dessert list that “laughs in the face of summer.”
And today, the King Street bistro has received its second glowing national newspaper review in a month.
Critic Kitty Drake in the Sunday Times is immediately impressed by Gary’s attitude, commenting that diners who complain about his restaurants shouldn’t expect to get their egos stroked.
In a restaurant world where it has traditionally been possible to sit at a table and “behave like a jerk because you are paying for the privilege, he is a revelation,” writes Kitty.
Onto the food, and Kitty is impressed by her dishes.
Her starter of mackerel escabeche is pan-fried and “wonderfully soft,” is served marinated in lime juice with thinly sliced red onion. “The warmth of the fish against the lime is delicate and tongue-searingly pure,” she writes, lamenting her decision to share.
Next comes lamb’s neck: two “tiny pink chops”, sweet roasted tomatoes and black garlic mayonnaise.
“One lovely thing about Kala is that while the food is served without fanfare, each dish is an event,” writes the critic.
Everything has multiple ingredients and comes with “delicious, fiddly embellishments”, such as lemon oil, garlic honey and “puffed rice”. Part of the pleasure of eating the lamb, garnished with “three architectural parmesan crisps, is that it feels a bit dramatic,” she says.
For mains, Kitty tries halibut served with two types of chicken – crispy skin and chicken butter sauce – as well as an Elite Bistro speciality: braised featherblade, “the beef so dark and tender that you can cut into it with the side of your fork,” and a side of “frighteningly fat, indulgent” truffled parmesan chips.
For pudding, Kitty orders a choux bun “the size of a small child’s head” that is stuffed with passion-fruit cream.
The bun, she says, has “a moreish savouriness to it and is swimming in hot white-chocolate sauce.”
The writer also tries the famous custard tart, much-praised at Didsbury bistro Hispi and now available at Kala.
“It’s perfect: served not pastel de nata style but in a thick slice, the custard creamy and satisfyingly firm.”
One of our personal favourites, we couldn’t agree more.
No wonder everyone’s talking about it.