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Ziba Restaurant Review

Jonathan Schofield doesn't find mushroom for skill

Written by . Published on July 1st 2011.


Ziba Restaurant Review

ZIBA sits inside a beautiful building. It's by Sir James Picton and from the 1850s. It's Italian Renaissance inspired, and is also the Liverpool Racquet Club which now shorn of it's sports courts, hosts a hotel, gym and restaurant.

“Er,” he said, “the chef just gets a big bag of wild mushrooms from a supplier. He doesn’t know what they are. Sorry.”

The restaurant is called Ziba, which is apparently Persian for exquisite. Why a Persian word is used in this quintessential example of Liverpool’s 19th century bombast is unclear.

The dining room, big, bright, with well-chosen artworks conforms to ‘exquisite’ or at least 'lovely': the food doesn't.

The menu is typical voguish modern British with European links. Locally sourced this that and the other, steaks, trad puddings, terrines and veloutes.

I went for a breast of Goosnargh chicken with Dauphinoise potatoes (£14.95). The latter came with leeks and onion and were stodgy, heavy and soggy. Completely mis-timed.

The chicken flesh with the skin was decent enough although very dry at its heart. As with the spuds it had been cooked too long, or simply cooked too long before I arrived.

The wild mushrooms with the chicken were lovely. There were oyster mushrooms, chanterelles and one massively fleshy number I couldn't name. This was delicious, and wrapped round the chicken made that delicious too. I asked the waiter if he could ask the chef to identify the fungus for me.

A while later he came back.

“Er,” he said, “the chef just gets a big bag of wild mushrooms from a supplier. He doesn’t know what they are. Sorry.”

Brilliant.

Next time I’m in Ziba I’ll just ask for some meat. Not bothered what type. Just some meat. Maybe specify a colour, narrow it down a little.

The more I thought about this the more flabbergasted I became. And worried. Are there kitchens everywhere that don’t actually know the ingredients they put in dishes yet still charge up to £20 for the mains?

I conduct guided tours of Liverpool and Manchester as a Blue Badge Guide. The next time somebody asks me what style of building St George’s Hall is I think Ziba’s mushroom policy might inspire me and’ll just say, “A big one with lots of those upright vertical thingys round the side which may or may not be holding up the roof.”

Terrifying.

A bread and butter pudding (£5.95) with sauce Anglaise and vanilla ice cream was better than the chicken but only by degree. It was still a flabby and clumsy dish. It was as though the kitchen was aware of the form of things but not too sure about the correct formula for delivering them.

Ziba folks is a gorgeous building, with a lovely restaurant and in my waiter, Youhan, a fabulous example of his art. But the food fails to match the qualities of the rest by some distance.

It was very quiet in there as well. On my Tuesday review visit it was nigh deserted. Or nearly so, apart from a chatty threesome of football agents who were annoyingly too far away for eavesdropping. Disembodied nouns floated my way such as ‘Liverpool’, ‘Dalglish’, ‘Everton’, ‘United’, ‘Neville’ but I couldn’t catch the verbs and the adjectives. I almost asked to be moved closer although my day was made when I caught the word 'super-injunction'.

When the agents left I was on my own apart from two late comers sat in the distance. You could hear a pin drop and the dust motes fall. Poor food chases custom away. No wonder San Carlo and Restaurant Bar and Grill round the corner were bursting at the seams as I walked by later. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

Ziba
5 Chapel Street
Liverpool, L3 9AG
0871 951 1000

Rating: 10/20
Food: 4/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 2/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.

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I will visit this place once the management and staff have got their act in order.

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