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Restaurant review: Puschka pushes all the right buttons

AA Grill celebrates 10 years of non-wedded bliss with an all-expenses paid trip to Puschka and finds a stage-door Johnny who becomes a man of letters by the end of the night

Published on January 14th 2010.

Restaurant review: Puschka pushes all the right buttons

WE had something to celebrate and if the meal was to fit the occasion, we’d need to be sure someone else was paying. Duly arranged, we fulfilled a long-held wish and went to Puschka, 10 years to the day we moved into each other’s lives.

“Shack up” is an anagram of “Puschka” I observed, “so obviously we were meant to eat here.”

“How romantic,” offered the lovely Twangy.

The last time I had been in Puschka it was called something else and run by two pals who served the best food in town and never made a penny. Life’s a bitch.

Another anagram of Puschka is “hack-sup” which well describes a bunch of journos on the beer. Which reminded Twangy of the last time she was in Puschka, in those ancient, barbarian times known to us as Before Children. On that occasion a then colleague, restrained and impeccably mannered in sobriety, stripped down to his string vest to belt out the Kinks’ greatest hits. One hell of a hack-sup, that was.
The place survived, indeed has thrived, gaining a largely deserved reputation for great grub in easy-going surroundings; the decor a funky, kitsch Sixties feel with chipboard paneling and pink walls.

We took a shine to our waiter – Johnny, it transpired – when he failed to address us as sir and madam or lick the undersides of our shoes.

Turned out he was a bit of a stage door Johnny, having taken the classic route of deciding to become an actor then getting a job as a waiter like 97.65 percent of the “acting profession” (sorry, Johnny, you are clearly talented and your unfussy service delivered with keen humour should be a template for all waiters – there, now I feel less bad about the crap tip).

I like to think that, before my fellow creatures are slaughtered and dismembered for my pleasure, they have enjoyed at least a frolic or two in the sunshine. Accordingly, questions were dispatched to the kitchen, via our Johnny, regarding the restaurant's free range/organic credentials.

He returned bearing a bottle of white and delightful Sauvignon (£12.50), plus tidings of joy for me and (though less so, obviously) the animals. Free range, organic and local are the order of the day wherever possible.
"Anything else you'd like to know?" enquired Johnny, sardonically. “The air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, perhaps?"
There’s always one smart arse.
No, Twangy retorted, taking up my anagrammatical baton and twirling it: “But tell me this – what’s a better anagram of 'oystercatcher' than
'cheesy tractor'?”
The blood drained from Johnny’s apron and he slunk away. Arse smarting.

I opened the festivities with sun dried tomato and rosemary tapenade and coarse hummous, both nicely executed, accompanied by crostini, otherwise known as thin toast, and a mountain of okay olives (£4.95). I love the olive (I’m anagramming without even trying, now) but defy anyone to put away 22 in a sitting. Half a dozen top notch olives would have done it better. Twangy scoffed a portion of Irish mussels – “very tasty indeed” – with baker chips and more scorched anorexic bread (£5.90).

Enter Johnny: “Cherry cote toast?”
“Did we order that?”
“No, no, it’s an anagram of oystercatcher!”

My main course was a yielding, yummy chunk of lamb, absolutely in the pink, with a balsamic and rosemary marinade that hit the spot and a fabulous hazelnut and parsnip puree (£15). Twangy made the right noises over pork stuffed with field mushrooms, wrapped in filo pastry (£13.90). Both dishes came with crisp, tasty haricots verts and were washed down with a decent enough Periquita 2002.

Pudding was a stonking, baked (any other sort should be illegal) white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake (£4.95) and, the one atrocity of the evening, the cheese board (£6.95). This comprised an uninspired heap of crackers resembling the Christmas cheese biscuit selection circa our house 1968 with (no Michelin stars for this one) pre-packed butter pats. As for the cheese, sad slivers of an unexciting stilton and something that looked, and tasted, like a piece of bread retrieved from down the back the fridge the day you move house. Perhaps it was all part of that kitschy Sixties thing and we missed the joke.

Whatever, we had a great time and it would be quite unjust to dwell on one lapse. The Puschka experience is, in any case, more than the sum of its parts.

“Tear crotch! Yes!” Johnny declared, producing the bill. We stared sympathetically at his trousers until he explained it was yet another anagram.

A nearby party was also celebrating that night. As they prepared to leave, the manager was summoned to capture their pleasure for posterity.
Whatever you do, I thought as they smiled for the camera, don’t say cheese.

Dammit, I said I wouldn’t mention that again.

AA Grill

16 Rodney Street


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