Restaurant review: Bakchich, Liverpool
It had been “one of those days”. If I’m truly honest, the last two or three Wednesdays had. The classic mid-week syndrome where the mood of Monday lingers and the thrill of Friday seems to be still so distant, had kicked in. My morning was disorganised and my afternoon was topped off with a small clump of five missed calls that all required different and specific attention in order to be resolved. By 5.30pm I was, as many of us get, at the end of my mid-week tether.
I sent a text: “I don’t want to/can’t cook tonight –despair. Suggest a venue.”
My friend –more than used to my ad hoc melt-down’s- replied promptly: “Bakchich, Bold St. 7:30 x”
I did a double take. Had he not understood my plight? Had he not read the text message correctly? I was in a tumult; my plight was evident for all to see, I was distressed and drowning in my melancholic Mercredi. “Bakchich”? This was not what I was used to. For one; I had never been there, now you must understand that while I am a tremendous fan of trying new venues; sampling new flavours and enjoying new experiences... not on my melt-down Wednesday. Melt-down days are days when, short of crawling under my duvet and eating a huge bag of Doritos, I need safety and familiarity. I need a seat that suites, on a table I like, in a place I know with a meal I don’t have to spend more than ten seconds choosing. I need what I know...
My friend insisted; further evidence to my depleted energy levels and pure lack of gumption that he got he, with little effort, got his way. At 7:18pm that night I found myself stepping off my train and after quick negotiations with escalators and tickets barriers, I found myself being greeted by a very dear friend... Bold Street.
For many years this behemoth of bohemia has been my port of call for such evenings; the gentle hill that provides a free calf muscle work out; the jostling people who pay no regard for the difference of pebble and pavement and then, the selection of cafes and eateries festooning the two sides of this hardy highway - seeing these restaurants is like looking at an old class photograph; each character providing an emotion, a memory and a quick burst of nostalgia all in one glance.
“How brave...” I thought, as I strolled onwards “...to open a new restaurant here.” I thought about my reaction, how I’d longed to be told we were going to one of several other possibilities on this street, how I’d pooh-poohed the notion of new and rolled my eyes at the thought of resolving my restlessness in a “dry” restaurant.
How wrong I was...
“Bakchich” is an word of Middle Eastern origin with an interesting explanation. It literally means “a tip”, i.e. a payment of gratuity for services rendered. However it may also be used to mean “a payment with motive” or indeed ,more innocently: “a act of giving for no other means than to affirm a sense of worth or value”.
I stopped outside to look at the venue: the rich wooden facade of the building providing a fresh look, mixed with the shinning pressed metal tables glimmering from inside. Certainly not a decor you would necessarily expect from a place advertising to sell “Lebanese Street Food”, yet the trendiness and smoothness of the design had interested me. I quickly walked in ad was greeted by an enthusiastic and sincere man. I was offered a table and quickly I found myself eyeing up several options on the colour-coded menus. The enticement of Chicken Shawarma conflicting with the curiosity of trying the Farrouj Meshwi (Marianated baby chicken with Lebanese spices) all proved to difficult.
My friend sent me a message: “Running few minutes late. Order us two Honey and Banana smoothies”. I did just that and while awaiting his arrival, sat calmly enjoying the bustle of the pleasantly busy venue. I admired the detail of the artwork on the walls, I eavesdropped on a conversation at the next table where two women were punctuating their daily recounts with satisfied groans and “Oh this is lovely” . My friend arrived; I ordered the Hommos, a pureed chickpea starter and we talked animatedly until it arrived. As we chatted, the flow of people coming and going was stead and reassuring. The starter furthered my assurance that my Wednesday would be getting better, not worse. We ordered a second round of smoothies and proceeded to debate a main course. I ordered the Mixed Grill Meshwiya and my friend, the Chicken Shawarma Platter. Both plates were a perfect mix of intense flavours and reassuring familiar tastes.
We finished our mains with satisfaction and by now, my Wednesday grumblings were very much subsiding. The table service was slick and helpful but never imposing. We continued to chat. The option of dersert was raised and with a nearly full stomach I decided upon the Baklawa (small pastries). We sat relaxed and ate our last course with enjoyment, one or two people came and went; picking up from the takeaway service also on offer.
I smiled as i finished my last bite and washed it down with my smoothie. “You know...” I said as I scanned the room for yet another observation of the tidy, efficient setting, “Its sometimes not a bad idea to go “dry” for the evening; I truly have nothing at this moment but a clear head and an inspired pallete.
Bakchich may have turned up this year in an already well established class of cafes and characters, but it is in good company. A safe but comforting distance away is the older sibling: Kasbah Cafe Bazaar, a now well known and much loved Moroccan eatery that has paved the way perfectly for similarly exotic sounding menu options.
Indeed the word “Bakchich” may be translated in several ways depending on context; yet I would prefer to stick to the last definition I found “...giving for no other means than to affirm a sense of worth or value.”
There is no disputing Bold Street’s impressive collection of food venues and so, indeed “How brave...”to set up shop amidst these impressive counterparts. Perhaps this is why I consider this definition so fitting. Bakchich does just that for Bold Street; it affirms the sense of worth and value.
Better still... my Wednesday ended far better than I could have wished.
Published in Private Life Magazine, Issue 7
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