Restaurants: Starters for 10

Caroline Stacey Where to eat well in Liverpool? The answer: the eclectic Ziba, in the erudite company of quiz champions. Photographs by Ken Grant

Here are your starters. And you can't eat them. This mini-quiz has been devised especially for you by one of the question setters for University Challenge. 1) What is the name given to an Eastern European pancake made of buckwheat? 2) Which chicken dish is named in honour of one of Napoleon's victories? 3) Which Russian city gives its name to chicken stuffed with butter and garlic? 4) What do you call ring-shaped rolls made from dough that is boiled before being baked? 5) What dish is named after an Italian composer? Answers at the bottom of the page.

Believe me, there is a connection here with a smart new restaurant in Liverpool. My friend Rachel is slightly embarrassed about her appearance on Ask the Family (to spare her any more shame I've even changed her name). When I knew I was going to Liverpool I asked her parents who live there out for the evening, and they let slip what Rachel had kept quiet. They were the national champions of Ask the Family. Her mother's general knowledge is so amazing she went on to form a business supplying questions for television shows, pubs and any other sort of quiz events. She came up with these five questions relating to food.

Accompanied by what must be the most knowledgeable couple in Liverpool, I was well set up to give the once-over to Ziba, named after an old tea clipper which sailed between Liverpool and China (that's from the blurb not from Rachel's mum). With girders painted battleship grey, a metallic staircase up to a first-floor gallery for a good view of the jazz evenings, and bare tables with linen napkins, this year-old restaurant in a converted car showroom is, however, modern metropolitan down to the last rivet. There's some bamboo, too, as a reference to next-door Chinatown, and although hardly cosy, Ziba was comfortable enough and so smoothly run I became oblivious to a cold wet night that made Liverpool seem even more inhospitable than the opening credits of Brookside.

A nicely concise menu has a bit of Brit, with Mediterranean and Oriental jostling for attention. Here, though, unlike so many others, the chef isn't too closely following the composition of other fashionable menus, but coming up with his own mix, and even going back to the classics. Oeuf Careme consists of a poached egg with smoked salmon, an artichoke heart and hollandaise sauce. And the Choron sauce, bearnaise with tomato puree served with John Dory, was invented by Choron, chef at the famous Voisin restaurant throughout the 1870 siege, when he invented ways of cooking elephant. Remember that, it could prove useful at the next pub quiz.

Suckling pig in a terrine is the rarest beast on offer here. Otherwise good ingredients are cleanly and knowledgeably combined with a sure sense of what goes with what. The terrine, chunks of pork in a jelly, and water chestnuts for contrasting crunch, had the right degree of Chinoiserie to its spicing. Cock-a-leekie, the chicken and leek soup, controversially - but nonetheless appealingly- had potatoes in it. Only the most expensive starter, at pounds 8.95, lacked taste. But that's often the way when too much money has been spent. It also applied to the two girls in strappy evening dresses and very high sandals with a man who could have been their father. Other customers were less conspicuous. But back to the starter of potted scallop and lobster in a perfumed jelly. "Bland, could be anything" was the summary of the evening's only disappointment.

Main courses, from pounds 8.50 for cassoulet with duck confit, come without ballast, although portions are not meagre. And vegetables are available at only pounds 1 a throw.

A generous curl of monkfish tail dusted with paprika got high marks from Rachel's mum, who, switching fluently between languages, approvingly added that the accompanying sushi rice cake was "kosher". Pigeon with peas and button onions is a classic combination, and here the peas were pureed to bring out the flavour and put in a pastry case. I'm not saying the pigeon was tough or the knife blunt, but it was harder to cut than to chew, perhaps because I have what my dentist says is a ferocious bite. A simply and well-cooked beef fillet with carrots and potatoes was pleasingly brightly coloured.

Puddings aren't particularly fancy, but chocolate mousse in a brandy- snap basket, lemon tart with lime syrup and a coconut creme brulee with chocolate sorbet each struck the right note.

Ziba also did its best to dispel the myth that Liverpudlians don't respect ownership of property - Scouse joke no 27: "What do you call a scouser in a four-bedroom house? A burglar." They made a mistake in our favour on the bill. With service and the second bottle of wine added on it came to exactly pounds 40 each. Not a steal, but a fair price.

"Bars and hotels, bars and hotels" is how a cab driver giving me an unsolicited guided tour on the way there had summed up developments in the city. Eating lags behind drinking and sleeping here, but Ziba answers the question "Where's a good place to eat in Liverpool?" The other answers are: 1) blinis, 2) Marengo, 3) Kiev, 4) bagels, 5) tournedos Rossini

Ziba 15-19 Berry Street, Liverpool (0151 708 8870). Mon-Sat lunch and dinner, Sun lunch. Average pounds 15-pounds 25 without drinks. Set lunch and dinner, pounds 10.50 two courses, pounds 13.50 three courses. Wheelchair access. All major credit cards except Diners Club.

Liverpool digest on page 44

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

    £16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

    KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

    £100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

    IT Systems Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

    Day In a Page

    Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

    Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

    ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
    Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

    Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

    Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
    'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

    Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
    BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

    BBC Television Centre

    A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
    Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

    My George!

    Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
    10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

    Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world