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Restaurant Review: Hopskotch, Liverpool

Hopskotch
Matthew Street, Liverpool, L1 6AU
0151 908 0098
Cuisine: International
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Helen Hokin: The ingredients might be sourced locally but the ‘globally’ inspired menu is a good match for Liverpool’s rich maritime history.
 
From the outside the elaborate, red-brick building is a fine example of industrial Victorian architecture. A purpose-built tea warehouse, it would have served as a dry store for cargo arriving into The Albert Dock during the 19th century boom years. In those glory days Liverpool was ‘Port of the Empire’ trading 40% of the world’s cargo.
 
Today, the spacious interior is, ergonomically-speaking, a restaurateur’s dream: the wide open space allows for masses of room between tables – most of which are big enough to seat at least six, while a bank of sofas runs effortlessly along a lengthy exposed brick wall. All the time I was there the winter sunshine cast its natural light through the ceiling-high windows, helped along later by low-hanging rows of exposed industrial light bulbs. The wall space has given local artists an outlet for their work which, predictably, pays homage to the Beatles.
 
Head chef at Hopskotch, Craig Sallery is already making an impression on Liverpool’s eating-out scene. At 32 he has a good few years under his belt bolstered by solid training from Southport Catering College where Marcus Wareing also cut his teeth a few years before him.
 
Sallery has the whole of the fertile (read rainy) market garden of the North West to source his ingredients from, and he knows the territory well. He orders all his meat from Williams of Flint in nearby North Wales while his veggies and bread hail from Macclesfield.
 
With the kind of seasonal ingredients that ‘speak for themselves’ to hand, the obvious direction for Sallery would have been down the ubiquitous Modern British route. It would have been a no-brainer.
 
But Sallery turned his back on the obvious in favour of something far more ambitious, not to mention complex. Setting himself a challenge, it was out with plates of pork belly and seasonal greens and in with an exotic menu (much like Liverpool’s past) of world street food inspired, Sallery tells me, by his travels. He’s travelled a bit: North Africa, Europe, India - bringing home, like any decent chef, recipe ideas that have finally come to fruition.
 
So before I even put fork to mouth, Sallery has my vote for treading a lesser-known path, for making life more difficult for himself and daring to muddy up local and seasonal ingredients with spices and other foreign bits and pieces to pull off his rendition of international street food, which let’s face it is the way we’ve always eaten anyway. I have never been one for single ingredient dishes; for a start I never feel as if I’m getting my money’s worth and I make them all the time at home.
 
And so to the starters: From the ‘Street Food Tapas Style’ I shared three tapas with my sister including Gorditas (£4.95) - generous pillows of floury masa harina stuffed with warm pulled pork and gooey cheese. The Prawns on a Stick (£5.25) had the usual gentle flavour about them and I liked the stick idea. I had something almost identical on a stick a while back in Beijing for pennies but whatever it was it was still wriggling. The Palak Chloe (£4.75) was stand-out. It’s from a recipe brought back from Sallery’s time in India. The classic combination of chickpeas in spinach gravy had the right nutty texture from the pulses and a good balance of spices to bring just enough warmth, so comforting in fact, that I wanted a bowl to bring home to eat curled up on the sofa. See recipe below.
 
To follow, we chose two more dishes from a selection of ‘Bigger Plates’ and boy! are they. My sister loved her generous Moroccan Falafel (£7.95) arranged on a wooden board with, rather puzzlingly, a miniature bucket of chips which seemed unnecessary given the plate was also loaded with flat bread. I’m not a fan of double carbs. Maybe we were supposed to make a chip butty. But the cumin-scented, deep-fried patties with its two intense dips: creamy, minty yoghurt and spicy, scarlet harissa were according to my sister, very moreish. She didn’t leave a crumb. My Teriyaki Salmon Fillet (£7.95) over an enormous pile of ginger and sesame noodles was properly seared with the ginger and chilli rendering the whole thing pleasantly punchy. 
 
When I asked our excellent server, Matt, what was on the cheeseboard, he looked quizzically at me. “Cheese” he said. Call me biased but I love Scousers. The thick slices of Welsh goat’s cheese didn’t disappoint and with grapes, celery and crackers the cheeseboard is a steal at £4.95. Alas, the homemade chutney that came with had an unpleasant slipperiness about it and tasted all wrong.
 
A wobble here and there won’t stop me going back again. Heck, I would even take my chances at Hoax, the enticing-looking five-star hostel to which Hopskotch is attached, if I wasn’t already in my Liverpool home. Oh, and by the way, if you want a Cathedral we’ve got one to spare.
 
Buy the London Street Food Guide on Amazon for £2.00
 
Palak Chole Recipe
 
Ingredients
1 tin cooked chickpeas (drained)
1 bag spinach (washed and chopped)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1/2" of fresh ginger (peeled)
1 Green chilli
3 tblspn Vegetable oil
1 tspn Cumin
1 tblspn Ground coriander
1/2 tspn Tumeric
1/2 Tumeric
1/2 tspn Salt
1/2 Tspn Pepper
1/2 Tspn Garam Masala
 
Method
Blend tomatoes, ginger and green chilli.  
In a pan heat the oil and fry spices.  
Put chickpeas in the pan.  
Fry with spices for 3 minutes.  
Add tomato, chilli and ginger purée, cook for a further 5 minutes on a simmer.  
Bring up to the boil and add spinach, cook for 4 minutes.
Serve with naan bread
 
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