Lucy Tomlinson is all about nourishment not punishment this January
Ah January, traditionally a testing time for the gluttonous. In this parsimonious month it is difficult to justify meals that revolve entirely around cheese, or devoting significant time and energy to figuring out how to layer both bread sauce and gravy into a sandwich. Chocolate orange segments for breakfast are apparently strongly discouraged, which puts my diet into free fall.
Like a gentleman farmer from a Thomas Hardy novel, the food is ruddy-cheeked, honest and substantial
And what are we meant to eat in this bleak time? Thin soups, limp salads and gallons of water? Save me. While I admire those who can impose such discipline - I am especially impressed by Veganuarists - a dash of realism is key. Instead I resolve to eat food that has a good dash of wholesomeness, food made with care, and to let the calories take care of themselves. I’m all about nourishment not punishment.
The next task is to find somewhere to supply such nourishment. Luckily, food and drink editor Deanna Thomas has the ideal suggestion. “I think you’ll really like this one,” she says of Pokusevski’s in Heaton Moor. It is indeed right up my strasse; heaps of colourful salads (the good kind with an abundance of nuts and cheese to keep both taste and calorie content up), Mediterranean and eastern European influences and a laudable devotion to cake. Am I really that predictable? The short answer is yes.
For my starter I choose the burrata with pesto and cherry tomatoes (£8.50). Burrata is a softer version of mozzarella, rendered extremely silky by the addition of extra cream. Here, it’s slightly on the chilly side, but otherwise simple and delicious scooped up with bread. Likewise the chicken wings (£5) aren’t fancy, just gently enhanced with a little saffron and very gnawable.
This down-to-earth approach continues to the mains. They don’t call it a spanakopita on the menu, preferring the more descriptive spinach and feta pie (£12), but spanakopita it is. An ample Greek veggie dish that is essentially a hearty pie stuffed with spinach, onion, cheeses and herbs enfold in filo pastry. I ordered it with a side of barley flavoured with ras el hanout, spring onion, pomegranate and pistachio, plus a side salad (ok I admit it there was an extra portion of chips in there somewhere too).
The star dish was the lamb and sour cherry meatballs (£12.50), served on confit tomatoes and couscous laced with caramelised onions and toasted almonds. Meat and fruit often throws up luscious pairings and this Syrian-inspired combination is no exception, the sweet-sour high notes of the cherries cutting through the rich fattiness of the lamb.
For pudding I decided to sample one of the cakes so temptingly displayed in the window. The slab of fig cake (£4.50) I received might have been more appropriate for an afternoon snack washed down with a large cup of tea, but it was delightful in its sticky, seedy figginess (they boxed up what I couldn’t manage to take home). My partner decided to go for the churros (£5), deep-fried choux served with thick hot chocolate to dip them in, which I’m not normally a fan of, but these were light and fluffy enough to be bearable.
Friendly and unassuming as the food and service are, the best thing about Pokusevski's is the atmosphere, a hodge podge referencing various eras and countries for maximum cosiness. The décor is three parts Bloomsbury set to one part Mick n’ Marianne go shopping in Marrakech, laden as the place is with kilims, throws and vases. I am particularly partial to the vintage 1930s chandeliers from France and gorgeous stained glass windows that lend a Victorian air. Sure it’s not for everyone, if you like minimalist wipe-down interiors then this surfeit of totchkes may not be your cup of tea, but this kind of comforting patina makes me feel right at home.
Another facet of Pokusevski's that puts me in a generally cheery, bonhomie sort of mood is that they occasionally host other independents for pop-up evenings, for instance a recent Korean Barbeque evening from Love Kimchi was reported to be very successful, plus they support other local businesses and projects such as Art in the Alley, which is all very jolly and community-minded.
Like a gentleman farmer from a Thomas Hardy novel, the food here at Pokusevskis is ruddy-cheeked, honest, substantial. Maybe lacking a dash of refinement but exactly what is needed when the rain is lashing down and the sky is grey.
So you detoxers can keep your green smoothies and the temporary vegans stick with your Greggs sausage roll, I’ve got some leftover figgy cake to deal with.
Pokusevki’s Café and Delicatessen, 13 Shaw Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport SK4 4AG
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Burrata 7, wings 6, spanakopita 6, meatballs 8, fig cake 7, churros 7
I felt right at home
Friendly and community minded