delifonsecaConsistency. It’s a key ingredient that’s been the undoing of many an occasionally excellent restaurant. Signature dishes, singular chefs and stunningly designed interiors are all well and good, but if you can’t keep on top of the game, at every table, at every service, you’re in trouble.

And so it has been with Delifonseca – rightly lauded for dragging Liverpool’s food landscape into the 21st century. Its Stanley Street deli bistro has been the city’s most dependable, fuss-free and friendly dining choice for the past half a decade.

Now with its huge dockside branch operating for a month or so, it was time to book a table (SevenStreets hates the practice of reviewing restaurants before the paint’s had time to dry in the toilets. Jeez, what’s the rush, people. Let them get into their stride first.)

Our opinion? The place looks amazing (snug booths, low lighting, plantation blinds and dark woods), the deli is a dream, and the service is as friendly as we’ve come to expect. The kitchen? It’s not quite there yet.

For Delifonseca Dockside, it’s the devil, not just the deli, that’s in the details.

Running with the Stanley Street concept of chalkboard specials, and bistro staples on the menu, Delifonseca is as laid back and convivial as we’d hoped. Shame there’s nowhere to hang your coats. Laid back is great – but not when you’ve a Harris tweed winter overcoat wedged behind you.

Our starters set the tone for a decidedly uneven evening. For the fist time ever, Deilfonseca’s ‘better than Carpaccio’ Welsh black beef simply wasn’t. It was seared, dry and decidedly chewy (in other words, it was over-cooked, and, therefore, technically, not carpaccio). Shame – that’s always a highlight of their menu. The Ballotine of chicken, with chicken livers, however, was moist, packed with flavour and a real highlight.

Delifonseca’s £6 corkage deal lead us to some super, great value wine choices, including a heady Greve Chianto Classico (£26) and robust white Rioja (£16) – make no mistake, you’ll not find it hard to food pair here.

Mains were a similar game of two halves. The Pork and bean stew was rich, rustic and warming. The pork was perfectly cooked, and the meaty cannellini beans more than a match for Delifonseca’s amazing chunky chips.

The Herby fish cakes were, perhaps, the biggest disappointment of the night. Again, these are a Stanley Street staple – but what’s happened en route to the dock? A starter-sized portion in Stanley Street was served as a main here – two mini-sized patties, drowning in a sea of lollo rosso. When your main dish is two-thirds lettuce there’s something seriously amiss. Fish, mostly.

Brough’s meaty bangers were, of course, just the ticket – so it’s a shame their Colcannon mash was cold. The mutton and spinach curry was wonderful, although we’d have preferred the dahl to be creamy, rather than crunchy. And, we’re guessing, that’s how it will be when the kitchen is on top of its game.

There was a bit of a kerfuffle over the cheese course too – seems the kitchen wasn’t keen on offering a selection from their deli, nor was the waitress too sure what was on offer. Thankfully, she did allow us to sneak onto the shop floor to choose four. But it was all a little furtive and awkward.

Delifonseca is such a likeable place that none of this really dented an enjoyable night and, taken as a whole, the evening was a success. We were well looked after, we all enjoyed elements of excellence at some point throughout the three courses, and it was a breeze to park…

So, we have no doubt that, by our next visit, Delifonseca will have gotten into its stride, and will, at last, offer this corner of town a much needed shot of destination dining.

Delifonseca
Brunswick Dock
Liverpool

  • http://outsidein-liverpool.blogspot.com/ Rachel

    Hmm, that’s too bad to hear they were having an off night. When we went last month, I had the fishcakes and my husband had the bangers and mash. Everything was delicious, I thought the portions were appropriately sized and certainly nothing was cold. (you can read my mini-review here: http://outsidein-liverpool.blogspot.com/2010/09/liverpool-food-and-drink-festival_21.html)

    However, I know the head chef was in that night, as he sailed out of the kitchen to ask a customer how they would like their steak, as the waiter hadn’t asked. Oops.

    Hopefully these kinks will be ironed out, as I’m a big fan of Delifonseca and look forward to visiting the Dockside branch again soon.

  • http://www.sevenstreets.com David

    How big were your fishcakes? Gosh, that sounds almost too personal. Mine were about 4cm in diameter. More like fish nuggets. But, seriously, I do love Delifonseca. Maybe the sad truth is that I’m just a greedy sod.

  • http://outsidein-liverpool.blogspot.com/ Rachel

    4cm? That’s definitely smaller than mine were (I got out the tape measure just to make sure); I reckon 7-8cm diameter if memory serves. I’d be annoyed if that’s the size I got for my main. I wonder if they were running out of fish that evening…if so they should have just taken it off the menu rather than skimping.

  • Pedals

    I drive by Delifonseca every morning, and having always intended to visit the city branch was very pleased to see they were opening in docklands. Banners on the railings announce breakfast and I promised myself I’d get up early enough to try it but not quite managed that yet. However this morning I had to catch a lift into the city and suggested my driver drop in on the way back to check it out but guess what…they don’t do take out coffee and apparently are quite snotty about it too. So not sure I’ll be making a detour any time soon.

    Apparently Bean (a little further along with banners on the railings too) is friendly with a good cake selection.

  • Jenny

    That’s really weird about the coffee. I stopped off to grab a sandwich and a coffee recently, and a waiter had no problem doing me a good cappuccino, in a proper take-out cup – so maybe things have changed in the past couple weeks?

    I will say that my sandwich wasn’t great. Whilst the chicken filling was good, the ciabatta roll they used was dry and there was far too much of it relative to the filling amount… though even with more filling I think the toughness and amount of bread would still have detracted from the whole experience.

    Haven’t tried the restaurant yet either, but thought the specials board looked good (even if it seems to have taken a turn away from the original feel of the Delifonseca menu…. Risotto? Blanquette du Veau???)

  • jack

    The Docklands Deli isn’t as good, Period. They don’t even do a special take away section of food, but only offer whatever the chef dains to give you, that he thinks won’t spoil. Pur-lease. Can’t we be the arbiters of our own dinners? If ever there was a location for take away food of quality, it was here. Shame they’ve gone all snooty about it.

  • Ronnie de Ramper

    I’m a big Delifonseca fan. The Stanley St restaurant has been a breath of fresh air. I’ve no doubt they’ll make a go of this Brunswick Dock venture if anyone can. But it will be a challenge.

    The big problem is location. Their predecessor, Il Bacino, couldn’t make it work – not enough trade to drive both restaurant & deli. Whenever I visited, the deli was mostly deserted; the restaurant, completely so. Clearly the ample parking space wasn’t attracting business. With no passing trade otherwise, the future was bleak.

    But by contrast, the other Friday evening, the new Delifonseca was doing good business. The deli was busy; the restaurant, filling up by 7.30pm. Martin, the head chef, had put in an appearance which can only be good news.

    My worries are twofold though. Location remains a problem. Is there really enough activity in the market, compared with Stanley St, to make all-day service viable? I hope so. But with economic downturns threatening, I have doubts too.

    Second, ambience. It’s ‘dockside’ without a dock side. Pity it isn’t nearer the water. And related, the staff were friendly enough when I visited, but not very sophisticated about matters. This may not matter to some of us. But it will matter to many who’d otherwise visit, but may be unimpressed by the lack of personal finesse.

  • Ronnie de Ramper

    Adding to what I had to say above: we revisited the Dockside restaurant again on Saturday. To my delight, the service quality was greatly improved. I was however unimpressed that one of four main courses was already ‘off’ by 7.30pm.

    The restaurant was also ‘fully covered’, all tables occupied by 8.00pm. I was a bit nervous at one point when a large party wearing Xmas hats flooded in, looking as if they thought it was still Harry Ramsden’s. I feared the evening was going to turn into a Saturday night ‘Scouse special’ with all the charm of a cage of warring parakeets. But the Xmas crowd were perfectly well-behaved, and everything passed off in a fine atmosphere.