Consistency. 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.