AS regular readers know, it doesn't takes a lot to increase the size of my girth.
Just one trip to a fine restaurant can do it, and so it came to pass this week, when I paid a visit to Delifonseca Dockside.
The mutton was right on the button: melting with big, meaty flavours. Move over lamb, I love ewe. And a good ram, obviously
Now, I am no stranger to the idea of paying for visits of any kind at a dockside - or rather the cab isn't. You always know when the night collar has picked up from a Nicaraguan ship at Clarence Half-Tide: an unwrapped presidente cigar is rolling around the floor, and the back smells like a suicidal pit bull who has just swallowed a bottle of Chanel No 5 after losing a long, sweaty fight.
And no Magic Tree can take that lot away.
We are, however, talking about a different end of the Mersey here. The south end; the one with money: crisp GB pounds, not a hot fistful of dirty dollars.
I had just dropped a fare last week at the Honda dealership when I spotted it at the side of the road.
This Delifonseca is on the site of the old Harry Ramsden's chip shop. It is surrounded by car showrooms and described on the sign outside as Food Hall, Butcher, Eatery. I was driving at some speed, but it reminded me of how I had last enjoyed "crack pie" in the Stanley Street branch - an unusual tart from the Deep South.
Just the thought of it made me want to pull off quickly. I needed to investigate.
Moments later, I found myself feverishly wiping the handheld. I had braked hard and turned sharp and a beaker of coffee had spilled all over it. Another ruined HTC Desire. I would be eating alone.
This place is massive. The deli would rival Fortnum and Masons and has the advantage over a lot of places in the city centre in that you can park outside for free. As I was doing now. Broughs the butchers are running a counter in there selling posh steaks, free range chickens, bacon and sausages. There are sacks of local grown vegetables including spuds with lesser known varieties like Victoria. You can tell they know their onions and the rest of their food.
But what of the kitchen? Delifonseca does all sorts of sandwiches, wraps and burger type stuff, but has a big board of daily changing specials from Martin Cooper who has been in the city since the 1970s when, as an architecture student he donned a denim apron at the Everyman Bistro. He did the Armadillo, both incarnations,in Mathew St. The first was the hippest hippiest cafe in the city, the second became the best a la carte restaurant in the city.
Martin is an excellent cook, and has found a place to roost. And although he doesn't own this business - Candice Fonseca does - they all got lucky with this one.
Today he is off. "Joe is doing the cooking," a warm,comely waitress told me. "Martin swiped him."
Did he come with a barcode? I wondered. Joe, whoever he is, did the place proud, as it happens, but it's Martin's menu alright. His influence is everywhere: all rustic peasant dishes that you may or may not have heard of from around the globe.
Fesenjen (£12.95) is one such example. It is a thick, Persian stew made from pomegranate juice and ground walnuts. This version is made with crispy duck legs exuding their own spice. If eastern promise is deep, dark and mysterious, then this dish fulfils it in spades. Original, well researched and flavour-balanced gorgeous.
Another thing that is mysterious is the excellent rough and ready ham hock and beetroot terrine (£6.25), or, specifically, the beetroot jam that came with it. This whole dish is the pinkest thing I have seen since I was last able to look down to the floor, but how that sweet stuff was made...? They weren't telling.
Vegetable soup (£3.45), unlike the limp excuse I had in a newish Bold Street sandwich shop last week, was lipsmacking, hearty and wholesome. "Like you," I told the miss who whipped my bowls off the table.
Now many of you will know that I have been on incapacity benefit for 18 years. I am under the doctor for nerves, the trapped sort, and was due in Bootle for a fitness-for-work assessment with some kid the next morning.
Driving the cab is hard work, but I would need thinking food if I was going to eat this lad for breakfast and answer his questions correctly. So I took another butchers at the menu.
No kid on there – instead mutton. Cumbrian mutton rogan josh in fact (£11.95) with a spicy dahl (that's lentils to you) and another big heap of basmati. It didn't look great, but was. Not too much heat to trample over the aromatic sauce, and cooked long and slow, the mutton was right on the button: melting with big, meaty flavours. Move over lamb, I love ewe. And a good ram, obviously.
Look at that dessert menu. All made in-house, all £5.45. All full of imagination. Raspberry and vanilla roulade with an autumn berry compote was a work of art - sharp, soft and sweet all at once, and beautiful to look at.
Top marks to the warm hazelnut torte, baked to perfection, it was wholesome and moist. "Big nuts are always a bonus," I told the waitress. Well she did ask, and this was scattered with them.
So a proper feast, but no crack pie. I would have to pay another visit to Stanley Road for that, I sighed.
Before I left this wonderful Delifonseca, I picked up a couple of jars from the deli for Pauline, the girlfriend.
"A present?" the wench on the till smiled.
"Yes," I replied. "It's been a while since she's had any gentleman's relish."
Liverpool Confidential reviewers dine out unannounced and pick up their own bills.Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip, 16-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect.