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Food& Drink 24seven: Fonseca is just Deli-cious, but remember your specs; Taste Test: Dawn Collinson knows to save room for some dessert on the return trip.

HAVING woefully poor eyesight doesn't generally pose a problem when it comes to food.

I see it - if it looks nice, I eat it. It's that simple.

But nature dealt me a cruel blow when I went for lunch at Deli Fonseca. The chalkboard was such a blur, I missed the desserts.

Aseries of fateful events began when we were seated in one of the upstairs cafe's leather booths. It was lovely and private - but crucially furthest away from the board displaying daily specials.

In terms of main courses, that wasn't an issue, since I'd already spotted a couple of contenders on the regular menu.

Situated, asit is, above the busy basement deli, it's no surprise that Fonseca's cafe specialisesin freshly prepared platters, sandwiches and salads, crammed with the best quality ingredients.

Then there are daily changing soups, mains, puds and cakes. On our visit, two weeks before Christmas, theyincluded a topical (if slightly heartless) "Rudolph pie" comprising chunks of venison and pork with red wine and port, topped with potato and parsnip mash at pounds 9.75.

Feeling seasonally sympathetic towards the red-nosed one, we declined, and went instead for a less guilty hazel nut & cashe wroast, stuffed with mature cheddar on a bed of vegetable ragout (pounds 8.50) and a couple of chick enciabattas - lemon and thyme roasted chicken thighs in hot ciabatt a with rocket and parmesan shavings (pounds 6.50).

On a Wednesday afternoon, the cafA was pretty much full by1pm - a good sign bearing in mind it has only been serving since October. It came as no real surprise when our meals arrived looking first rate.

The nut roast was huge - a hearty winter offering if ever there was one.

The ragout, in fact, could have been a substantial lunch in itself, filled with chunky root veg. But instead it was merely an accompaniment for the nut roast, which my friend said was lovely, crunchy and - thanks to the melted cheese centre - avoided the common trap of dryness.

Sadly its sheer size defeated her in the end, but she didn't give up without a concerted effort. Of the two main courses, the ciabatt as were undoubtedly the lighter option, but certainly not sin-free owing to the presence of what had to be the best chunky home-made chips we'd tasted this year.

Chips can be such a disappointment sometimes, either string yand greasy, or hard in the middle. And, since they're hardly a healthy side order, you feel you shouldn't really waste your time or fat quota on something below par.

Not so Deli Fonseca's, which already came with the highest praise from our friendly Irish waitress. "If I had to recommend one thing on the menu, it would be the chips," she announced as she placed them temptingly in front of us. She was a woman of fine judgement.

Cut in a Jenga-style, there weren't the measly few you so often get.

In stead there was a decent bowl-full, all crispon the outside, grease-free and perfectly fluffy inside. With a mayodip, resistance was futile.

The sandwiches, too, were excellent, exploiting the tastiest but also the most under-rated part of the chicken-the thighs - to the full. So far, so fault less.

The trouble was, we were full to capacity by the time the waitress returned to point out the desserts.

"What desserts?" said I, somewhat desperately.

It turned out they were among my favourites - ginger sponge pudding with apples and custard, baked cheesecake, treacle tart with ice cream or apple, strawberry and raspberry crumble. All pounds 4.95.

I could have cried. No room left for so much as a mouthful.

There was nothing else for it - a return visit had to be planned.

Thankfully, second time around, I took the difficult decision to avoid the chips which come with all sandwiches and went for a Thai chicken salad (pounds 6.95) instead, so leaving room for a fabulous treacle tart. Dense, sticky and doused in ice cream, it was worth the wait.

I'd have no he sitation in returning to Deli Fonseca again and again. The only dilemma is what to give priority to - the delicious chips or the tempting puds. I'll just make sure I check the board first next time.

CAPTION(S):

TOUCH OF GLASS: An extremely small specials board was the only bugbear with the superb Deli Fonseca
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 21, 2006
Words:727
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