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Dog's Dinners

by Nathan Jones

In his first food review for Mercy Recommends, Richie Pen leaves the dog at home and eats at Italian Club Fish, Bold St, Liverpool, accompanied by his beautiful partner, Bob.

Dinner for 2 including drink and service = £60

Thank goodness Liverpool at last has a restaurant worth it's salt (and lemon). After a series of huge disappointments, including squibby cod with ratatouille, followed by a clacker-inducing cheese board in 60 Hope Street, sour foamed soup and prissified potted shrimp in the Bluecoat, the omnipresent dry fishcakes on the 'specials' board in The Quarter, and an overcooked steak in every eaterie between here and Joe Mercy's dad's slaughterhouse, I had lost faith that anyone in the city was able to prepare a meal better than an M&S t.v. Dinner. So welcome the Italian Club Fish.

Personally I would have preferred a table at the back, I think. Although it was fun to watch that woman made solely of arsecheeks waddle down Bold Street in her Friday sparkles while we waited on our plate of gorgeously fresh oysters sprinkled with tabasco and served with a delightfully subtle chilled Prosecco, I might have traded the sense of place for the intimacy and warmth of the back-half. Just something to think about when you're booking a table. Especially on a weekend night, when you are likely to see all manner of things going past outside the window which could put you off your food.

The menu is simple enough: Lobster, Fish-Salads, Fish of the Day, Crustacean Pastas and if you don't like it, then Steak. The service might be a bit casual for some, but like anyone who has been on the other side of the counter, I felt right at home in an atmosphere where it was okay that we invited a passing friend in for a glass of wine, while in return they took ages with the food. Sticking with their common theme of wonderfully fresh fish served simple and sharp, the grilled prawn, scallop and asparagus salad pleased with it's zingy red cabbage and vinaigrette base, and the unpretentious house white was perfect to keep the palate fresh. For the mains, my clam linguine again erred well on the side of lively rather than rich, and my dinner partner Bob's platter of fried fish made us cry they had died so recently. If they had explained that they'd just had to drive back from the Southport with our catch, that would explain everything. It took a while, but I will remember this meal for a long time too.

We finished off our meal with a single scoop of genuine Italian chocolate ice-cream with sublimely crunchy tiny crystals of ice set in it, while we argued drunkenly over whether it is more Italian to have an Americano or an Espresso after dinner, and I gladly handed over £60 for drinks and food at Liverpools new best place.