THE WORD INDEPENDENT ITSELF SPARKS OFF DEBATES BETWEEN SCHOLARS AND LABOURERS ALIKE; IT IS ONE OF THOSE WORDS WE ALL HOLD A PERSONAL DEFINITION OF.
What we can all agree on however, is that when one thinks of the word independent, some places instantly come to mind and embody that spirit so profoundly. For us, some of you and many award panelists out there, Delifonseca is one of them.
Before we speak to Candice, I suppose I better introduce myself. I’m Verity, I work at Colu in Liverpool, Independent Liverpool kindly lent us their blog this week as our techie magicians work on getting our own sorted.
The array of incredible local produce has led to Delifonseca becoming multi-award winning and despite all these years, still going from strength to strength. It operates two sites, Stanley Street (Fonseca’s) in the centre of Liverpool and Brunswick Quay (Dockside) a mile south of the city centre. Delifonseca Dockside is a foodie ‘all-rounder’ that operates both a restaurant and a licensed retail food operation, which has the added attraction of housing an Edge & Son butchers concession.
Since its establishment in 2006, Delifonseca has attracted attention on a local and regional scale. Recent awards include ‘Best Independent Retailer’ at the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2014, The Good Food Guide ‘Readers’ Restaurant of the Year 2014’, ‘Taste of Liverpool’ at the Liverpool City Region Tourism Awards 2014 and ‘Highly Commended Award’ at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2014. Most recently Delifonseca Dockside has been presented with the notable Bronze Award in Taste of England category, at the 2015 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, in addition to being Taste awarded ‘Taste Liverpool’ at the Liverpool City Region Tourism Awards 2015.
This is the start of a brand new project as part of our commitment to creating a joined up & inspired economy in Liverpool – the #StoriesToSupportChallenge. Each week we will be visiting one of our businesses to experience them for ourselves, let you know more about them, hear their plans for the future and listen to the trials they face. We sat down with the woman behind it all; Candice Fonseca.
When you first walk inside Delifonseca Dockside, the deli draws you in straight away, there are so many intriguing ingredients lining the shelves that really catch your imagination. There is a lit up butchery counter showcasing local Edge & Son meats, a whole display of locally brewed Mad Hatter Beers and an amazing stack of chocolate and sweets that I circled indecisively at least three times. We asked Candice how it all started:
“Given the thriving city restaurant scene now it will be hard for many to remember just how few restaurants there were at the time and how different the city looked. I’d been living in the centre since 1997 and had been frustrated by the poor food retail provision in the city. Despite the number of residents growing over that period as apartments were converted and built the retail provision was slow to catch up. I’d always been a ‘foodie’ and had been spoiled growing up in Bury which had a full fresh market including multiple cheese stalls, fresh meat and fish market and a delicatessen called Katsouris. I’d also been working away regularly so was amazed by the successful deli’s in similar cities like Glasgow. So by 2004 I’d decided I wanted to open up a traditional delicatessen. My plans evolved to included an informal ‘neighbourhood diner’ with a changing blackboard menu. I finally found an affordable site on Stanley St. Not an obvious site but it had good footfall going to and from town from Moorfields, had a decent amount of independent businesses in the offices around it and also a good level of apartments and flats within 5 minutes walk. Whilst the building work was being done I had the great stroke of luck that Martin Cooper former chef proprietor of the Armadillo and head chef at No.7 Falkner St for 6 years heard about my plans and approached me for a job. The rest as they say is history and Martin is still working for me now!”
They have a fantastic range of dairy-free chocolate that particularly caught my eye, including my favourite brand Vego which is basically solidified Nutella, but vegan. I asked Candice, How do you keep up with food trends today?
“Talking to customers! I spend a lot of time both at Dockside and Stanley Street, luckily, I have had customers that I have known for ten plus years. Catching up with them is great as they’ll give me great insights and I also keep a keen eye on who’s new to the Deli, and ask them things about what they would like to see.”
We headed over to the Restaurant to get a real flavour of the dishes they create, the staff are fantastic and really knowledgable about the menu, offering both the falafel wrap main or roasted vegetable curry special which could be adapted to be vegan. We all agreed that the food was delicious!
Once we had eaten, I asked Candice about her future plans and challenges she faces as a local entrepreneur.
Candice excitedly shared her plans around remodelling and expanding the current Dockside site to fit more covers and get more outside space for those long summer nights…
“I’m really excited to be improving and developing the Dockside site in the coming months, lots of people told me before we opened the Deli and Restaurant that it wouldn’t work here. 7 years on, I am delighted to be having a good go at expanding.”
Then we got onto the ‘chef problem’,
“One of the big struggles for independents in the food scene in Liverpool is retaining and finding quality chefs. I hope that working with the Local Pound, we as small businesses could come together to address issues like the chef problem, as a community, that’s what excites me about the mission behind the Local Pound.”
Delifonseca was the first business to start accepting Local Pounds and Colu, I was curious what it was about the currency that caught Candice’s imagination so early on; “It’s just exciting being part of something that’s clearly very innovative and progressive. The technology is fantastic… I’m really looking forward to the interaction with the customers that the app will have later on, and for now customers receiving 10% extra when they load money onto wallets is great, it incentivises people to re-visit and maybe get a few more things from us rather than going to Tesco.”
Before leaving, we really wanted to know what it was like to be known as not just one of the best independents in Liverpool, but in the whole UK. Candice responded:
“I’m very proud of what we have created but it is hard work. We’ve created a business that relies on the skill and passion of its staff – both on the shop and restaurant floor and in the kitchen so it’s a continual process of training and hopefully inspiring and promoting good team spirit. The food and drink scene has exploded in the last couple of years and it’s great to see so many new ventures especially producers. It is now a recognised fact that money spent with an independent business benefits the locality hugely as the cash stays in the city and circulates again. All these new businesses are adding to the resurgence of Liverpool and I take my hat off to each and every one of the operators as I know how hard it is to do things properly and how big a financial risk many are taking. But in the end there is no better buzz than having a business that sells the products that you are passionate about, than seeing happy customers enjoying that food and drink and having a workforce that share your pleasure in both.”
So if you fancy a cup of locally roasted Neighbourhood coffee, discovering some ingredients you may have never heard of, or trying some beautifully cooked food- you really need to pay Delifonseca a visit.