ONE of William Ralph Dean’s favourite meals, I am reliably informed, was a bowl of tripe, poached in milk and washed down with a glass of bitter.
“He loved it, but it would stink the house out,” recalled his granddaughter, who used to prepare the dish for him.
The great man wouldn’t find sheep’s stomach on the menu of the newly refurbished lounge which bears his name at Goodison Park today.
And diners in the Dixie Dean Suite should be thankful.
Instead, the inviting aromas of fillet steaks, summer puddings and smoked salmon cakes waft around an impressively redesigned lounge.
Poster sized period photographs of the most prolific centre-forward in English football history adorn the room, along with silverware in glass cabinets and other items of memorabilia.
But the most impressive piece of decor is a large dividing glass partition, separating the restaurant from a cosy snug called the ‘chairman’s lounge, and featuring an image of Dean’s record breaking 60th league goal on frosted glass.
The chairman’s lounge is a holding area for scouts from visiting clubs – on the afternoon we dined Sammy Lee and Alan Harper were among the guests – and while they were invited to enjoy a glass of Monte Cavijo Tempranillo Rioja or chilled La Croix Sauvignon Blanc, the six course dining extravaganza, followed by half-time cheese and biscuits and full-time cakes and sandwiches was reserved for diners.
The food was undeniably impressive.
Guests arrived shortly after noon to enjoy a ‘Tapas Sharing Plate’ – a selection of hors d’oeuvres including, herb bread, Parma ham, salami, pickled peppers and quails eggs.
For starters there was a choice between crab, smoked salmon and scallion cakes with a red onion compote and Bearnaise sauce’ or corn fed chicken and prosciutto salad, with baby leaves, herb croute, quails eggs and parmesan dressing.’
Everyone in our party opted for the fish cakes, and while red onion compote seemed an unusual accompaniment, it worked.
An excellent zucchini soup with brie croutons followed, then a choice of fillet steak in Barolo wine sauce or pan seared halibut vierge, or arborio risotto for the vegetarian option.
All the steaks were advertised as cooked medium rare, which seemed an unusual stipulation, but no-one in our party minded and the steak was very, very good.
Dessert choices included summer pudding with clotted cream or cappuccino creme brulee, both were excellent, followed by coffee and chocolates.
With it being the opening day of the new lounge, guests were also treated to a rendition of the intensely moving Ballad of Dixie Dean, written and performed by a winner of the John Lennon Song Writing Award, Gerry Markey.
And CDs of one of the last interviews the legendary marksman ever gave were circulated around the room.
Of course the success of the Dixie Dean Suite, regardless of the quality of the cuisine or service, will rely heavily on what happens after the plates have been cleared away – and on what is served up on the pitch.
On the opening day of the season that fare could accurately have been described as ‘tripe’; a home defeat by newly promoted Queens Park Rangers coming hot on the heels of Liverpool’s late victory at Arsenal, all screened in high definition on numerous screens around the Suite.
But there will have been nowhere more sumptuous inside Goodison Park to drown supporters’ sorrows than the Dixie Dean Suite.
The most fitting tribute you can pay the new lounge is that it does the great man justice.
Package prices for the Dixie Dean Suite have been reduced for the 2011/12 campaign. Seasonal membership is still available from £4,995+VAT per person and supporters can also enjoy individual matches, with prices starting from £275+VAT.
For more information call 0151-530-5300, email email@example.com or visit evertonfc.com/exec