I'M always impressed by the power of positive thinking. Take the Village Bistro in Hoole, for example.
This is a terrier of a restaurant that thinks it's a Rottweiler; a flyweight that punches like a heavyweight; a small local bistro that treats food with the same reverence as a top class French establishment.
The Village Bistro is a regular haunt for me and my three friends. We know it as an intimate and non-fussy establishment that has grown in stature through word of mouth and some very impressive cooking.
But what if Jason Shaw, the chef, has a bad night, what if the service isn't as courteous and efficient as usual, what if Paul Geniali, the manager/owner decides he can't stand another Wednesday evening with us wittering on until 11pm and throws us out on to Charles Street in a fit of pique? What if, what if, what if?
Well, it's Wednesday again and we arrive, rather like a good selection of 'dishes' ourselves. We've got one vegetarian, a couple of fish lovers, three meat eaters and four wine drinkers.
The wine is on the table before I've hung my coat up. The conversation is in full flow before I've drunk the first glass.
In the inimitable way that women have, we've covered careers, relationships and the state of the nation in the first half hour - without raising our voices. The rest of the time is divided equally, discussing our children and our men. At this stage in our lives we seem to get more hassle from the latter than we do the former.
Paul hovers with his notepad. I'm relieved that our evenings are always 'girls only'. What if Paul ever let slip a tiny, little criticism he'd overheard from us about one of the men in our lives?
If he does overhear, he never says - he's far too professional - although I suppose he could be jotting it all down as he takes our order (oh no, sorry - that's me).
If I said Polly chose the risotto it would be like describing her as a teacher. In fact she is a headteacher, as well as a governor of another school, an active supporter and campaigner for the local liberal democrats, a loyal friend and a mother. And what she actually ordered was smoked salmon and chive risotto, lemon crème fraiche, chive oil, rocket, parmesan and plum tomatoes (£5.50).
The smoked and salty salmon was a perfect foil for the richness of the cheese and the portion size was just right: 'It left me wanting a little bit more,' said Polly, encapsulating perfectly why the four of us keep coming back to the Bistro again and again.
Both Sarah and Mary ordered grilled asparagus and aubergine, toasted brioche, wilted spinach, pesto, soft boiled egg and lentil sauce (£4.95).
There was a slight difference of opinion here. Mary enjoyed it, Sarah considered the asparagus over-smoked and consequently, the delicate flavour was masked.
As you've probably gathered, Jason is adventurous when it comes to the number and combinations of foods he uses in any one dish - in fact you could say he has a lot on his plate.
But I have heard criticism from some quarters that such attention to detail can take too long to prepare.
In the Village Bistro's defence, the four of us don't come here for fast food. And anyway, the fact that we can finish a carafe of wine before we receive our main courses might say more about us, than it does about the service.
Paul treats each dish with the reverence the chef deserves. I don't know if he Feng Shuis the place settings, but the precision with which he places the dish on the table mirrors the precision of the ingredients arranged on the plate. 'Enjoy', he says and I wonder if he wants to add: 'You'd better appreciate this, or else' (and we do Paul, we do).
We like to visit the Bistro on a Wednesday, if we can, because it offers two courses plus a half carafe of wine for £18.95. But almost every time I come, I pay £2 extra.
I read the menu, I reread it, I ask what everyone else is having and then I order the fillet steak (£2 supplement).
It's not that I'm trying to recreate that perfect summer's evening in Paris when I tasted my first one (medium rare with black pepper sauce), but the memory always comes flooding back as I take that first bite.
In one sense, the English version is better. The steak comes with cauliflower cheese gratin, crushed pea cream, red wine sauce, baby carrots and deep fried basil.
And that, I think, is the Bistro's master touch. No Frenchman I know would think of deep frying his basil. But it's quirky and it works.
Sarah's twice-baked cheddar and wild mushroom souffle was beautifully presented and had a flavour that was pronounced not just good, but 'robust'.
The roasted five spiced monkfish ticked all of Polly's boxes too. 'Firm fish, delicate flavours,' she said.
By the time we were half way through our second carafe of red, we had hit that wonderful part of the evening when you can claim that 'It's the wine talking'.
This is always a good excuse, especially if we were ever to be accused of flirting with Paul - not that we'd dare.
As far as puddings go, we usually share two between the four of us, but there was something about the white chocolate and raspberry crème brûlee (£4.50) that shouted 'Have one all to yourself'. So I did. My three friends shared the other one.
There was a silence as we ate. Let's be honest, nothing can compete with chocolate and raspberries in one delectable dish. Murmurs of 'Give me the recipe please,' echoed around the table.
As usual, we then went through the ritual of choosing another date in our diaries.
'Where shall we go next time?' asks Mary as Paul waited patiently in the background.
After 15 visits from the four 'Cestrian Housewives', plus an award pronouncing the Village Bistro Chester's Small Restaurant of the Year, 2005 he can afford to look confident.
'See you soon,' he says.
And we know it's not a question, but a clear statement of our intent.
Address The Village Bistro, 11 Charles Street, Hoole.
Tel 01244 400400.
Price On a Wednesday evening the special offer is £18.95 for two courses plus half a carafe of wine, with a £2 supplement for fillet steak.
Best thing The adventurous and wonderfully prepared food, coupled with Paul's enigmatic presence.
Worst thing The special offer is only on a Wednesday.
Would suit Ladies who lunch - and dinner.