Only Michael Deane would even think of attempting what has been achieved with aplomb at this acclaimed city centre venue.
Deservedly hailed as Northern Ireland’s premier restaurateur for many years, chef Michael Deane’s Howard Street venue has long been the benchmark by which other restaurants in the region are judged and - although other talented and dedicated people are also raising the bar for Belfast as a top dining destination - it remains a beacon of excellence.
Over the years Michael Deane and his team have effected several transformations with consummate ease, but the current developments are the most ambitious to date - as, behind this iconic Belfast restaurants understated grey exterior, lies not one beautiful restaurant but three: Eipic, The Meat Locker and Love Fish. Each has its own strongly individual personality, united by Deane's trademark professional ambience that is both welcoming and relaxing.
A very grown-up Scandi-chic space - lots of grey and cream with black accents - this fine dining restaurant sports white linen (10 well spaced tables for four), extremely comfortable chairs and sheer curtains that show you the street view but keep it private. It's an elegant, refined space in which to experience the unhurried service of menus offering a choice or 4, 5 or 6 courses (and some surprises in between), and a wine list that should please any wine buff. Head chef Danni Barry worked at Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume before returning to Belfast to work again for her former boss, and her minimalistic tasting menu - which is changed weekly and based on her relationship with hand-picked suppliers - is heavily influenced by foraged, seasonal ingredients. Eipic feels expensive, yet it offers good value.
Executive chef Simon Toye's former restaurant The Inn at Castledawson is still much missed, but Co Derry's loss has been Belfast's gain as this gifted chef has a very steady hand on the helm at Deane's. The formality of linen clad tables is offset by warm colours and informal touches - the linen tea towel napkins with red lettering, the bright red peppermills - and the focal point of this handsome restaurant is along one end of the room where the glassed in meat locker (where joints are hanging, as in a traditional butchers shop) and Asador grill take pride of place. This is where you get to enjoy Peter Hannan's famous 35 day Himalayan salt aged beef and you can watch the chefs at work, preparing the meat as well as cooking it. In this pleasing place you can eat lunch from as little as £6.50 - or indulge from a wide ranging menu that also offers many excellent fish dishes.
Sandwiched between the Meat Locker and Eipic is this enormously popular seafood bar. A light-flooded room which feels like summer on the Cornish coast all year round, it is just the spot to enjoy some of the freshest seafood in Belfast. Expect dishes like salt cod croquettes with garlic mayo, pickled crab salad with fennel and citrus fruit, mackerel with Asian salad, and battered haddock with beef dripping chips & proper tartar sauce on menus that offer some dishes in several sizes, including 'deluxe' sharing platters. The £6.50 lunch also feature here, also house ices charged by the scoop, which is a nice touch - although it would be nice to see local cheeses offered in addition to the current French selection. A well priced wine list - in sections like Green, Tangy and Dry and Raspberries and Strawberries - includes plenty by the glass. Great fun.
Deane and his ever evolving team have for many years spearheaded modern food in Belfast, and continue to provide discerning Northern Ireland diners with a cuisine choice of exceptional quality.
See also: Deanes Deli Bistro; Deanes Deli Vin Café; Deanes at Queens; Deane & Decano.
* Deanes Restaurant was the Guide’s Restaurant of the Year in 2008.