The Circle at Deanes - The Restaurant Pimp

Posted: 13/3/2012

Every now and then you have to take the bull by the horns, roll the sleeves up and make things happen.  That’s exactly what Belfast is doing in 2012 – “Our time, Our place”.  Our capital city is still firmly riding high on the back of a colossal MTV EMA’s wave and in the centenary year of the Titanic that momentum looks set to continue.  It promises to be the year when Belfast steps forward as a vibrant, confident and edgy city, throwing open its doors to attractions both old and new.  The new Titanic centre and old Harland & Wolff drawing rooms will be celebrated in equal measure.  Our hotels, bars and restaurants will have the opportunity to pleasure guests and ensure the true spirit of Belfast is the lasting impression they leave with.  We all have our part to play and I for one will support all of our capital city’s efforts, offer a smile to new friends and embrace the long lasting effects.  Belfast 2012, “Our time, Our place” – Let’s make it happen!!!

Last week I visited a Belfast restaurant which has in it self been a star attraction in the capital city for many years.  It has consistently been at the forefront of the local food scene and its Chef / Proprietor is a man who has certainly taken the bull by the horns and made things happen.  Like the new emerging Belfast, he could well be described as vibrant, confident and edgy.  That Chef is Michael Deane and on this occasion The Restaurant Pimp’s endless food journey led him to Mr Deane’s finest, to the truly outstanding – Circle at Deanes.

As we walked through Belfast City centre on a surprisingly mild March Friday evening, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous.  I wasn’t sure if it was the fact that it was the first time in over 3 months Lady P and I were out for dinner or the shear excitement flowing through me at the prospect of finally sampling the fine dining room located on the first floor of the famous Deanes restaurant, Howard Street, Belfast. The former Michelin star eatery is now offering customers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings  a  4 course meal and cocktail at £39 pps. On entering we were led up a set of stairs to be met by a smiling lady who took care of us for the evening, Bronagh, who asked we have a seat at the bar whilst she poured us a glass of incredibly refreshing Prosecco with Elderflower.  So with one firm clink of a glass and sip of sparkling bubbles my nerves had disappeared and I was soaking up the atmosphere of the stunning Circle at Deanes Gastro Club Bar.

Prosecco & Elderflower

Snacks – Ham Hock Croquettes & Fish Cakes

The space is made up predominantly of rich reds and lush browns.  There are lots of ornate hanging crystal chandeliers and high reaching mirrors.  The bar is a good size and the tall bar stools we are sat at are very comfortable.  There are several tables nestled around the bar area with low riding tables and brown leather chairs.  The lighting is soft and really brings out the classy vibe which the bar has in abundance.  My eyes were attracted to the vast array of whiskey, brandy and spirit bottles perched at different levels along the bar’s mirrored back wall.  Bronagh then returned with Snacks to accompany our bubbles, Ham Hock Croquettes and Thai Fishcakes served on dark slate.  The croquettes were very tasty and offered great crunch with a fluffy flavoursome centre.  The fish cakes had a lovely heat and a fresh coriander after taste – both easily lifted in the hand and perfect snacks to be shared at a bar.


The Circle at Deanes Pass

We were then led through to the Circle dining room for the main event.  Whaow, what an incredible room!  There are solid wooden floors running throughout and the ceilings are very high.  The rich red and lush brown theme continues with long flowing golden curtains and more impressive mirrors adding to the ambience.  The tables are a good size and all topped with white linen, gleaming glasses and cutlery.  There is a single candle lit on each table (about 10 in total) which all helps add to a truly intimate dining experience.  The kitchen pass centres the room and literally feet away I can see Michael Deane, sleeves rolled up ready for action.  Above the pass is a long black board detailing the main ingredient for each of the 4 courses – there is no menu, it’s very exciting and judging by the smell coming from the kitchen, I knew we were in for a real treat.

Freshly Baked Bread with Hand Churned Abernethy Butter

Our evening of gastronomic delight got under way with the arrival of Freshly Baked Bread presented on a wooden board accompanied by local Hand Churned Abernethy Butter.  The stand out bread was the still oven warm wheaten, so fragrant, with a slightly crunchy edge and crumbly centre.  When combined with the nutty flavours of the delicious Abernethy butter – I couldn’t help smile and Lady P and I both agree, the local butter from Dromara, Co Down is as good as we’ve tried in any restaurant in Ireland or beyond.

Pigeon, Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Pate, Foie Gras marinated in port & red wine with Pear chutney

We started with Pigeon Breast, Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Parfait, Foie Gras marinated in port & red wine with Pear Chutney.  It came served on a white long rectangular plate with each element regimentally placed side by side.  Very simple, very attractive.  The Pigeon breast was seasoned to absolute perfection, becoming more and more succulent with every bite, delicious!  The silky smooth parfait spread beautifully on accompanying toasted brioche and it was addictively moreish.  The highlight of the trio for me was undoubtedly the Foie Gras marinated in port and red wine.  Again seasoned perfectly my knife glided effortlessly through the liver, its flavours enriched by the marinade, deep and nutty – washed away with the intense sweetness of the pear chutney, fantastic!  Together the trio delivered an explosion of tastes and textures which I’d happily go out of my way to order again.  Superb!


Scallop, Crab Tart, Crispy Shallots & Seafood Bisque

Our fish course was a delight of Scallop, Crab Tart, Crispy Shallots & Seafood Bisque arriving on a funky green curved glass plate, presenting a pastry tart base, topped with crab meat, garnished with mini onion rings and green micro herbs.  It was flanked by a plump, perfectly seared scallop perched on a bed of crab meat and zig zag of brown bisque.  Pretty as a picture and smelt absolutely divine.  The scallop was seasoned perfectly, the added salt balancing the sweetness of the scallop and crab.  The tart delivered great texture with the crunchy pastry, soft crab and dissolve in the mouth crispy shallots a real joy.  This dish was worth the entry fee alone.

Daube of Beef, Fillet, Beetroot, Celeriac & bone marrow stuffing

The main event was the most visually stunning dish of our visit, Daube of Beef, Fillet, Beetroot, Celeriac & bone marrow stuffing. Lady P and I both loved the look of it, with the bone marrow stuffing arched like a golden ray of sunshine at the top of the plate.  Its beauty was easily matched by the intensity of its flavours, the slow braised Daube Beef smothered in sweet beetroot liquor and the salty bone marrow stuffing a perfect balance.  The fillet of beef was so juicy and was made to be covered in the celeriac puree, releasing an almost truffle flavour on the palate.  The wine offering with this course was the standout also (we paired wines for £20pps) a Spanish Condado De Haza. The Tempranillo grape enlivened the main course 100%, leaving a silky smooth, lightly smoked flavour.  I loved the wine so much I literally rushed out the next day to buy a bottle – perfect main, perfect wine & perfect match!

The service all evening, primarily delivered by the charming Bronagh, was second to none.  Her passion and enthusiasm for both food and wine, coupled with her knowledge of the restaurants produce and cooking methods was infectious.  I happily got lost in conversation on the finer details of each course and how the chosen wines added to flavours and the overall dining experience.  It was professional and attentive, but above all else, in this beautiful dining room extremely relaxed and sincere.  I’m happy to go on the record and say alongside The River Room at Galgorm, this is the best service I have received in Northern Ireland and it’ll ensure the Circle at Deanes in its current format will grow from strength to strength.

Rhubarb & Chocolate

We wrapped up proceedings with Rhubarb & Chocolate, presented on a round white plate with a small dome of deliciously runny Chocolate Fondant forming a seamless circle with bright pink rhubarb and sorbet on a bed of praline mix.  No point in messing about with desserts and at The Circle they truly obliged.  It looked pretty, the fondant oozed with gooey chocolate and its rich sweetness contrasted well with the sharp sorbet.  The praline mix offered nice texture and it was a refreshing way to end a meal.  Nothing more to add, I loved it.

Funky Tea Pot

Petit Fours

The best deal in town????

This was exactly the dining experience I had hoped for at The Circle at Deanes.  It was great to see Michael Deane along with one other chef, run such an intimate service, cooking each dish to order and spoiling each of his guests.  The food was exceptional, the seasoning on each course was judged to absolute perfection.  Lady P and I were both blown away with the depth of flavours, each course just got better and better.  They were certainly classic in their make up and composition, but delivered on the taste sensation, big time!  I take my hat off to Michael, he’s obviously taken a look at the local scene and thought long and hard about what the people of Belfast truly want – people still want to eat out, but they want it to offer value for money and quality of product.  So to open The Circle at Deanes, in its current format, definitely offers Belfast affordable fine dining at the very highest level.


Would I Pimp this Restaraunt???

When I launched my website I did so with the mindset, “If I like it, I like to tell people about it”.

Well folks, not only did I like The Circle at Deanes, I absolutely loved it!

The standard of food, service and ambience is of the highest level.

Recently on Twitter someone tried to convince me that “Recession food is tastier!”  If that is in fact the case, then a fun filled cocktail followed by 4 courses of brilliance, with extras for £39 – may just be the tastiest meal I have ever had in Belfast.

“Our time, Our place” – Well technically it was Michael’s place and we had a great time!

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