Belfast Bites - Deanes Seafood Bar

Posted: 13/3/2012

Ugh, thank goodness February is over. No offence to the normally harmless month, but thanks to a hectic mixture of work, training courses and minor illnesses we’d had enough of February half way through it.

With all that behind us, it was a relief to finally get into town over the weekend and grab a bite to eat.  Having just completed a lengthy shop (the kind where Mr. Bites is left in the Apple store, while Mrs. treks around House Of Fraser) we were suitably starving when we sat down at a window seat in Deane’s Seafood Bar on Howard Street for a long overdue lunch.

The space they have created is beautiful. Doubtless helped by the rare sunny day, the whole place was flooded with light from the huge windows and immediately evoked a Mediterranean seaside bistro. Even the menus with their ‘hand drawn’ fonts bought into this charming, summery vibe that was hundreds of miles from the grey clad building we had stepped inside.

The menu reads predominantly simple and fresh. No raw bar, but most of the common sea dwellers show up at some point, with a steak thrown in the mix to satisfy the usual non-seafood eater in a group.

First up for us were the oysters (£2.25 each); a lovely crisp shell of tempura, with a dash of a Thai sweet chilli sauce and sprinkling of sesame seeds on top. As tasty a bite as it was, sadly the oyster itself was lost in the stronger flavours.

The whitebait (£4) suffered a similar fate from a breadcrumb batter that turned the delicate morsels into something of a micro fish finger. Again, they were tasty, but a dusting of flour is all the little critters need to be shown at their best.

The grilled scallop (£3.50) arrived perfectly cooked like a plump marshmallow resting on a bed of samphire and pancetta chunks with a light hint of garlic. Truly excellent preparation and a perfect piece of ‘tapas’ - the best scallop since Mourne Oyster Bar’s ceviche!

Our final starter (yes, we’re still going) was the bowl of crevettes (£6.50) in a rich garlic butter with a serving of sourdough bread. Fat prawns loaded onto that glorious bread… fantastic.

When it came to mains, we were surprised to find that the £6.50 lunch is still on offer at the weekend, so picked a couple to try. The salt and chilli squid came in the kind of light batter that would have suited the whitebait - a lightly seasoned crust with well cooked chunks of squid beneath, a few crunchy tentacles thrown in there for good measure. The accompanying chilli jam completed a great implementation of the classic combination.

The crab mayonnaise on toast was another winner. While at first the chips seemed superfluous, throw one onto the toast the whole thing works. Bright, fresh crab meat, hot crunchy chips - this is a great lunch in itself.

With room (just about) for a shared dessert, the choice was a no brainer; bring on the key lime pie (£5)! Arriving as a deconstruction of meringue, creamy lime curd and trail of chocolate crumb, this was almost perfect… but fell down at the most important piece, the curd was simply not limey enough. Whack a bit more citrus in there, ramp up the tartness and you have one of the best desserts in town. But just because it wasn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it wasn’t seriously good.

From first sitting down to grabbing our shopping and leaving, the whole place was bunged, but the attentive service seemed to take it all in its stride. Overflow tables found themselves redirected to Deane’s ‘proper’ next door where the same menu was available, but there was something about the combination of the brilliant white dining room, menu, casual bar and bustle that was really quite special. Fresh Sardines in beach cafe in Greece, squid on a roof terrace in Cyprus… that feeling is available right now in Belfast city centre.

Would we go back? Superb lunch and really great feeling to the place. We’re pretty sure it wasn’t just the sunshine that made the Seafood Bar feel special - I guess we’ll just have to head back some rainy day…

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