Deanes Howard Street - The Restaurant Pimp

Posted: 5/11/2012

Every now and then life has a way of throwing up extra special days!  Days that are surreal and little out of the ordinary. Days that exceed our highest expectations and last very long in the memory.  The last Sunday in September was one of those days for The European Ryder Cup Team.  When 12 brave golfers performed one of the greatest comebacks in sport and clawed back one of history’s most famous victories from the wide jaws of defeat.  At close of play on the Saturday night who would have given Olazabal’s men a hope, let’s be honest, very few.  But when the Sunday matches got underway and the dynamic quartet of Donald, Poulter, McIlroy and Rose delivered four blue points on the board, hope transformed into realistic possibility.  An afternoon of tense precision and accuracy from the boys in blue left their fate in the hands of a composed and resolute German – as Europe and the World held its breath, Kaymer held his nerve and stroked home the winning shot. What a putt, what a man, what a comeback and what a day!!! It’ll be a while before we see one like that again, brilliant.

A week after the European triumph, I encountered a day that will certainly last long in the memory. A day that even compared with some of the weird and wonderful escapades I’ve found myself on, stands out as just a little bit special.  On the first Thursday in October I managed to not only eat in one of Northern Ireland’s finest and most famous restaurants – I actually ended up working a full shift in it!  Though don’t panic, I hadn’t forgotten my wallet and wound up doing the dishes, I actually did a bit of cooking.  Yes on this occasion, The Restaurant Pimp’s endless food journey led him to one of Belfast’s very best, for a split shift both eating and cooking at the mighty Deane’s Restaurant, Howard Street.


As I made my way through a busy Belfast city centre and into Deane’s restaurant, I was warmly welcomed by a man who is quite simply the best in the business –Alain Kerloc‘h.  The French restaurant manager is easily one of the most assured, passionate and charming front men the Belfast restaurant scene has ever seen.  After a quick chat and catch up I was directed to a comfortable table in the corner of the room and presented with the restaurants menus.  Deane’s runs several menus during lunch including a 7 course tasting, full a la carte and a recent addition known as the Linen Lunch.  The Linen Lunch is set at £10, incorporating a main course and dessert.  It was quite eye catching with offerings of Salmon, Pork Belly, Mixed Grill and Frito Misto all tempting me.  The main dining room was good and busy for a Thursday lunch time, the layout as pristine as ever with solid wooden floors, deep red painted walls, the odd chandelier and white linen topped tables with gleaming glasses and cutlery.  I always enjoy gazing up at the restaurants pass which is situated at the top of the room, but today that pass took on a whole new meaning.  So with my order placed I sat back awaiting the arrival of my £10 Linen Lunch.

Scallop, Samphire and Pancetta

I kicked of my lunch visit to Deane’s by ordering from the Seafood Bar menu (Not part of the Linen Lunch) Scallop, Samphire and Pancetta.  It was presented on half a shell with a plump, beautifully coloured scallop perched on a bed of samphire.  The scallop smelt amazing, so sweet, just like its flavour, almost caramelised on its exterior, really delicious.  Its sweetness was balanced really well with the salty, almost smoky pancetta and finished with the lingering taste of heavily buttered, crunchy samphire.  Absolutely superb.

Pork – Glazed Belly, Caramelised Shallot, Pain d Epice

For the main event I ordered directly from the Linen Lunch menu Pork – Glazed Belly, Caramelised Shallot, Pain d Epice. It was served on a shallow bowl with a very attractive circle of glistening brown pork belly, topped with a quenelle of pomme purée, arched by an intricate swoosh of the pan d  epice puree, garnished with some micro herbs and a tall stick of crackling. Very impressive.  The pork was so tender, enriched in a sticky sweet glaze, my knife pressed through it so easily and each mouthful was made to be smothered in the pan d epice – a ginger bread type purée, rich, velvety and very moreish, balancing perfectly against the salty pork.  Excellent flavours.  The shallots and crackling gave the dish a nice contrast of soft and crunchy textures which I loved.  Overall it was a very polished and enjoyable dish.  The linen lunch also includes a dessert, which was a small portion of Bread and Butter Pudding with Vanilla Ice cream – sweet, refreshing and a pleasing way end to a an excellent lunch and all for a bargain £10.

Bread and Butter Pudding with Vanilla Ice cream

Fast forward four hours and I found myself walking through the same Belfast streets towards Deane’s Restaurant – but on this occasion I bypassed the front door and made my way through an arched entry way at the rear of the building and into the kitchen.  I was welcomed by Head Chef Simon Toye, who had kindly arranged for John (FoodBelfast) and I to go into his kitchen to take part in a service, do some prep and test some of the dishes we had planned for the upcoming charity nights we were hosting – Bloggers at the Circle.

So with my adopted set of whites and apron on,  Simon took us for a walk of the kitchen, outlining the different sections from starters, seafood, garnish, pastry and finally his own area, the stunning pass.  It was brilliant as he talked us through the different sauces and garnish that goes with different courses off the a la carte, getting to taste and try bits and pieces here and there.  I couldn’t help but continuously ask lots of questions about different products and ingredients that were on display – in fact once we got into the walk in fridge, I was like a kid in a sweet shop with liver parfaits, oysters, foie gras, tapenades and all sorts of wonderful goodness right at my finger tips.

Trimmed Loins of Finnebrogue Venison

Stripped down Lissara Duck – Breast, Leg, Liver & Heart

We quickly commandeered a long prep bench, red boards and got to work.  Simon skilfully showed us how to trim a loin of Finnebrogue venison and strip down a Lissara duck – two of the main ingredients for the Bloggers Night’s.  As John and I slowly worked our way through some of NI’s finest ingredients, we had the best seats in the house as the Deane’s kitchen went into full service mode.  I was surprised at how calm and ordered everything was, with very little shouting or raised voices.  As Simon would call out ‘order on’, a collective response of “Oui Chef” sounded and pans hit the flames.  I was close to the Tasting menu section, over hearing the chat between Eddie Attwell and Pearson Morris as they put the finishing touches on squab pigeon and smoked duck dishes – each plate looking absolutely stunning.

Rib Eye Steak ready for the Char Grill

Trial version of the Scallop dish for Bloggers at the Circle

Trial Version of the Lissara Duck dish for Bloggers at the Circle

Deane’s Restaurant, Howard Street – Head Chef Simon Toye working the pass

Then Simon asked each of us to join him on the pass. The restaurant was filling up and the orders were coming in fast.  The heat felt as though it was coming at you from all angles, hobs and fryers from behind as well as the heat lamps in front.  I hadn’t realised that as well as running the pass, dressing and calling away each plate, Simon also ran the meat section – there was a lot of meat.  It takes great skill and time management to ensure you keep on top of things, let alone try and instruct two amateurs at the same time.  As orders came in, I was asked to oil and season steaks ready for the char grill and John to season pans of scallops. What a great buzz, standing side by side as Mick on garnish would bring forward a tray of potato or spinach and we’d watch Simon go to work on building a plate, dressing and eventually call for service – I loved it.

Pork Dish – plated up by yours truly and served to a paying customer!!!

The evening came to a rousing crescendo when Simon, Head Chef of the famous Deane’s Restaurant in Belfast asked me to plate up a dish for a paying customer – as fate would have it, it was the a la carte version of the Pork I had eaten earlier.  I’ll not lie to you, I did feel the pressure, not in the same league as Martin Kaymer, but the hands were shaking a little.  There was a swoosh of pan d epice puree, garnish of potato, beautiful pink Iberico Pork loin and an arching piece of belly, shallots and finally the sauce.  A watchful eye from Simon turned into a nod of approval and I echoed those famous words, “Service Please!”  A moment that will last with me for a very long time and a day I could re live a thousand times over!!!

So that was my split shift at Deane’s.  It continues to be an absolutely first class restaurant and offers a dining experience to Northern Ireland that is truly second to none .  The staff out front led by Alain are incredibly clued in and knowledgeable, whilst remaining friendly and welcoming.  The food on the plate also continues to shine.  The dishes I seen Simon putting out during the evening service looked superb, really classic, packed with rich ingredients and very well composed.  As a Head Chef Simon is solid as a rock, very skilled and in control of a small, but extremely well drilled team and as a result the place is rammed with smiling customers.  He’s the type of guy you would fully trust on an 18th green with a viewing gallery of over a billion people – he’d deliver the goods.  As for the linen lunch, it was excellent, such great value at £10.  If you haven’t been to Deane’s in a while or never visited before, pop in for the linen lunch and a nice glass of wine and you’ll still walk away with change from £20 – you never know, it may even be plated up by an excited blogger!!!


Would I Pimp this Restaurant???

This place doesn’t need Pimping – it sells itself.

Beautiful dining room, excellent staff and delicious food.

Nothing more to say!

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