Michael Serves Up Winner; Fitzgerald's World

Article excerpt

Northern Ireland's finest restaurant finally disclosed its ambience and superb cuisine to me during a celebratory lunch in the heart of downtown Belfast,

Deane's which has been open for some time downstairs, is already being hailed as one of the finest establishments of its kind in all-Ireland and is much the envy of restaurateurs and entrepreneurs both in Ireland and elsewhere.

And with the publicity attending on Michael Deane's marriage to UTV charmer Kate Smith, a table in the upstairs restaurant is virtually unobtainable without pre-booking, even in the slack mid-Summer silly season, is virtually unobtainable.

With its emphasis on five course business lunches and a traditional menu, once the cornerstone of commercial deal clinching, Deane's has brought back the ambience of the business and commercial world but today, leaner, fitter, faster and more in tune with the times.

Indeed, the business lunch at Deane's is definitely booming: the brasserie at street level serves a staggering 220 lunches per day in its bustling, informal scenario: with its Roman column and marble dominated ambience - more Antiqua than Roma - it deliberately aims at a vibrant social environment that's widely affordable.

Menus, too, although reflecting the international top-class cuisine offered by this Michelin Star award winning chef-patron, are within reach of most pockets..

The restaurant boasts two glass-fronted kitchens, through which patrons can watch their gourmet dishes being created. I was a guest when Michael, whose international reputation has made Belfast a focal point on the world gourmet map, unveiled his much more traditional, top of the art, upstairs restaurant. It has a superb ambience designed to enshroud and project the finest in up-market and traditional cuisine encased largely in a French orbit.

A huge, dark mahogany reception bar; surrounded by antique relaxing pre- dinner and mirrored aperitif furniture makes one feel easy amid the finest of international surroundings. The dining room is also reflected in vast antique mirrors, emphasing the discreetly -lit and beautifully orientated furnishings of soft purple and gold hangings - traditional top of the range restaurant furnishings which would have delighted such great chefs as Escoffier.

As for the cooking, Escoffier and every other great chef in history, would surely have been delighted to have been guests at the celebratory opening banquet where we ate a carpaccio of salmon with a chilli, ginger and lobster oil, supported by a superb New Zealand Hunters Sauvignon Blanc white wine; a mind bending fillet of beef, and a rare Rhone red wine were the set pieces but cooked as they were in the great tradi-

tions of le Grande Cuisine, they bid fair to establish Deanes and its proprietor, Michael (of that ilk) and partners Brian and Linda Smith are now established on the international cuisine map and in turn, and tell the world, as Michael has done already when he coached the Northern Ireland team to win a gold medal at international cuisine competitions, that Belfast and Northern Ireland can now offer food, service and gourmet ambience that is the equal of anything of its kind anywhere in the world. …