Eating In: DeanesToGo at Belfast's Dean and Decano offers tasty lockdown treats for collection
Deane and Decano
537 Lisburn Road
028 9066 3108
THE lockdown has entered the sentimental phase of missing the stuff that doesn't matter, but really does. I miss going out for something to eat – but I'm only sentimental about one restaurant.
The first time I went, in 2003 – on the first anniversary of meeting the fool who would later marry me – it was called Restaurant Michael Deane. We've been every year since, as it morphed into Deanes and then Eipic, making its way from the intimate room up the stairs of its Howard Street home when the man himself was wrangling the pans, down to its present home in what was, back then, next door. Alex Greene, all-conquering destroyer of the most recent series of Great British Menu, heads the kitchen now.
But I'll never review Eipic. I like it too much. I'm not worried about being disappointed – I never have been. Nor am I worried about being recognised and treated any differently than always – like royalty – no matter how much I fold my arms and scowl.
I just want it to always mean what it always has. Yes, the lockdown has entered the sentimental phase.
A couple of weeks ago, they launched Eipic at home: £50 a head for a Michelin Star meal delivered by Alex Greene himself. Sounds well, right up my street, but I'd rather wait until I can experience everything; the food, the service, the cocktails, the people, the restaurant.
In the meantime, there's also DeanesToGo – and that's another matter. The base of operations is Deane and Decano on the Lisburn Road in Belfast. After ordering and paying over the phone, you're handed your food at the door as another member of staff patrols inside, kitted out like they should be dancing behind Kylie Minogue in the Can't Get You Out of My Head Video. It's a reassuring precautionary sight. And the food is reassuringly Deanes.
Deane and Decano is the Italian wing of Michael Deane's empire. It offered takeaway, way back a hundred years ago when people were allowed to sit inside. The menu now contains a nod to that – the lasagne – but offers a broader bistro-type selection; chicken liver pate and goat's cheese salads among starters that range from £6 to £9; a burger and wedges, curry and rice, salmon fillets in the £9.50 to £12 range of mains; chocolate truffle tart for dessert. They'll also do you a Sunday lunch.
It's listed as a starter, but the prawn risotto is both £9 and enormous, with a rice and prawn as perfectly cooked as you would expect, swimming in a rich, briny stock with an aniseed base line from the shaved fennel.
The salt and chilli squid, on a spiky red cabbage coleslaw, is still crisp and hot enough, having survived its just over 10-minutes trip back to the house, and disintegrates softly under the crack of its coating.
Cubes of beef fall apart in a pepper sauce, laced with mushrooms and onions, begging to be soaked up by mash so buttery it could pass for an Antrim or Donegal shirt (just while we're on the subject of missing the stuff that doesn't matter, but really does).
A blush-pink piece of salmon with a warm potato salad and al dente green veg is light and fresh, which is just as well because that chocolate tart plumbs all the depths a chocolate tart should plumb. A crisp base under a smooth square of ganache, not too sweet – that's what the Chantilly cream with it is for. Let yourself sink in.
The menu, including prices, has been tweaked and appears to be a work in progress, but you can be sure that whatever you get will sustain you for whatever the next phase of lockdown may bring.
Guinness wheaten bread £5
Salt and chilli squid £7
Prawn risotto £9
Peppered beef and creamed potato £10
Salmon and potato salad £10
Seasonal vegetables £3
Chocolate truffle tart x2 £10