Belfast Chef Michael Deane infuses traditional Irish dishes with French cuisine, earning his restaurants a glowing reputation and a Michelin star.
He may have a Michelin star, but Northern Ireland’s top-rated chef and restaurateur Michael Deane still likes his dishes to be straight up and hearty.
Deane, 47, cut his teeth working at some of London’s top venues including Claridge’s, with stints in Germany and Thailand before returning to his native Northern Ireland.
In 1997 he won his first Michelin star at his earliest venture, Deanes on the Square, which was run out of a converted railway station in the coastal village of Helen’s Bay.
Since then, his relocated Belfast flagship Deanes has held onto that rating every year since 1998, though Deane has opened three other restaurants in the city.
A passionate proponent of local produce, Deane, whose fans include Irish rock band U2, spoke about his love of simplicity and the culinary scene in Belfast.
How would you characterise your style of cooking?
Our style in Deanes would be very modern Irish with a slight twist and we would use a lot of French and probably Spanish techniques.
It will be very light, quite visual, but no bullshit.
What defines your restaurants?
The style of each menu and each place will be from the head chef and I oversee.
As long as I was happy with it, the costs are right and the punters (customers) are happy, I let the chef bang away.
They (the head chefs) work hard for their accolades. Derek (Creagh at Deanes) has been with us for four years and he came from Heston Blumenthal and has a brilliant standard of food which turned Irish food on its head.
We have another head chef in the Deli who was trained in Asia. He is more new world, traditional Thai and it is still Irish as well.
Would you be disappointed if you did not win a Michelin star again?
As long as we can deliver in the kitchen and on the floor I think we will fine.
I think a Michelin star becomes an international currency and people take it a bit more seriously.
It depends what way you work it, whether it becomes more commercial or less commercial.
It definitely put us on the map, it definitely helped us.
Is Belfast on the culinary map?
To be honest, no. We are at the top end, there is nobody else really at the top end. I would like to see another couple of Michelin star restaurants.
I think you could do with 10 more restaurants in the middle market. We don’t have a great Italian restaurant, we don’t have great French bistros.
It is hard to go into Belfast on a Sunday and even to find anywhere open. It will change. I think it is a great city. I just want it to be better.
Would you consider yourself a celebrity chef?
I would say celebrated. I don’t like the word celebrity.
Scallops with pickled carrot, watercress and orange vinaigrette
300 ml carrot juice (8-10 carrots sliced into strips),
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 sprig thyme/ tarragon
5 star anise
100 ml water, 100 ml white wine vinegar, 100 ml white wine 250 ml olive oil
1 Put the ingredients into a pan and simmer for 15 minutes.
2 Add sliced carrots and cook until al dente so they have just lost their crunch.
3 Season to taste and leave to cool.
300 g orange segments
400 ml olive oil
4 g salt
8 g sugar
200 ml white wine vinegar
400 ml Sauternes white wine (dessert wine)
600ml orange juice
1 Put sugar, salt, vinegar, thyme & tarragon into a pan and gently reduce by half.
2 Add Sauternes and orange juice and reduce again by half.
3 Add olive oil and simmer for 5 mins, season to taste and leave to cool.
4 Once cool add orange segments.
Scallops (2-4 per person)
1 Heat a small frying pan and add cooking oil.
2 Season scallops with salt and pepper. Place in pan presentation side down (flat side down). Once golden brown add knob of butter and turn scallops over.
3 Remove pan from heat and add a few drops of lemon juice. Dry on kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
4 Arrange scallops on plate surrounded by pickled carrot and dressed with orange segments and vinaigrette. Garnish with watercress and fresh salad.