Deanes Deli, Bedford Street – reputation precedes quality

I’ve never tried any of the multiple Deanes establishments in Belfast, hence was lured by the reasonably priced lunch menu at Deanes Deli on Bedford Street and chose it as our lunch venue.

Its interior is classier than the casual chic that I was expecting from a deli. In fact, in spite of its name, Deanes Deli would be completely suitable as a venue for business lunches – especially if you don’t want to look as if you’re trying too hard to impress your guest.

The menu had a wide selection of options – about 4 different sandwiches, 2 salads, 2 hot vegetarian choices (a risotto or pasta), 2 fish and 1 meat at least – which is a nice change from the limited menu that most restaurants in Belfast offer. However, so spoilt for choice were we that four of us ordered the fish and chips, with just one having the basil pesto pasta and another going for the sea trout (a special of the day).

The beer battered fish and chips (£9.50) came out looking slightly overcooked at a shade darker than golden brown. However, the fish was crisp and moist on the inside – just right in spite of its colour. I’m not sure what fish was used, but it was a flatter fish than the usual haddock or cod and was delicious, if a little too salty*.

The mushy peas that accompanied the fish were more accurately “peas, mushed up” – I’m not a fan of the raw taste of peas, but the others loved it. I was told that the chips in Deanes’ Love Fish restaurant were the best in town hence was hoping they used the same recipe here, but unfortunately those at Deanes Deli were so-so and just a tad dry.

The fish and chips came in a good sized portion – just right for me to be able to polish off everything without being too full – although I can’t say the same for the sea trout special of the day (£17). It came with some potatoes, broccoli and a cream sauce and seemed like too much money for the amount of food served.

Overall, I’m still not convinced about Deanes in general. It seems like a restaurant that serves decent enough food, but it’s not spectacular or particularly good value for money – the Northern Whig, for example, has what I think is the best tasting fish and chips so far in a larger portion for just £7.95.

Perhaps Deanes’ Love Fish and Meat Locker on Howard Street will provide a better dining experience, but anecdotal reviews suggest that their reputation comes with a premium on price that isn’t matched by a corresponding increase in the quality of food. This brings to mind Shu on Lisburn Road, which was recently named the Best Restaurant in Northern Ireland for a 3rd consecutive year. The announcement stumped me, as I ate there last December and wouldn’t really recommend it to others, much less deem it as being the best restaurant in the country (read my review here).

But well – there’re many other restaurants in Belfast that others rave about for reasons I don’t understand. Perhaps I should move on from Deanes and start thinking about where we should eat next instead!

*: In fact, I’m finding food here too salty on so many occasions, and in so many establishments, that I’m actually wondering if it’s my taste buds that have become more sensitive to salt rather than a fault of the food itself. However, fast food like McDonald’s and Burger King don’t seem any saltier than they’ve been though, and overly salty food had never been an issue before I moved here. Perhaps I will only find out for sure when I’m back home in later this year. 

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