Deanes’ Meat Locker – 5 reasons why your ££ will be better spent elsewhere

I’ve previously written about Deanes’ Deli, which I found to be quite average. Given Deanes’ popularity and good reviews, I decided to give Deanes a second chance, hence we headed to the Meat Locker yesterday for their pre-theatre menu.

The experience was disappointing at best, and I can hereby conclude that Deanes is among the most grossly overhyped restaurants in Belfast.

Here are five reasons why your money will be better spent elsewhere:

1. Average taste
Deanes once had a Michelin-star – and I can understand why they lost it. E’s free range turkey with roast chestnuts, sage & onion butter was dry, “lacked flavour” and had a strange, slightly sour taste – harsh words coming from a man who rarely criticises food.

My twice cooked beef rump with pearl onions came with a nice marrow, red wine and thyme jus, but the beef itself was quite ordinary. Also, our Walter’s smoked salmon starter with horseradish cream, buttery croutons and watercress tasted like something I could have made at home – there was nothing outstanding in the combination of flavours or ingredients.

Warning also that their champ is extremely salty, and the chives extraordinarily sharp and raw – ill-advised unless you’re a chive-lover.

2. Nondescript presentation
For a restaurant of its reputation, Deanes’ dishes were surprisingly plain. I’ve had better presented food anywhere else in Belfast, as dressing the plates at Deanes required absolutely no skill whatsoever – the starter simply featured the various ingredients scattered atop a smoked salmon square, while our mains were just slices of meat with sauce. Disappointing.

3. Small portion sizes
I wasn’t at all hungry when I went to the Meat Locker, having been snacking in the office all day. However, that didn’t stop me from polishing off the insubstantial salmon starter and the small piece of beef rump that was my main, plus a side of champ.

It tends to be that the fancier a restaurant (tries to be), the smaller its portion sizes. I definitely don’t think that the ten or so beef-dripping chips we ordered as a side warranted a whole £4. Also, I might have minded less if the mains came dressed with some trimmings – for example, Home’s tiny portion of lamb was accompanied by kale, barley and beetroot, which made the dish more substantial – but at Deanes there was no such luck. As described above, it was literally just meat with sauce.

4. Considerable price tag
Deanes is not cheap – our two course pre-theatre menu, two sides and a glass of Coke came up to £62, including a compulsory 10% service charge.

Given the plain presentation, ordinary tasting food and small portion sizes, Deanes is definitely on the pricey side, and £10 less per head is probably a better reflection of the true value of the dining experience at Deanes.

5. Somewhat flaky service
We were one of two occupied tables that evening, but for some reason the next two groups that arrived were seated right beside us, even though the restaurant was more than three-quarters empty and still hadn’t filled up when we left around 6.30pm. It was not pleasant to be seated so close to other diners in an empty restaurant, and I do not understand why Deanes did that.

I also resented the fact that 10% service charge was automatically added to our bill, when hardly anywhere else in Belfast has this practice. The service received wasn’t particularly outstanding either. Sure, the courses came out quickly, but it was from the set menu after all. Deanes also initially overcharged us by about £20 as they’d keyed in the salmon main instead of the salmon starter, and it was shocking to receive a bill for £84.

The only other place I’ve been to that added service to the bill was Mal Maison – but I was totally fine with it because a) it’s a hotel; b) the service was polished (couldn’t say the same of Deanes); c) we had a nice booth seat away from other diners; and d) our meal was excellent.

Conclusion

There many other better restaurants to dine in than Deanes. I strongly encourage all readers to take your money elsewhere, and try out other better yet cheaper restaurants in the city, such as Coco or 4th Wall. If you’re happy with the price range, eat at Home instead, or get yourself something really nice at Mourne Seafood.

Whatever you do, don’t spend good money on average food – life’s too short and calories too precious to be wasted like that.

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