Michael Deane to create 30 jobs with expansion of flagship restaurant
Belfast restaurateur Michael Deane is creating 30 new jobs as he expands his Howard Street flagship in a £0.5m investment.
The chef is opening a new fine dining restaurant and a meat-dominated eatery next month after the business took over the former home of fancy goods shop, Equinox.
Eipic Restaurant, and an accompanying Billecart Champagne Bar in partnership with wine merchant James Nicholson, will be at the heart of the expanded empire.
Mr Deane said his existing group of restaurants – Deane and Decano, Deanes at Queen's, Deane's Deli and Deanes – had just enjoyed "their best Christmas for six years".
He said he had poured some of his own cash into the new venture but that it was mainly funded by Danske Bank.
The extension will house The Meat Locker, which will include an Argentinian grill and is inspired by east London's Hawksmoor, a critically-acclaimed steak restaurant.
It will feature a 'salt wall' for dry-ageing beef, to be built by Peter Hannan of Hannan Meats. And the sea food restaurant at Howard Street will be extended and rebranded Love Fish.
Mr Deane said the high-end market had almost disappeared in the city. "We are going to have a big crack at it, and we've come a long way since we started in 1993. But in five or six years of recession, the high-end has kind of disappeared.
"We have a reasonable deal on the building. If we hadn't done it someone else would have, and we would have lost ground.
"I don't like the word 'fine dining' but it will be 30 seats for dinner only, aimed at a price point of around £50 per head."
While he said he wanted to avoid a stiff atmosphere, a certain amount of ceremony was necessary. "I like a nice tablecloth, nice chair, nice cutlery, nice wine glass with nice wine in it. That should be the recipe for success. I want to try and bring that back."
As to whether he'd wish to regain the Michelin star which Deanes lost two years ago, he said: "That's always a strange question. It's not up to me, but I would like to think there'd be three to four in Belfast over the next few years."
Howard Street has become home to a growing number of restaurants – Flame and Howard Street are recent openings – though Mr Deane's spot is the longest-established.
Belfast Telegraph food critic Joris Minne said: "The way restaurants seem to be entering 2014 is through consolidation of their brands." He cites Deanes, Bill Wolsey's Beannchor Group and Niall McKenna of James Street South, as examples of firms making use of their brand strength.