Deane’s Love Fish restaurant review: Restaurant creating waves with seafood
Restaurants make a town or a village, a village or a crossroads. Pubs in Ireland once gave the stamp of identity to a place, but while that may still be the case in some areas, restaurants are now the landmark of communities across the island.
And when you get a bunch of them in one place, you’ve created a culinary capital which is what Belfast has become. For all his complaints about the government’s lack of attention to the restaurant industry in recent years, chef boss Michael Deane has shown that determination and attention to detail make greatness, whatever the economic climate. He made his mark.
Its city center restaurants, Eipic, Love Fish and Meat Locker (there are two more just south of the city, Deane’s at Queen’s in the University Quarter and Deane & Decano on Lisburn Road) are now as much a Belfast feature than the city hall itself. Consistency is everything for a restaurant and maintaining a Michelin star at Eipic for 13 years is an Irish record.
This sense of quality rubs off on the small neighboring restaurant Love Fish. So you’ll find that even the long-running £6.50 lunch – a choice of grilled bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with chips, sourdough soup of the day or fishcake with tomato tartare, salad and lemon – is not only high quality but ample too.
Lunch in Love Fish is one of those Belfast experiences that everyone should enjoy and at this democratic price it is more than accessible. Elsewhere on the lunch menu, the prices are perhaps less modest, but they are not shocking either.
A plate of white, crispy, golden, salty and tart bait with a dollop of citrus mayonnaise is a must-have snack. But it’s not a minimalist snack, artistically arranged to appear important, meaningful and life-changing. It’s actually a full starter that, with a slice of that sourdough, would pass for a lunch on its own.
Yet sometimes the pricing seems unbalanced. Whitebait for £6 and £5.50 for Abernethy Seaweed Butter Wheat Bread.
The generosity, however, is evident elsewhere. No need to go past the small plates at lunchtime. The salt and chili squid with Asian salad, wasabi and lime mayonnaise is a bountiful plate of spicy delights. Of the small plates, this is the most expensive at £11.50.
An open sandwich of prawns on wheat with cucumber and lettuce matches volume for quality, as does seafood chowder, steamed Strangford mussels (mouclade style with coconut curry and sourdough) and a dish of prawns, chorizo, dried tomatoes, capers and recurring wheat. All of these are under £11.
But if your group are real grubbers, the full-size plates might be needed. I’ve tried most of them and there isn’t one that I haven’t had yet.
Fish pie with parmesan-glazed mash and buttery greens, scampis and fries with tartare, lemon and house salad, beer-battered haddock and fries with pea mash, and for your friends who don’t like the fish can join the party, a grilled rump of beef with red wine sauce and fries which is the most expensive item on the menu at £26.50, everything is there to satisfy the foodie as well as the gourmet.
It all takes place in a bright and naturally lit dining room which makes it all the more like lunch. Service is, as expected, polite, but informal and relaxed. More importantly, it is comfortable and even more so since it offers a warm sanctuary in the heart of the city.
There can be a traffic chaos just beyond the front door, but here everything is light, good craic and quality. The very essence of Belfast.