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Northern Ireland is home to a lot of people, some who have achieved absolutely amazing things and we are a city that supports each other, we take pride in the success of our own, as we navigate to rebuild a city once riddled with terror and hardship.  

This series is about interviewing the people of Belfast, uncovering the gems, the culture and discovering the essence of our city, gems of the past, gone but not forgotten and to really celebrate just how far we have come together

I talked to Michael Deane, Michelin Star Chef and owner of some of Belfast’s most iconic restaurants and brasseries. I begin with the question to him as I will do everyone in the ‘Our Belfast’ series: 

If you had one day left in Belfast: What would you do?

 

Michael started off saying that “we are food and drink people” and never a truer statement has been said of our people, we are in total foodie saturation and honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Michael Deane of course is one of Belfast’s ultimate foodies, he loves to wine and dine with friends and family at eateries across the city, staying true to his support local mantra, as well as welcoming guests to his many restaurants – he is iconic to the trade.

 

“I think food and drink makes Belfast go round” he said and it does, it keeps us going, it has us out and about, enjoying the sites, the people and the atmosphere and that is the advice he has for anyone that is coming to Belfast, enjoy it, soak in the energy, the vibrancy, the culture and the craic. – ’just enjoy the vibe of the city’ 

 

Deanes used to have a “Dine around Deanes” experience that you could book, something Michael said “I do miss” and reflected fondly upon. Even though you can no longer avail of that, he suggests that you head out and ‘have a bite here, there and everywhere’, with a wealth of eateries and bars that spread across the city you are spoilt for choice (check out the best bars in Belfast).

 

A celebrity in Belfast, a pioneer in the food and drink industry, Michael mentions some of his favourite spots in the city and recommends others in the industry that are passionate about Belfast as well.

 

He mentions Bengal Brasserie and Ox among his favourites, as well as his love for Asian cuisine in the city. Michael thinks that the ‘Ethnic restaurants aren’t supported enough in the media’ and urges more media publication on ethnic cuisine and promoting them as the proud Northern Irish restaurateurs that they are, so he goes there and supports them, supports local – now more than ever – “I like to support local” he finished with.

 

What do you remember from back in the day?

 

‘When we first came to Belfast, we lived in Dunmurry…we moved to the Donaghadee/Groomsport area, outside of Belfast and we tended to stay away as the troubles were in full flight. He reflected on when he first opened and remembered “glass coming through the windows” and having to undergo refurbishment – a far cry from the city we know now. 

 

He stated “I think it made us stronger and tougher as a city”, putting it out in black and white ‘we will never forget it, but I am proud having watched us grow out of that state’.

 

“The city was dead, the barriers were up” and now we proudly welcome over 5 million tourists every year to Belfast, bringing £1 billion into the economy in 2019 (Tourism NI Statistics, 2019)

 

We have a long way to go as a  city and Michael thinks that the food and drink industry is going to be the igniting factor in pushing the city to its full potential, and is of the thinking that there needs to be more hospitality establishments in and around the city hall to really have a central hub to the city and pull together the fragments that still exist as we continue to build to a better Belfast.

 

What excites you about the future?

 

A positive outlook from Michael as he reflected on the pandemic, the reassessing of his business, as many had to in the city and how the people of Belfast handled the pandemic restrictions.

 

A man with a great outlook after a tough year, understanding that the people in Belfast have already been through so much having grown up here, he said:

 “They are strong people, and I think the people here will always keep it a vibrant city, an exciting city”

We really are a resilient city, something I am finding is shared by those passionate about Belfast in this series.

 

Why do you think you had such great success?

 

Attributing his success to a good Northern Irish attitude of “kick back, get our head up and prove that we can do the best”

 

Michael reflected on his time abroad starting out his career and how we as people had to prove ourselves, recalling feeling “treated like a thick Paddy”, proving himself and getting to where he is today.

 

Proudly summing up with his view that ‘we are great achievers’ and just unbelievable what he has achieved alongside his wife and son.

 

“I want to leave some sort of legacy that Michael Deane did well in Belfast and he provided a service, not just to the top end”, – a legacy he will most certainly leave for others to continue.

 

“We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner – we aren’t brain surgeons” he said – well, maybe not Michael, but you certainly have pioneered the food and drink industry in Northern Ireland. 

 

I think that I can speak for the city as a whole, certainly those that enjoy the food and drink experiences you provide, for your welcoming approach and for setting down the building blocks for the next generation to continue your legacy and strive to make Belfast bigger and better.

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