Part of Michelin-starred chef Michael Deane’s Belfast hospitality empire (six restaurants and counting), Deane’s at Queens is his outpost in Belfast’s university quarter. There’s nothing studenty about the cooking, however – this is very much special occasion territory for parents up in town treating their offspring, especially in summer, when the most coveted tables are on the leafy terrace overlooking the Methodist College.
The cooking follows the modern Irish template of traditional combinations of native produce lightened and brightened with influences from around the globe. Start, perhaps, with whiskey maple-cured salmon with braised butter lettuce, samphire and chorizo ragu ahead of grilled duck breast with miso dumpling, chargrilled greens and peanut, soy and sesame. This is a kitchen that can also do classical, though: witness grilled sole with cockles, buttered potato and roast crab sauce.
Puddings take a simpler path – lemon meringue custard tart with raspberries; wild honey panna cotta with spiced syrup, rhubarb and ginger cake – though you may prefer to end your meal in liquid form with a Nespresso Martini , Grasshopper or a glass of sweet Californian Black Muscat.
Vegetarians and vegans, meanwhile, get five dishes each – Grand Padano risotto with buttered vegetables and tapenade, say, or roast beetroot salad with balsamic onion, pickled beetroot and spiced seeds. Kids, meanwhile, get the likes of grilled cod and champ, roast chicken and creamed potato, or a minute steak and chips, while those paying the bill might prefer to visit at lunchtime, when three courses clocks in at £22 and a carafe of wine is £12.
The wine list is helpfully divided by style (light, fragrant and crisp whites; medium-bodied, ripe and smooth reds) with loads of choice under £30 and a trio of magnums for considerably more. Fizz includes sparklers from Portugal, Saumur and Prosecco as well as Forget-Brimont Champagne.