Cost of living crisis bites for Michelin-starred Belfast restaurant
Michael Deane’s one-Michelin-starred Eipic in Belfast has announced that it will close at the end of this year as it struggles to pass soaring operating costs onto its customers.
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Having opened in 1997 and gained its star within a year (under the name ‘Deanes’), Eipic has been a fixture of fine dining in Northern Irish fine dining for more than a quarter century. The Michelin Guide says of the restaurant: “Top quality seasonal ingredients are sourced or foraged as locally as possible, and the assured modern cooking has a creative edge and some original flavour combinations.”
However, in what is becoming all too apparent when looking at the UK’s hospitality landscape, a culmination of factors in recent years have made business unviable, chiefly the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit, and inflation/the cost of living crisis.
Head chef Alex Greene told CNN: “People have an expectation when walking through the doors. The cost of delivering that expectation has doubled since lockdown, the cost has spiralled out of control. And we can’t double the price.”
At present, the Sample Tasting Menu, which consists of courses including a cheese dumpling with sable & onion seed, John Dory with a Champagne yeast beurre blanc and Baronscourt estate venison, costs £100, with a further £8.50 per glass for each suggested wine pairing, certainly not an unreasonable price compared to the tasting menus of other restaurants of that calibre.
Some restaurateurs have taken the opposite approach in order to keep drawing customers in despite them tightening the purse strings. Jason Atherton suddenly slashed prices at Pollen Street Social in Mayfair, having steadily increased them before to cover rising ingredient, energy and staff costs.
A spokesperson for Eipic revealed that the restaurant is fully booked between now and its closure on 16 December.
Greene and Eipic general manager Bronagh McCormick have announced that after it shuts they will be starting a new, more affordable culinary venture in Northern Ireland’s rural area of Mourne. Greene told CNN of the decision: “People are willing to travel from the city or anywhere for good food and good accommodation. And the costs of doing it in the countryside are significantly lower than in the city.”