He wooed his wife with his culinary skills, now Eddie Dean is set on seducing a town. The self-taught chef and partner Victoria have transformed two charity shops in the heart of St Helens into The Dean, a stylish bar and restaurant which they are determined will become a fine-dining destination.
“Why should people have to go to Liverpool or Manchester to get good food? asks Eddie. “We want to create an exciting dining experience which will encourage people from those areas to come here!
“A friend described our food as ‘flavour re-imagined’ and that sums up our ethos perfectly. We want to offer people the chance to relax and enjoy amazing food in a great environment, and we are passionate about making it a success.”
Food has always been a passion for Eddie, but his love cooking was re-ignited in recent years.
He says: “My grandfather was a chef and my mum used to spend her weekends baking cakes, so I suppose it’s always been in the family.
“I had a reputation for barbecuing and cooking on a basic level, but I used to travel, and I loved eating and trying new foods. As my palate became more complex, I began to experiment more in the kitchen – and I loved it.”
Retiring because of injury from the Armed Forces in 1995, the 48-year-old set up an aluminium company; but it was perhaps after meeting Victoria seven years ago that the ingredients to fine-hone his skills and create restaurant dreams were added to the mix.
The pair, both divorced, met on Match.com and instead of taking his date to a restaurant Eddie decided to cook for Victoria, 49, a former children’s nursery owner.
“I can still remember the first meal I made for her,” he smiles, “oysters, followed by monkfish in an olive tapenade, and meringue and pannacotta for dessert.”
“I thought it then and I have said it since,” says Victoria, who retired to travel and take a back seat from work! “Eddie’s cooking rivalled any I had eaten elsewhere.”
Fabulous food and a friendly welcome at The Dean
Encouraged by his new wife – Eddie and Victoria married in 2014 – Eddie began to immerse himself in his love of cooking, becoming increasingly adept and creative: “The more I practised, the more I pushed myself and I’d wake up at the crack of dawn with recipe ideas,” he says.
The couple put his growing knowledge and experience to the test, hosting supper clubs at their home, charging £30 a head to cover ingredients; and Eddie applied to be a contestant on Masterchef, getting to the final stages but just missing out on a place on TV. “I was disappointed, but it accelerated the idea to open a restaurant,” adds Eddie.
The Dean launched in Barrow Street on March 20, carpeted throughout to create a cosy but sophisticated design, helped by chic furnishings and chandeliers: “We’ve even got Versace in the toilets,” smiles Victoria.
Eddie has enlisted the help of other chefs and Robert McAllister, former head bartender at Michelin-starred Moor Hall in Aughton, to create a winning team; while Victoria is looking after front of house and entertainment for the restaurant and piano bar, which will have music complementing the food and experience.
A menu based on fresh seasonal produce
The menu will change seasonally and be reasonably priced to ensure everyone can enjoy the “modern, high-end cusine”.
Pre-starters and bar snacks include dishes like crispy ham hock with chilli caramel sauce, fish bites with sauce gribiche, confit duck bon bon with plum sauce and home cooked bread with balsamic oil and home churned butters; while starters will feature Scallop Three Ways with pea and bacon, corn and chilli, cumin and game chip, goats cheese with red wine poached pear and hazlenut crumb and crab ravioli with lobster bisque sauce.
Curried monkfish with red lentil dahl, Bombay potatoes and raita; lamb rump with crispy sweetbreads, fondant potatoes, purple-sprouting broccoli and lamb jus, and sweet potato gnocchi with warm smoked tomato and garlic ketchup, rocket and parmesan salad will delight from the mains.
Desserts include salted caramel fondant with pancetta ice cream and honeycomb and rum and rhubarb, Amaretto and cherry, and blackberry gin cocktail cheesecake sliders.
Carefully selected wines and Champagnes have been chosen, and the couple have invested in an Enomatic dispenser which perfectly preserves wines and means guests can treat themselves to a glass of some of the finest and rarest vintages.
“We want everything to be the best,” they echo. While Eddie confirms: “Everything from our butters, our bread, our sauces and our chutneys have all been home made.
“My personal challenge is to get St Helens its first rosette and, after time, who knows… even more.
“The important thing is to present people with a quality taste experience and we promise that the best will get even better. There’s so much more to come.”
The Dean, Barrow St, St Helens, 01744 362566,