Places To Eat In Deal: The Blue Pelican

Tamagoyaki on an orange plate topped with smoked eel and sea vegetables.

Well, I know it technically opened in November, but I’m going to go out and say it that The Blue Pelican in Deal is one of the most exciting new openings in Kent this year. Everyone has been talking about it this audacious little modern Japanese restaurant in a converted townhouse on the seafront has been garnering national attention, but then again everyone a few years ago was talking about their sister restaurant The Rose which I found rather lacklustre – I’m happy to report that this time that our lunch lived up to all the hype, so much so that I’m already booked in again next week and I’ve been raving about it to everyone who has asked!

Chefs cooking in the open kitchen at The Blue Pelican in Deal.

As already mentioned, The Blue Pelican focuses on carefully assembled Japanese dishes, a mixture of small plates and big sharers, in a beautifully arranged environment. You can choose to sit at the kitchen counter or on one of the few tables in the small restaurant, and I can imagine it gives a very different vibe depending on what time of day you visit. By day, the space is bright and airy, dog friendly and as we discovered with a little one very toddler friendly. By night though I can imagine a much more sophisticated environment with candle-lit meals, small tables and a situation perfect for date night.

View of the dining room at The Blue Pelican in Deal.
Blood orange mocktail garnished with a blood orange wheel on a white marble table.

I’m looking forward to exploring their natural wine list and small crafted selection of cocktails, but with 2/3 of us driving (and with a little person to supervise!) we were super excited to see they had a very wide selection of handcrafted and artisan non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails, from rhubarb shrubs, a bergamot and ginger switchel and a spritz made with my beloved Botivo, to a delicious Coastal Sprits made with citrus and sea buckthorn which was both perfectly balanced and went brilliantly with the food. I know more and more exciting non-alcoholic options is the direction of travel, but this was a very best food forwards drinks menu.

White cup of mushroom broth on a white plate.

Ahead of some more substantial small plates to share (at The Blue Pelican you can either choose to share a load of things or go starter / main / dessert, the menu can be read both ways) can I recommend you get a cup of the mushroom and hojicha (roasted green tea) broth? It’s light, deeply savoury but does not make you feel like you’ve been overwhelmned by too many flavours. There was something clean about it that was very indicative of the food at The Blue Pelican, and it’s the perfect amuse bouche.

White bowl of tofu in broth with peas and a salad garnish.

We went for a trio of small plates, and honestly my recommendation if you’ve got enough people is to sample all of them if they’re on the menu when you visit. The Tamagoyaki (a rolled seasoned omelette sushi lovers amongst you will recognise) topped with sea vegetables, smoked eel and drizzled in a sweet and salty sauce was incredibly more-ish, and if you’ve been put off tofu by the stuff sold in supermarkets, I urge you to give it another go and get the soromame tofu (tofu made from fava / edamame beans) served in a light, savoury broth with new season fresh peas and wild garlic. This is a simply beautiful dish, with soft, creamy, ethereally textured tofu paired with the crunch of freshness from the peas and just the most delicate hint of wild garlic. Flavour, craftsmanship and stunning presentation all come together into the perfect dish – even if it was a bit messy to share!

An orange plate of homemade pickles and ferments.

All three of us were rather blown away also by the plate of pickles and ferments we ordered, even if we were not quite sure what all of them were. The cucumber was beautifully light with an edge of what I think was smoked tea, the daikon had some beautiful crunch, and other pieces of I think different types of seaweed balanced flavours and textures wonderfully. We left not a scrap of seaweed on the plate.

Grilled chicken thighs topped with thinly shredded wild garlic sitting in a pool of ponzu sauce.
Charred asparagus spears on an orange plate with a quenelle of koji butter and a small segment of blood orange.

From the grill we had the chicken thighs (tender, nicely flavoured) with wild garlic and an addictive ponzu, and a plateful of Kentish asparagus served with a wedge of blood orange and a quenelle of koji (one of the fermented rice or soya cultures used as a base for making miso) butter, which I think was the only dish we had that missed the mark, if not only slightly. The asparagus was nicely cooked and of the highest quality and the butter had a lovely flavour, but either the asparagus needed to be served a bit warmer, or the butter closer to room temperature as it did not melt onto the spears making it slightly more unwieldy to eat than it needed to be.

White bowl of rice topped with ferments and sesame seeds.

Don’t knock the rice from the side dish section: beautifully cooked and topped with more delicious ferments I could have eaten it as a dish by itself, and it’s essential for soaking up the delicious juices from everything else on the table, especially the ponzu from the chicken!

Close up of a set custard with candied kumquat pieces in a chipped white bowl.

There was only one dessert on the menu when we visited, but that hardly mattered as it was a fantastic one: a kumquat and kinako (a nutty flavoured roasted soy flour) set custard. It was rich, light, both familiar and unusual, with candied kumquat pieces perfect for adding another element of sweetness, and cutting through the sweetness of the dish. The perfect ending to an almost perfect meal.

Another of the long line of national newspaper critics was dining at the same time as us so no doubt it is about to get even harder to get a table, so jump to it quickly and book in for lunch or dinner at The Blue Pelican here.