Devon Life visits Rhodes@TheDome
PUBLISHED: 15:41 20 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:17 26 February 2013
Gary Rhodes OBE shares the vision for his latest venture as he joins Plymouth's vibrant foodie scene with Devon Life food editor Anna Turns
Devon Life visits Rhodes@TheDome
Gary Rhodes OBE shares the vision for his latest venture as he joins Plymouths vibrant foodie scene
Words by Anna Turns
There are ladders and workmen everywhere, carpets being laid, a cherry picker moving through the restaurant as an electrician fits the lights, and dust everywhere just five hours before the VIP launch!
On meeting Gary Rhodes, it is clear that the thrill of opening a new restaurant is what drives him, and he gets hands-on to the very last detail. It is exciting but scary! It is madness in the kitchen but that is half the fun isnt it?!
He explains that the wide open space of the restaurant tells the story of his concept: We are about open eating, not formal fine dining. It is about everyday eating for everyone, whether it is just a glass of wine, dessert with a coffee or a three-course meal.
Keen to maximise on Plymouths nautical connections, Gary has installed a huge wooden boat-shaped bar, and more windows have been punched out in the sea-facing wall, so the view of Plymouth Sound is unrivalled. Gary has restaurants around the world, in London, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the Carribean. Now he has transformed the Plymouth Dome from a dreary tourist attraction to a trendy eatery as he adds Rhodes@The Dome to his empire.
I am always on the move but I love it every place has its own identity and menu, and I like catering for a different audience, explains Gary. Even my London and Plymouth menus are totally different here I can take advantage of the lovely sea and countryside and all these great ingredients on our doorstep.
So why choose Plymouth? Since his days as head chef at The Castle Hotel in Taunton where he was awarded his first Michelin star, he fell in love with the Westcountry.
I spent five years at Taunton in the mid-1980s and I often took trips down to Devon and Cornwall there is just so much natural beauty here. It stayed with me, and Plymouth has such an amazing history behind it too. You feel that history when you are walking around and see so much architectural beauty. I always wanted to come back to this part of the world, you cant beat it. Its such a stunning location and a unique building.
Plymouth is fast gaining a reputation as a foodie city, with more new chefs arriving and restaurants opening every month. From the Tanner brothers, to the River Cottage Canteen in Royal William Yard, and new plans afoot for Mitch Tonks to open a Rockfish restaurant at the aquarium, there is a huge diversity and choice.
If you look at a lot of cities around the UK, this city has got some great chefs, and that is what excites me about Plymouth, says Gary, it is great to be part of that action. And a little healthy competition never goes amiss: We each have our own concept and style, and thats the beauty of it there is a great personal and professional respect and camaraderie between us all.
As for Garys own kitchen team of seven chefs plus a kitchen porter, he brings head chef Liam Rutherford from his restaurant Rhodes W1, and the rest of his staff is Plymouth-based, from the manager to the kitchen porter and waiting staff. Gary is keen to develop contacts with Plymouth City College too, and Liam plans to set up cooking demonstrations with students on a regular basis.
The Rhodes@The Dome will no doubt be a great training ground for any aspiring chef. It is unlike most other hot, intense and busy professional kitchens. The open kitchen is a picture of calm and serenity: theres no chatting or yelling, just pure concentration and focus. Gary still gets a real buzz from inspiring and enthusing young chefs: When we train new chefs, we explain why they are doing each stage of a cooking process so they really understand how it affects the flavour. It is an intense learning curve for them, and we really challenge them.
Cooking is all about great flavour and Gary ensures that even the simplest dish tastes the best. We have created a wonderful dish of watermelon with feta cheese presented in two stages, one is crumbled, one is crumbed and fried so it is melted inside. Garys creation includes semi-dried plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, with orange in the dressing, a tomato vinaigrette, and basil oil, all freshly made from scratch.
Flavour is central. I want people to understand what it takes to make one dish like this. It may look like a simple salad, but when you eat it, youll have so many great flavours hitting you and that element of surprise is what really good cooking is all about - different tastes and textures, all in one mouthful.
Another classic that Gary proud to show off is his white onion risotto. We make a white onion soubise, mix with cream, add a little parmesan, he describes. This is served with maple syrup vinaigrette with a honey-like consistency, seared scallop and a beurre blanc butter sauce. When you eat this dish, you have got the great shellfish flavour of the scallop and richness of the white onion bite, so every flavour is complementary.
By this time, Im getting hungry and Gary needs to get back to the kitchen to prepare these dishes for the launch party. He is intent on having a hand in preparing every dish to be served this evening, and as the doors open at 7pm for the VIP launch event, the ladders are just being cleared away as the Champagne begins to flow.