Gary Rhodes opens
a second restaurant, this time
Please see Readers'
Comments January 1999
Gary Rhodes is one of our more
inventive media chefs. He was one
of the prime movers behind the Modern
British culinary revolution
of the early ninties. After retaining
a Michelin star (a harder task
than gaining one, some would argue)
at the Castle Hotel Taunton, he
burst upon the London scene at
The Greenhouse, the Levin brothers'
stylish Mayfair restaurant. His
TV series and the first of his
many books, Rhodes around Britain,
helped redefine British cookery
and gave us all a new sense of
pride in our culinary heritage.
His eclectic style and use of new
ingredients seemed perfectly in
tune with the new cosmopolitan,
multicultural Britain that emerged
from the post-Thatcher years.
In 1996 he won his own Michelin
star at The Greenhouse - sadly
not retained after his departure
in 1997 to the Catering company
Gardner Merchant, who gave him
a relatively free hand to set up
his own restaurant in the City,
appropriately named City Rhodes.
Last year he won a Michelin star
there as well.
Now, Gardner Merchant have enabled
him to launch his first West End
venture, with a brand new 90 seater
restaurant in Dolphin Square,
the luxury apartment and hotel
complex on the Pimlico riverbank,
opposite the old Battersea power
The neo-artdeco style reflects
the thirties origins of the building,
with plain dark blue carpets and
walls, banquettes, chrome railings
and modern art. The entrance is
through large and rather smart
etched glass doors, and the lounge
bar area is raised so that diners
can make a bit of an entrance as
they descend to the main restaurant
which is reminiscent of a deck
on a pre-war liner. This theme
is emphasised by the chrome portholes
to the doors.
The menu is classic Rhodes - British
ingredients and traditions sometimes,
but not always, interspersed with
modern twists and exotica. There
are starters like ham consommé with
pea pancakes (£5.80), or a
rich pigeon faggot on a potato
cake with mustard cabbage (£8.20).
(American diners need not worry,
a faggot is an old English style
of sausage!). Main dishes include
steamed halibut with braised flageolet
beans, garlic and tarragon £21.80,
or lamb confit with aubergine and
tomatoes flavoured with anchovy, £21.50.
The same a la carte menu is on
offer both at lunch and at dinner.
We went for lunch and chose two
fish starters. Classic grand hotel
dishes that were all the rage in
the seventies are now coming back
with nineties revisionist tendencies
and attitude. Lobster omelette
Thermidor (£9.00) scored
ten out of ten for flavour and
tenderness of the lobster, but
it was neither omelette nor Thermidor,
unless your interpretation of either
genre is hugely liberal. It was
brought to the table in an attractive
little pan - sensuously gooey,
in texture more like a softly scrambled
egg or even a savoury brulée.
I was told that this is currently
their favourite dish. Maybe Gary's
inventiveness might also run to
a new name that will secure its
place in the gastronomic hall of
fame: how about Lobster Rhodeo?
- okay, perhaps not!
I stayed on surer ground with
one of Gary's signature starters,
a fillet of smoked haddock glazed
with welsh rarebit on a tomato
and chive salad. This is really
quite a substantial dish and it
occurred to me that at lunchtime
there are several starters on the
menu that would make satisfying
enough second courses with only
the addition of one of the side
orders of vegetable. My smoked
haddock was pure white, none of
that vulgar yellow coloured stuff.
The rarebit formed a perfect coating;
it tasted mustard-and-creamy and
had been browned off to perfection.
This is a truly "Modern British" dish,
where old favourites are executed
and presented with the minimum
of fuss and the maximum of skill.
For her main course, my colleague
opted for an inventive vegetarian
dish (£14.50) that combined
a good risotto flavoured with spring
onions inside a circle of caramelised
pastry. Hidden under the innocent
looking rice was a soft poached
egg on a bed of spinach - a secret oeuf
Florentine, no less. The entire
construction floated in a luscious
beurre blanc with those tiny perfect
squares of chopped tarragon. That's
clever: imagine bringing all those
components together at one and
the same time (with no trace of
leaking spinach juice), also taking
into account the need to serve
my seared calves' liver simultaneously.
The liver (£19.50) was really
well done on the outside but remained
very tender inside. The obligatory
mash is one of Gary's specialities
- much depends on the choice of
the right potatoes. I also enjoyed
the richly glazed and browned carrots.
Whatever you do, you must leave
room for puddings (all at £6.80),
because Rhodes and his brigade
are magicians in that department.
One of Gary's most famous signatures
remains on the pudding menu, where
his famous bread and butter
pudding still reigns supreme.
But we tried a "carpaccio" of pineapple
which came attractively laid out
on one of those super gently curved
Japanese style platters. The fine
slices were pan seared and in the
centre was a tuille basket of pineapple
sorbet - the whole thing really
was to die for! I tried the stolidly
named "British pudding plate",
where an updated miniature lemon
meringue pie was both lighthearted
and inventive with its jaunty gnome's
hat topping, and a counterfeit "bourbon
biscuit" was refashioned using
utterly delicious chocolate fondant.
This was a worthy descendent of
those tricksy conceits like the
famous chocolate capuccino coffee
cup complete with its marzipan
There is a good wine list, as
one might expect, guarded as it
is by the charming master sommelier
Yves Demaries. He has assembled
a varied choice of wines by the
glass, ideal at lunch. We quaffed
a delicate Alsace Pinot Blanc from
René Muré at £3.80
a glass, followed by a very pleasant
Domaine bottled Marsannay for a
fiver. If you like a nice sparkling
wine but don't want to pay a small
fortune, I recommend their Cremant
d'Alsace, also for a fiver a glass.
Cooking and service of this standard
and care, in stylish surroundings
do not, indeed cannot, come cheaply.
So a typical three course meal
is going to cost about thirty five
pounds not including drinks and
all the little bits and pieces.
We thought that it might be an
idea if there was a set lunch menu
which could perhaps be lighter
both on the tummy and on the wallet;
but these are still early days
and I expect the restaurant is
busy sussing out its clientele
and their preferences.
Since writing this we hear
that there is now a set lunch
menu, priced at £19.50 for
Clifford Mould - June 1998
Rhodes in the Square, Dolphin
Square, London SW1
Tel: 020 7798 6767
Open for Lunch Sunday to Friday Noon - 2.30pm (closed Saturday)
Dinner: Monday to Saturday 7pm - 11pm; Snnday 7pm - 9.30