Gary Rhodes was on TV a lot when I was growing up; to this day, his face, complete with trademark spiky hair, is one of the first that comes to mind with the phrase ‘celebrity chef’. His Step-by-Step Cooking (2001) was one of the first cookbooks I bought to prevent me wreaking havoc in my own first kitchen as a late teenager. This visit, however, to Rhodes W1 Dubai at Grosvenor House, was my first opportunity to dine in one of his many restaurants and to enjoy the cuisine that he has been perfecting during his (Michelin) stellar career.
Approached through the opulent lounge area of the Grosvenor House second floor, one can immediately see Rhodes W1 Dubai has brought the leafiness of a European garden to the buzzing marina. Walls are decorated with leaves and white silhouettes of birds and butterflies, like the hedges of a maze, alongside white flower urns full of tumbling flora. Inside, the spring colours continue with a range of lemon yellow and pale greens in the furniture and lighting design, which all contribute to the ambience of a soirée in the breezy summerhouse of one’s countryside estate.
Operations Manager Jane showed us to our seat and impressed us with his light, charming manner and cheeky humour; being looked after at dinner by someone who makes you feel entertained and at ease is crucial to an excellent dining experience. The Rhodes W1 Dubai menu, a combination of British classics with a twist and modern European creations, was perused and orders taken, before we enjoyed the Gary Rhodes signature amuse bouche of rich and creamy white tomato soup, the secret ingredient of which is, apparently, “love”.
For the first course, Charlotte had chosen a pork raviolo which was bursting with meat, topped with even more pork in the form of crispy bacon, and served with apple cream. After a week of pork-free dining, this pig was a welcome treat and the rich jus paired well with a full-bodied Da Luca Primitivo 2016 from Puglia, a wine we had selected ourselves from a tasting of two suggested by Jane. My own starter was a very light and spring-inspired scallop and prawn dish with broad beans, quails egg and salad leaves, sitting atop a yoghurt and mint sauce. This was the perfect appetiser to prepare for a much meatier main course and the wine, an unoaked Petit Chablis ‘Pas Si Petit’ by La Chablisienne, emphasised the green flavours of the dish with citrusy clarity and a hint of spice.
As mentioned, we had both selected a more meaty main, again allowing Jane to make recommendations and finding him very convincing. I had chosen calves liver; this was cooked to the chef’s recommendation of medium, leading to a salty browned outside and a melt-in-the-mouth centre. Served with some extremely crispy bacon (just how I like it!) and an extravagantly buttery mash, the liver was a sizeable portion and the onion gravy provided a note of sweetness. Charlotte had opted for beef cheek braised in red wine, served with orange baby carrots and a side of parsley mash that was the colour of a freshly mown lawn. Charlotte raved about the tenderness of the beef and the richness of the flavours that had developed through the hours of cooking, the fat having melted away to leave only a glossy sheen in the robust sauce. The wine which was paired with both these dishes was a Palacios Remondo ‘La Vendimia’ Rioja 2016, which had a jammy juiciness and a hint of oak, perfect for complimenting the strongly flavoured food.
The cheese course is a rare beast in Dubai, but it is offered as a dessert option at Rhodes W1 Dubai. Continuing with another glass of the delicious rioja, we decided to try the cheese and then share a dessert to finish the meal. The cheese included were a mild brie, an ash-rolled goats cheese, a semi-hard Mont Vully and the powerful Langres (a longtime favourite of ours). Served alongside were date bread, celery, apple and – more unusually – a stilton ice cream that combined creaminess and saltiness to great effect.
We ended the meal with a raspberry soufflé, filled tableside with decadent raspberry jam and accompanied by the dairy pinnacle that is clotted cream ice cream. The texture of the soufflé was cloudlike and it retained its lightness and height through a lively discussion about several aspects of European culture. The final wine, a Black Muscat ‘Elysium’ by Andrew Quady, really brought out the red fruits in the dessert through its own blackcurrant flavour, the sweetness rounding off a perfectly balanced menu and allowing us to leave the restaurant with enough spring in our step to indulge in a few cocktails at the Buddha Bar next door. But that is a story for another time…
Rhodes W1 Dubai is a restaurant in a state of perpetual bloom, with the spring garden décor and well-sourced ingredients giving a sense of lush abundance in this desert city. Rhodes’s approach to cuisine shows the confidence and maturity of a chef who has found his niche and playfully experiments with his signature style. I would buy the cookbook that contained any of these recipes in a heartbeat and I certainly won’t leave it so long before I eat at another Rhodes restaurant.
Rhodes W1 Dubai
Grosvenor House Dubai
Al Emreef Street
United Arab Emirates