Paolo Tullio's Review
All things come to those who wait - I finally got a table in Rhodes D7. Well, more precisely Isobel Smith did and she was my dining companion, so I tagged along on her booking. It had been a good day, I'd been to the opening day of the Ryder Cup and had done a lot more walking than my portly frame is used to. As a result by evening I'd built up a decent appetite. Getting back from Kildare to the city centre could easily have been a nightmare of traffic, but thankfully I was giving Tomas Clancy a lift and he knew all the rat runs, consequently I was parked on the quays with time to spare before our booking.
Tomas walked with me to Rhodes, while I mused on that old adage that all leads roam to Rhodes. The first thing you notice when you walk in is that there are lots of people to look after you. At a counter just inside the door were three young women checking reservations and showing people to their tables. A we'd arrived early we were still waiting for Isobel and went to the bar for an aperitif. Tomas, who is one Ireland's best known wine journalists, went straight for the wine list and made a number of little satisfied noises as he read though it, before finally settling on a glass of champagne, while I had a glass of sparkling water.
While we sat and chatted we took in the surroundings. It's a big place with an 'L' shaped dining room, one part parallel to the road and the other at right angles to it. This last part is the larger of the two, stretching right back and there's a mezzanine as well. Between all the dining areas the restaurant can seat some 250 people, which is large by any standards. Later on, chatting to the manager, I discovered that their strategy had been to open up the restaurant a bit at a time, allowing the waiting staff and the kitchen to get used to menu and the dining room gradually - what is called a 'soft opening'.
It seems to have worked well as a plan, the level of service in Rhodes is very high. Everyone of the staff that I came in contact with was courteous, pleasant and very good at their job. As of now the whole restaurant is open, and even with over 200 people being served on the night I was there, the service remained faultless - no mean feat with those numbers.
When Isobel arrived Tomas took his leave. So now I have to make a confession: I'm a modern day leper, a social outcast, a man with habits so vile that I'm no longer permitted to disgrace polite society with my presence. I still smoke. Not only that, I'm perverse enough to enjoy this filthy habit, especially after a meal with a coffee. In fact, I'm such an un-reconstructed dinosaur, I still believe that an espresso and a cigarette represents one of the high points of civilisation. And why do I make such a base confession to you? Because others like me will just love Rhodes D7 for this reason alone - they have two comfortable areas where people can smoke. Upstairs on the roof garden and on the terrace which lines the front of the building.
Because Isobel suffers from the same addiction as I do, we chose to eat on the terrace where the last few ash-trays in Ireland can still be found on public view. That night Ireland was in the grip of the tail-end of a hurricane - rubbish was being blown along the tram-tracks at terrifying speeds, pedestrians hugged their coats to themselves and leaned almost 45 degrees into the gale. And yet, on the terrace, we sat in comfort fag in hand. I'll admit too that being able to smoke in comfort despite the best efforts of the health Gestapo appealed to my anarchic tendencies.
The menu comes to you on a large card and includes a cut down wine list. The Undurraga Sauvignon Blanc wouldn't be one of my favourites, but it's listed at a very reasonable 16. Peter Lehmann's Barossa Chardonnay will cost you 19 and David O'Brien's Esprit de Nijinsky Cabernet Sauvignon is there for 18.50. The extended wine list runs to eight pages and is fairly priced. Veuve Clicquot's Grande Dame 1996 is there for 130, which is a deal cheaper than I've seen it elsewhere. After what seemed an age to Isobel I finally chose the Hochheimer Riesling Kabinett 1998, which was listed at 34. This was an excellent wine and I hope that discerning drinkers will start to give good German wines a chance - you'll be well repaid.
Isobel had been to D7 before and was enthusiastic about the trio of tomato soups. Thus it was we had three starters - her choice of carpaccio, mine of eggs with egg sauce (eggs Benedict) and the soups as well for the fun of it. All three starters were very good, especially the white tomato soup, which we fought over.
For main courses Isobel chose the gammon steak, because she said I really really like pig meat.' She's right of course, but I went for fish at her suggestion and chose the cod which came with a lobster bisque sauce and champ with lobster. Despite the presence of the lobster it was priced reasonably enough at 24.90. These were well made and well presented, and were far better than what you're often presented with at this price range.
I felt well fed at this point, but Isobel was taken by what she'd seen on the menu as bread and butter pudding.' Like her I'm a fan of old fashioned dishes and I was keen to see how Gary Rhodes dealt with it. We really must learn to read menus more carefully - we'd actually ordered bread and butter parfait, which was more like an ice-cream than the stodgy pudding of our memories. Good too, but not we were expecting. A couple of espressos brought the bill to 122.55, not including service.