Once the salubrious leisure choice of discerning Georgians, Weymouth`s appeal lies in its beautiful golden bay and thriving harbour. Having been an annual visitor for many years, I`ve been charmed by the slightly down-at-heel approach into the town centre; the numerous B&Bs and hotels along the front , their faÇ¶õades slightly fading ,yet ever popular as the perpetual `no vacancies` signs testify.
A few years ago, Weymouth`s scruffy appearance became less like a gentleman who had fallen on hard times and more like a teenager unable to find a job. The number of empty shop units appeared to be increasing and the ubiquitous pound shops were the busiest retailers. Hurrah, then, for the regeneration of Weymouth that began in 2007 and has heralded a makeover to the town that brings in its wake some of the best dining I’ve had the pleasure to sample on the south coast.
Positioned in the town centre, the unassuming exterior of The Dining Room makes it easy to overlook, tucked away as it is along from a famous fast food outlet and opposite the garish `Fantastic Sausage Factory`. Yet, I encourage you, weary traveller, to avoid those dubious pleasures and seek it out. We visited on a Saturday night when the wind was blowing the sand along the main street and most sensible people were at home. Weymouth was deserted, but The Dining Room was fully booked- a testament to the buzz that`s been created by owner and chef Taher Jibet`s fantastic food.
With an impressive CV that includes a stint on Masterchef and the position of Executive Head Chef at the Gore Hotel in London, Jibet brings not just experience but his passion for the best of European cuisine to this traditional seaside resort. Influenced by his upbringing in Spain, Taher brings the warmth of Mediterranean and Arabic flavours and colours to a damp weekend in Weymouth.
A refreshing melon bellini cocktail helped us make our choices from the menu. Encouraged by the chef`s Spanish influences, I opted for the chicken and chorizo cassoulet, a rich and smoky starter with the warm colours of the Mediterranean. My partner had the charred vegetables with cous cous and she too was highly impressed with the rich flavours.
Between courses we watched the staff in the open kitchen producing wonderful dishes for a full house of diners. The small space they had to prepare for such a large number meant that service was slow but nobody cared as the wine and conversation flowed. Taher himself waited tables and recommended signature dishes, and it was evident he has put his heart and soul into this project.
My main was a slow cooked Dorset Pork belly with ginger and lemongrass- cooked to perfection and generous in quantity. My partner`s choice of cod fillet was a delight- rich in flavour with accompanying roasted shallots- wonderfully appropriate for the location. All vegetables were excellent, with the chargrilled mange tout deserving a special mention.
I loved The Dining Room. It`s lively with a relaxed atmosphere and honesty that belies the stuffiness found in many high-end eateries. The service was friendly and attentive, and although slow at times, I was so comfortable in the surroundings that it didn`t matter. With an excellent Shiraz in such a welcoming atmosphere they could have taken all night. With the ambience of a Spanish tapas bar, yet serving truly fantastic food, The Dining Room proves that Weymouth has shed its old fashioned image and now boasts a twenty-first century dining experience to be proud of.
For more information, visit www.thediningroomweymouth.co.uk
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