LUNCH at The Dining Room is a pleasure – the restaurant in the pedestrianised heart of Weymouth’s old town is contemporary and light and welcoming, the food is colourful and delicious, with an emphasis on seafood. Quite right too – some of the best sustainably caught fish and shellfish you will ever eat is brought in by fishermen along this coast.
Chef Taher Jibet, who runs the kitchen with his sister Hamida D’Jeebet and owns the restaurant with his wife Sophie Kermani Jibet, brings a distinctively Mediterranean flavour to his cooking. Hardly surprising, with a Moroccan family background and growing up in the Cadiz province of Spain, where his father ran a restaurant.
He combines this cultural and culinary heritage with the rich bounty of Dorset’s seas, coastline and countryside to create a menu that is fresh and attractive, responding to the seasons, the latest produce in the markets or catch on the harbourside.
Taher was classically trained in French cuisine at Les Roches catering school and gained wide experience in restaurants in Spain and the UK, including time at the Michelin-starred Mirabelle in Mayfair, under the tutelage of Marco Pierre White where he began to develop his particular style of traditional food with a contemporary twist.
He ran Hall & Woodhouse’s Talbot Inn at Iwerne Minster in North Dorset before opening his first restaurant, The Dining Room, at Weymouth in December 2011. From the start, it was clear that a new star had joined the pool of chef talent in the seaside town. He won the Open 4 Business Award for Best of Dorset Food & Drink 2012 and was a finalist that year for Best Restaurant in the Taste of Dorset Awards.
Taher and his team have also just been on television in the BBC’s Taste of Britain series, presented by Janet Street-Porter and Brian Turner.
As well as the menus which change seasonally, there are always specials – we enjoyed salmon fishcakes with rocket salad and the Dining Room aioli, fresh sardines and fresh plaice, all served with crisp, fresh and colourful salads with freshly made dressings. The lunch menu always includes burgers and pasta, steaks, sharing platters and tapas.
For dinner the starters include local fresh crab, sardines, mackerel or goats cheese, main courses are classic grills, a quintet of seafood with bouillabaisse sauce, local lobster, sea bass, pollock, sole and brill, colourful and imaginative vegetarian fishes, and desserts include a Margarita cheesecake, Dorset wasabi and chocolate cheesecake, peanut butter parfait with chocolate sauce or vanilla pannacotta with pink grapefruit and clotted cream. You can just picture the mouthwatering colours!
For those who would like to try their hands at fishing for their own lunch or supper, there are You Fish We Cook events – guests go out on a catamaran from Weymouth Harbour and go back to The Dining Room where Taher and Hameeda prepare their catch.
Taher shares some of the secrets of his kitchen at his cookery classes, held in the morning in the restaurant – students (and partners or friends) can enjoy the fruits of their efforts for lunch. As well as lessons for keen domestic cooks who want to develop their skills and learn more about seafood or Mediterranean style, Taher also offers classes for students to learn how to feed themselves on a tight budget, how to use left-overs and how to make the most of their ingredients.
For more information on the classes or to book for lunch or dinner at The Dining Room, visit the website www.thediningroomweymouth.co.uk
Pictured are fresh grilled sardines, fresh plaice, and Taher and Hameeda with waitress Emma Andreasen.