David Massey has beef in his blood. Having grown up on his parents' cattle farm in Leicestershire, it seems fitting that he should end up as chef and part owner of a restaurant where chateaubriand and burgers are the favourite dishes.
The Exhibition Rooms is the culmination of a career that has so far taken David all over the world, cooking in Australia, New Zealand, throughout the Mediterranean, and even in Beverley Hills, where he worked for Austrian-American celebrity chef, Wolfgang Puck, at Spago. Returning to the UK, David worked for Antony Worrall Thompson, and was also Head Chef at the 5th Floor, Harvey Nicholls. Then one day he had one of those chance meetings which can change everything. He was manning the smoothie stall at his daughter's school fête, when he met another parent, Geoff Ridgeon, who just happened to own the site of a former Thai restaurant on Westow Hill.
Located in a handsome Victorian corner site, the original idea was to open a bar, or a less ambitious restaurant, but as the ball started rolling, so too did the creative inspiration. The result is an elegant dining room, which alludes to Paxton's great greenhouse which stood around the corner, without going overboard on the theme. Raffles in Singapore also comes to mind with the lush palms and dark wooden floor.
Downstairs is altogether different. More Exhibitionist Rooms than Exhibition Rooms. Decadent red velvet, zebra skin and gilded Louis chairs make this an exotic drinking den, and popular party venue. Perfectly suited for colourful cocktails. The accidentally discovered vault, which had lain bricked up, can be separately hired for an intimate gathering.
Opening in the teeth of the recession 3 years ago, could have been disastrous, but serving good quality and unfussy modern cuisine has more than seen them through. Manager, Brendan Sharkey points to their Time Out 'Best neighbourhood restaurant 2009' with pride. I for one will be dropping by for their burgers and mussels on a monday, or perhaps even the chateaubriand.
|Left: Manager, Brendan Sharkey, right: Chef & Owner, David Massey|