Meet the chef: Rob Davies at Vida Comida
PUBLISHED: 16:35 31 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:54 31 August 2016
Rob Davies fell in love with the vibrant food culture of Spain when he taught there. Last year he changed careers and brought his passion for Iberian tapas to Sherborne
Rob Davies’ teaching career has taken him around the world from Switzerland to Belize. But it was Spain that won his heart and stomach; at small town fiestas party loving hosts would introduce him to hearty local dishes and Rob was bowled over by the Iberian hospitality. After 24 years of teaching he decided to make a career change and replicate the vibrant flavours of Spain and share them with Sherborne.
Tell me about the tastes of your childhood
My parents have been fundamental influences on my cooking style and tastes. My mum, a Wigan girl, cooked delicious, uncomplicated, comforting food every day for us. Her meat pie is the stuff of legend with pastry that is almost see through. My dad would have moments of inspiration and cook up a chocolate soufflé for no other reason than he wanted to. This is exactly how I feel about the food we cook at Vida Comida: tasty, hearty with just a touch of exotic!
How did your business come about?
In September 2014 I walked away from my role as Principal of a secondary school in Poole. Over the next year I supported the super Delta Trust in running a Special School in Basingstoke and I also started to pull together my ideas for opening a restaurant. I wanted it to reflect my persona – honest, robust and tasty with a hint of the casual. The answer was tapas – small plates shared between friends, unhindered by foams, gels and shards.
My wife, Jacqueline, and I started small “at home” parties for friends and quickly picked up more bookings. It was clear that this was going to be hugely popular if we could find the right venue. By a complete stroke of good fortune The Swan public house in Sherborne came onto the market and we opened August Bank Holiday weekend. Vida Comida means Live to Eat – an expression that typified our passion for food.
Tell me about your signature dish?
We cook the most amazing paella. My Valenciana colleague has made sure that we stick to a totally authentic recipe - no onion, no chorizo - just the most amazing flavours and precise cooking of the rice. We cook it every Sunday from fresh and can cater from 2 people to well over 100 if ordered in advance. I urge you to seat yourself and your guests at the table and eat the paella from the pan, starting from the perimeter and working toward the centre. This communal style is the traditional way to eat paella.
What elements of Dorset have you woven into your Iberian menu?
We use Orchard Pig cider with our chorizo, the eggs are from around the corner and our bread is from the bakers on the Green. We have West Bay scallops and at Christmas we had Dorset venison and pheasant. Cheeses and charcuterie we bring in from Spain, along with our wines, but we constantly review our ingredients to ensure a balance between home and Spain.
What would be your perfect supper?
I was in an asador (a restaurant with a wood burning oven) in Aranda with some guys I played rugby with. We stopped at this non-descript little restaurant that had no menu just a fractions on the wall. They served lamb: ¼ lamb, ½ lamb or whole lamb, cooked in the oven over wood. It was served in a huge bowl with salad and bread. We spent three hours pulling that carcass apart, drinking Ribera de Duero and talking rugby. Perfect!
What’s on the menu
• Berenjenas con Miel - Sliced aubergine and courgettes coated in breadcrumbs, lightly fried and served with a honey and oregano dressing
• Setas con Ajilo Y Pimientos - Oyster Mushrooms cooked with garlic and lemon juice on the plancha
• Chorizo a la Sidra - Leon chorizo sausage cooked in local Orchard Pig cider
• Huevos Rotos - Serrano ham, straw chips and a runny egg
• Caballa con Patatas y aceite de Cebollino - Cornish mackerel fillet on a bed of rosemary potatoes drizzled with olive and chive oil
Group Menus offer a fantastic introduction to tapas for those that have not yet tried this way of eating, prices start from £18 for six dishes to share. Single dishes from £5.50
Vida Comida The Swan Yard, Cheap Street, Sherborne, DT9 3AX; 01935 816116 | Open 11am – 11pm daily
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