Perfectly Salted: An Interview with the Rock Salt Café
We’re taking you over to Millbay, Plymouth to discover the delights of the Rock Salt Café. We sat down to talk about the menu, venue, the struggles of 2020, and where they are planning on taking the business next.
Tell us a little about yourself and your restaurant.
We’re a family business, Dave is the Executive Chef and the brains behind it all, working beside him is his wife Chantel, and his mother Jean.
We started out with Rock Salt Café, a bit of a gamble for our first location but it did well, and we then opened Salumi (our other venue) which was about 5 years ago!
Where is the Rock Salt Cafe located?
We are in Plymouth, in Millbay, both the Rock Salt and the Salumi.
What is your Signature Dish? Why did you choose this particular dish to make a feature?
“Pork, skate and peanuts” this dish was created about 8 years ago at Rock Salt and has been a favourite with our regulars.
Since lockdown, we have brought the dish over to Salumi and it’s gathering a whole new legion of fans!
What is your favourite dish to cook? What is your favourite meal to eat? (and why)
I love to cook venison, it starred in our special Halloween menu at Rock Salt and it’s just such a great dish.
I love to eat “Pork, skate and peanuts,” the hot, sour umami flavour, textures are polar opposite and then the crunch, it’s just got a bit of everything!
Tell us about the ingredients you use in your dishes (are they speciality / local / chosen for a specific reason / unusual / etc)
It’s all about flavour for us, flavour is king. So, everything we do is about giving the end product the very best flavour we can.
We love to use local ingredients if we can – we think the West Country has some of the best suppliers and best produce in the UK.
We also love to add things to dishes that are more unusual say from some of our Asian supermarkets.
What would you say is the most unique or interesting aspect of your restaurant?
Dave’s background had been in fine dining and we really want to bring that level of food into a much more relaxed environment, make it more accessible.
That’s why it was important that we kept the name Rock Salt Café, even as our business evolved and the evening trade really took off.
We felt it was important that people still felt that an easy-going setting was important to us, much like the cafes of Melbourne, where we drew our initial inspiration.
How was your restaurant impacted by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic?
The hospitality industry has felt the impact of COVID for quite some time. It was difficult trading when the public was advised to not go to pubs and restaurants but yet we were allowed to stay open, there was a massive downturn in customers from that point.
What new policies and procedures have you put in place?
Obviously, there’s been a lot to figure out and you have to be sure you’re staying up to date with the latest guidance.
We’ve got a Track and Trace station by the entrance, a one-way system, multiple hand sanitiser stations, social distancing, and a different style of table service to name a few of the measures we’ve taken.
We’re constantly reviewing the way we work to see if there are new ways to do things to keep everyone safe. We were pleased to have a recent inspection from the city council to confirm that they were pleased we were doing everything asked of us!
Has it been difficult staying open?
It’s a driving force from within, we love what we do and are so pleased we have been able to reopen, albeit slightly differently but it’s a daily worry.
We’ve heard from other restaurants that no-shows and late cancellations of limited table space have been an increasing problem – have you been affected by this?
What processes have you put in place (if any) to reduce the impact of no-shows?
Yes, we’ve felt the impact of this unfortunate trend.
We’ve been torn between putting things in to play like deposits for Fridays and Saturday night tables and ringing to confirm tables and trying our best not to be pushy with the customer.
We understand everyone is feeling the strain of this unusual situation we’re all in but it’s a fine line and those tables can be the difference between a successful business and one struggling to survive.
Are you offering delivery/collection/takeaway services (either directly or through a 3rd party such as Just Eat)?
We are offering a takeaway service for Fridays and Saturday nights and Sunday lunches and we are currently looking at delivery options.
Were you offering delivery services before lockdown or is this a new avenue for your restaurant?
We’ve always offered takeaway at Rock Salt and experimented with delivery options before but found the technology and systems weren’t the best.
Have you created any new product lines or specific digital content to allow people at home to create your dishes themselves? (Such as selling herb & spice blends, bottles of sauces, etc – or creating ‘how to…’ content such as instructional videos on how to create a specific dish)
We’re developing a blog that will give our customers a much better idea of what drives us and give them tips, tricks, and recipes to help them create our style of food at home!
Where do you see your restaurant in one year’s time?
Hopefully stronger than before! During the lockdown, we had the chance to think about what’s important to us and refine our goals for Salumi and Rock Salt and we hope that this direction will see us through!
Can you share any upcoming changes you’re making to your menu or featured dishes that our readers would like to know about?
We’re always striving to improve, and we change our menus seasonally so there’s always something new.
We’ve combined the best of Rock Salt with the Salumi favourites to give a balanced menu and hopefully, there will be something for everyone