Chef Profile: Gary Dall – Rox ‘n’ roll

Dean Bailey celebrates 10 years of The Roxburgh with chef/owner Gary Dall’s greatest hits

A lot has changed since I stepped into The Roxburgh for the first time nearly a decade ago, but some things are reassuringly the same. The man behind the Whitley Bay restaurant, Gary Dall, is still the same laid-back, yet fiercely passionate, cook. His kitchen – despite a couple of reconfigurations – is still tiny, and his playlist is still worthy of the great pride he takes it in.

The tiny cooking space and dining room in the heart of the much-changed seaside town celebrates its 10th birthday in August this year. The journey has been a fascinating one for Gary – who returned to the North East to setup his first solo venture having travelled the world cooking in renowned restaurants and on tour with rock stars.

“It’s quite hard to get my head around it, that it’s been 10 years,” says Gary – who arrived early this morning for a spot of prep having walked his Staffordshire terrier, Lola Bean, as the sun rose before heading just a few doors down the street to the restaurant.

“It’s lots of work, running a restaurant as a bit of a one-man band. I play all the instruments and have full creative control over everything… A bit like Prince!

“That said, Alison – who looks after things front of house at service time – has been with me for most of the 10 years and her hospitality has been integral to our success.”

Surviving, then thriving, through and following the Covid pandemic was among the greatest challenges for every business, and Gary has continued to adapt the business in his image. Today, he offers a tasting menu for two evening services per week along regular pop-ups – Sunday lunches in the winter months and burgers in the summer.

“I’m definitely older and wiser, and more hardened to what this industry can throw at you,” he says on how much he has learned over the last decade. “But, working in kitchens also keeps you young and energetic. This is very much a lifestyle for me. Living up the street, I can cook on my terms for much of the week. Being flexible means I get to enjoy it and only cook when I’m happy. I like to think you can taste that in the food. It can be a challenge, spinning all the plates, but I love what I do.”

The way The Roxburgh reflects Gary’s personality is undoubtedly a key to its success. The artwork and some of the furniture are still items borrowed from his flat a decade ago, while the cooking continues to draw on his time working with chefs including Terry Laybourne at Jesmond Dene House and Colin Fassnidge in Sydney.

“I think fine dining is in a bit of an echo chamber right now, particularly on social media where you see so many of the same dishes and concepts. It makes it hard to define what you are,” says Gary on his style of cooking. “I’ve learned to focus on what I enjoy and with that comes authenticity, which is important for longevity and I think diners who come here appreciate it.

“The punk DIY ethos of The Roxburgh has been important in all aspects over the last decade, and I keep to the same mantra. I’m proud of that, and of the space I’ve created – where newcomers fall in love with the place and regulars are still enjoying a love affair after all these years. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”

This summer, Gary will be serving menus featuring several of his greatest hits, each updated for 2024 while focusing on the flavours and ingredients he loves working with. As part of this showcase, he has shared three recipes – each adapted slightly for cooking at home – with Appetite. Enjoy…

12-hour beef short rib with beets and horseradish

Barbecued peaches, Monmouthshire ham and beer snow

Lola Bean ice cream sandwich

Sign up to our news
You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us.