A feast in the East Stand
By Thomas Rhodes, executive head chef, Twickenham Stadium
The East Stand culinary experience has been two years in the making. It has involved a huge amount of research, creativity and consultation, and we’re now finalising the many different elements that will make up the diverse choice of food and menus in the East Stand.
Throughout the process, the focus for the team has always been about celebrating Twickenham’s English heritage and ensuring we source from English suppliers throughout. A key consideration is therefore the seasonality of the ingredients and the need to create menus that focus on the best produce at the right time of year. As Executive Head Chef it is extremely important to me that we know where our milk comes from and the farmer.
We’ve certainly seen a growing awareness about the Englishness of food, and in my experience the general public seem prepared to pay that little bit extra for the knowledge that their food is homegrown. Food is no longer just about the ingredients, it’s about the whole experience. The knowledge that their meal has been ethically-sourced certainly adds to the overall experience for most guests.
Increasingly guests also have a genuine interest in our own journey, and want to know why we’ve created the menu, and where we draw our inspiration for every dish. Within the events business, this adds to the discussion and theatre; it creates a talking point.
For us, the creation of the East Stand menu has allowed us to get out onto the street and see what everyone else is up to. Between myself and the team we have sampled more than 30 burger bars in our quest to find out what makes the best burger - before heading back to the kitchen and creating our own unique Twickenham Burger.
It was the same with every area of the East Stand; we researched what a modern day chop-house style restaurant looks like and ways we can make ours different without alienating the loyal customer. Similarly we looked closely at the beers we could serve in the Union Ale House and what snacks we could introduce to make it that little bit more interesting.
A common thread that runs through the various menus in the East Stand is the abundance of high-end quality dishes. Whether guests are dining in the relaxed setting of the British Airways Rose Garden or the more formal surroundings of The Lock, we want their culinary experience to be first class and the food to have a real impact.
While we are committed to remaining true to our English influences we also want our food to provide a nod to our opposition – particularly on match days. Within our chophouse style restaurant, The Gate, for example, we have sourced specific cuts of meats, popular in different regions. We also create specialties from those countries such as Melktert dessert for the South African guests.
In the more intimate East Wing a five-course taster menu is available, which can be tweaked according to customer’s likes and dislikes. The setting lends itself well to an intimate supper club and we want guests to feel that their experience is as much about the dining as it is the surroundings.
Of course, the East Stand’s more informal settings such as the Union Ale House and the British Airways Rose Garden aim to offer more laid back luxury. In the Union Ale House our food is circulated but still substantial and filling, a concept that is frequently termed Manapes. It’s a step between bowl food and canapes, and would go hand-in-hand with a beer or ale. Similarly the British Airways Rose Garden’s relaxed environment offers a nod to the street food phenomena, demonstrated through its rustic pizza oven and rotisserie-style food.
Throughout our menus we use ingredients that genuinely excite us and that we enjoy preparing and serving. I believe this shines through in the finished product.
It’s fair to say that our menus are our most experimental to date as we want to push boundaries. We want people to be drawn by our food and attention to detail and see Twickenham in a new light.”