- October 31st, 2009
- in Yachting
Red Rock Resaurant and Bar – When my coworker Nick and I entered Red Rock by Penn's Landing, we had many preconceptions. We knew the restaurant before it changed hands, and we speculated over the name: Was it named after the amphitheatre in Colorado? Or after a drink we couldn’t quite place? When we arrived, we were informed that Red Rock is, in fact, named after the rock in Fat Hog's Bay that nearby residents swim to for catching conch.
With its tiki torches on either side of the palm tree-lined path that leads to the bar, Red Rock is relaxed. The dockside, open restaurant has a light theme of low tables with wooden and stainless steel chairs seating 44 covers between 5-10pm, or as late as we go, informs our hosts and co-owners Martin Fickinger and Lesley Howard.
The large screen TV above the main bar hints that the spot is laid back yet festive. Martin and Lesley made the move from Virgin Gorda last November and have the spent the first season refurbishing and reorganizing whilst settling in. No stranger to island life, Martin took his first head chef position twenty years ago in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands. Since then, he has learned his trade the hard way and is old school—everything is made to order, including fresh-baked breads and pizza dough. “When we first got here, Martin said he was going to treat himself by buying a big, professional mixer,” Lesley said. Having worked in Bermuda, Munich and more recently the Caymans, Martin also loves cooking with seafood. “It is one of the benefits of being in the Islands,” he says, “fresh and interesting seafood to work with daily. Anywhere else it would be considered a delicacy. Here it is our immediate source.”
As we tour the kitchen, we see that everything on the menu is a priority. “Don’t give out my pizza dough recipe,” jokes German-born Martin. Immediately my stomach pines for pizza. How do chefs do that? I wonder. “Everyone has a favorite dish,” says Londoner Lesley. “A lot of people say they love the halibut, but if I asked them to try the lamb, they change their minds. For us, every dish is a favourite. We love what we do.” There is a distinctive blend of Mediterranean and Caribbean influence in the menu that is also reflected by the wines available.
The following week, I return to Red Rock with some friends and colleagues for a proper dinner. I am joined by Island Birds pilot Regan Bassett, photographer Gemma Salaman from Yacht Shots, Mason Marcus of the BVI Beacon, PG editor Traci O'Dea and Dan Lapinski from BVI Yacht Sales, Ltd. First we’re served a basket of assorted homemade breads accompanied by a dish of Red Rock’s hummus. The breads—whole wheat, Italian and pita—are chewy and delicious, and the hummus goes perfectly with our pre-dinner drinks. Adult contemporary hits from the eighties and nineties get us giggling. Traci and Mason sing along.
Our appetizers shine. Traci ordered homemade ricotta and vegetable ravioli topped with a tomato sage sauce and pronounces it flavourful with perfectly cooked fresh pasta. Gemma and Regan split an encrusted brie appetizer which is served with island chips and orange chutney. They rave about the deep-fried parsley that garnishes their plate. My tomato-based seafood chowder is spicy, hot and full of fresh seafood and vegetables. The chicken quesadilla is splitting at the seams.
Once again, Martin’s investment in his mixer pays off. The crusts of the calzone and pizzas are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Flaky, light and crispy are three words that come to mind. Traci and Gemma each enjoy the veggie pizza which comes topped with fresh mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, onion, sun-dried tomato, fresh tomato, mozzarella and pesto whilst Regan polishes off his seafood pizza. Mason’s snapper comes blackened with fennel seeds. “My favourite seed,” he proclaims. He cleans his plate then helps Traci with her pizza.
After dinner, we move to the bar and sip on coffees and espressos and wish we had room for dessert. Selections include coconut cream pie, a chocolate brownie with pecans and ice cream, cheesecake with fruit salsa and an upside-down caramelized apple pie with ice cream. The bar is crowded with diners and drinkers. Lesley and Martin plan on expanding the garden area to open an outdoor lounge for next season. Another reason to return.