Alex Aitken, former director of cuisine at Lime Wood in the New Forest, is to head up the kitchen of the 72-seat restaurant within the grounds of the Christchurch Harbour hotel, previously operated by Gary Rhodes.
Rhodes South, which closed at the weekend, will reopen tomorrow as The Jetty, with Aitken keeping the same kitchen brigade that Rhodes had built up.
It is the second Gary Rhodes restaurant in Christchurch to close within nine months. Kings Rhodes, a brasserie at the Kings Christchurch hotel, closed in November 2009 and has been replaced by Jacks restaurant, with head chef Gary Cooke at the helm.
Rhodes originally opened the two restaurants in partnership with the Harbour Hotels Collection, the owner of the Christchurch Harbour and Kings Christchurch hotels, at the end of 2008.
Speaking in Dubai, where he launched his second restaurant last week - Rhodes Twenty10 at the five-star Le Royal Meridien beach resort - Rhodes said that the audience in Christchurch was not big enough for his two restaurants.
"The restaurants were three miles apart but with such a small audience it just wasn't right," he explained. "We decided to keep the most popular operation open, which was the fine-dining restaurant - it's right on the seafront so we continued that."
Rhodes said that he decided not to renew the contract with the Harbour Hotels Collection because of his commitments elsewhere.
"I don't own any of my restaurants. When we realise that an operation isn't doing as well as we want it to we can walk away from it when the contract comes to an end. So we're not closing these restaurants; we're just not continuing them."
Mark Godfrey, managing director of Harbour Hotels Collection, said that he is delighted to appoint Alex Aitken, who previously held a Michelin-star at Le Poussin in Brockenhurst and has worked in the New Forest for 25 years.
"We decided to terminate Gary's contract as we wanted to have a local chef heading the restaurant. Alex will bring his fantastic knowledge of local food and supplies to the restaurant.
"We want to create a real neighbourhood restaurant. Alex is very well-known in the area and will be cooking some superb food."
Aitken will work in the purpose-built eco-friendly restaurant every day for the next three months. He will then work at The Jetty for one day a week on a consultancy basis, allowing him to continue looking a hotel or restaurant of his own in the New Forest.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to introduce my food to Dorset," said Aitken. "The menu will offer a mix of my favourite dishes and stunning seafood.
"The building and location are incredible. After Lime Wood, which is equally amazing, it had to be somewhere special."
* Rhodes Twenty10, sister restaurant to the award-winning Mezzanine at Grosvenor House Dubai, serves a more casual menu focused on sharing platters and dishes from the grill, with dishes including burgers, steaks, grilled seafood and traditional British desserts such as sticky toffee pudding.
"The concept is a culinary grill with a difference," Rhodes explained. "I want to give guests the chance to tailor-make their meal depending on their tastes and create a sociable dining experience, by introducing sharing platters and offering a variety of flavours all on one plate."
By Janet Harmer
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