Fairmont The Palm Chef de Cuisine Romain van Durmen tells Hotel & Catering News Middle East about his cooking style, techniques and the modern European concept Seagrill Bistro.
Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from Belgium, but have travelled and worked in Spain a lot. Mediterranean cuisine is something I can’t get enough of!
How long have you been a chef for?
I’ve been a professional chef for over 14 years and began as an apprentice for two Michelin star restaurants in Belgium: La Chateau Du Mylord and Sea Grill. It’s amazing how much you can learn as an apprentice, as it helps you form your own style of cooking as you grow in the industry. I’ve worked for other Michelin restaurants and even ran my own restaurant and catering service in Belgium, so food is my absolute passion.
Tell us about the menu at Seagrill Bistro.
The menu at Seagrill Bistro is a celebration of modern European cuisine which has contemporary, market-fresh favourites infused with Mediterranean influences.
At Seagrill, we’re not trying to confuse anyone or complicate anything, our goal is to serve simple quality and tasty food. There’s something very honest about using great ingredients and sticking to traditional cooking techniques – it’s unpretentious and delicious.
We run a popular Friday brunch, which is where we really showcase what we can do, and not just with the food. While we do have show-stopping seafood on ice and caviar, it’s the overall atmosphere that people come back for. The service, led by the restaurant manager Mario, is second to none, while our resident DJ Timo adds to the multi-sensory experience.
It’s rarely that you see a trio of creative professionals using their individual expertise in a way that really offers a new experience to the guest.
What’s your signature dish?
I would say the Seagrill Boullabaisse (fish stew) is our signature dish. We have repeat guests that order it time and time again and people come back to our brunch just for that. Mario has even had guests requesting the recipe through Instagram so that they can recreate it at home.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
There are a lot of guilty food pleasures for a chef so naming just one would be tough. If I was asked to name a particular food that I could have all day, I would choose to have a cheese board and charcuterie (cured meat) while binge-watching Netflix all day. There’s not much that a day relaxing at home can’t cure and, when you’re a busy chef, it’s nice to have some downtime. Cheese and meat just tops it off!
What are your favourite ingredients to work with and why?
I love using organic produce in all of my dishes as it gives you a very fresh taste. My favourite ingredients are fennel, thyme and lemon for their versatility in soups, stocks, as a side dish or in a main course, and they always remind me of the Mediterranean.
I think it’s why I love Seagrill Bistro so much with its terrace by the beach, the island life tunes from Timo, and the crisp white-and-blue décor. You might think you’re lazing over a long lunch in the Med, rather than being 20 minutes away from the desert.
What are your ambitions for the restaurant?
When I started at Seagrill Bistro in 2018, the restaurant was ranked 288 on TripAdvisor and now it’s at 45 which is fantastic. The hard work the entire team have put in to reach this far is outstanding and shows what an outlet can do with the right team.
We’ll continue to produce great-tasting food with varying twists along the way and cater to industry trends. Our Saturday Sundowners are just one of the ways through which we give our guests more than just a restaurant, and we look forward to developing brand new dining opportunities as a team.