Step back in time

After 20 years of flying the skies, Steve Kelly has now taken on a different flight path with the opening of his first restaurant, celebrating the golden era of the 1920s

  • E-Mail
By  Lynne Nolan Published  August 1, 2006

|~|steve-kelly-body.jpg|~|Opting for a 1920s themed restaurant was mainly due to Kelly’s fascination with the period, as well as the fact that this is a market that is relatively untapped in the region.|~|After 20 years of flying the skies, Steve Kelly has now taken on a different flight path with the opening of his first restaurant, celebrating the golden era of the 1920s Wanting to capture the spirit of the 1920s, Steve Kelly, managing director of the Roaring 20’s restaurant, began his first venture into the catering industry with the opening of an outlet on the restaurant boulevard of Dubai’s Green Community. As a long-haul pilot, he also wanted to incorporate different cuisines and flavours into his menu that he had experienced along his travels. However, Kelly’s main driving force was to create a restaurant that offered affordable fine dining in a relaxed and family orientated atmosphere. “A lot of friends of mine are in the restaurant business and they encouraged me to open a restaurant. They said that if I opened an outlet they would go there instead of my house,” comments Kelly. “What I want to provide is good food with good service, in an environment that is aesthetically pleasing. Indeed, some of the ideas from around the room are from my interests and experiences,” he adds. Opting for a 1920s themed restaurant was mainly due to Kelly’s fascination with the period, as well as the fact that this is a market that is relatively untapped in the region. However, his career did not begin in the catering industry. Having graduated with a degree in business studies and marketing, Kelly then joined the air force working on a VIP squadron base in London. “We were flying ministerial officials, chiefs of staff and royalty. We had to focus on everything from the biscuits the cheese was served on, to the smoothness of the landing,” he says. However, Kelly later worked with Virgin Atlantic before moving to Emirates, where he discovered the secrets of delivering an exceptional product. “I learnt how even the smallest things can spoil an entire experience, and also how to look at the bigger picture. I have become very fussy, which is a good trait in this business.” Setting out with his blueprint last year, Kelly found it difficult to break into a hotel, as he had no existing restaurant to flaunt. However, he comments that he found his current location ‘by accident.’ “When I moved out here, the area was slowly being leased out. They were quite particular about what type of restaurants they took on, so all of the outlets offer something different,” he says. Split between indoor seating and an outdoor area on the terrace, Kelly has found the summer weather to be the first challenge for the venue. However, the toughest hurdle for Roaring 20’s and other restaurants along the promenade has been waiting for their applications for alcohol licences to be approved. To counter the wait, however, the outlet is offering a wide range of mocktails. With names including Mojito Chaplin, Flapper’s Delight, Prohibition, Cheeky Charleston and Margarita Al Capone, staff members were all trained to create the concoctions by a mixologist. Additionally, with the expertise of head chef Lars Engstrom on board — who has previously worked for Gordon Ramsay — Kelly is keen to offer wholesome food. His meticulous attention to detail over service and presentation also extends to the ingredients used in the kitchen. ||**|||~|lars-body.jpg|~|With the expertise of head chef Lars Engstrom on board — who has previously worked for Gordon Ramsay — Kelly is keen to offer wholesome food.|~|“What’s important to me is making sure that the produce is consistently fresh and of the best quality. If something is not good enough I’d rather have it off the menu for the day than spoil someone’s experience, and have them go and tell everyone,” Kelly says. With dishes including steaks, lobster thermidor tartlets, chicken liver parfaits, roast lamb, skewers of shrimp, and chicken and lychee served with plum sauce, the most popular dish to date is mussels with garlic shallots, parsley and cream. The Roaring Friday Brunch has also proved successful, with a steady flow of traffic since the outlet’s opening. The promenade’s position at the nucleus of the Green Community’s rapid development, with its proximity to a shopping mall, banks and housing, has also created a loyal audience for the outlet. Despite being located next to other outlets though, Kelly has developed a good relationship with the other owners, and they hope to collaborate on promotions in the future. The businesses also face stiff rivalry from the three fine dining outlets at the neighbouring JW Marriott hotel. “We’re all in the business to make money and we’re all pretty much in agreement that we want to make this work. That’s good news for me,” he comments. Run very much as a family business, Kelly’s wife, Emily, has worked as part of the front of house team, whilst his eldest son is involved in the back of house operation. “The family link is another part of the service. We want people to come back and see familiar faces. I think this is something Dubai lacks, some establishments can be quite impersonal,” he admits. Recollecting visits to some of Dubai’s top hotels, Kelly says a lot of the staff have a lack of knowledge of the menu, no appreciation of the wine list, and no marriage between the wine and the dishes; these are areas he hopes to target when the outlet secures its licence. “I want someone to come in, sit down and feel pampered to the point of having to say stop. The staff are trained to know what’s on the menu, what compliments the dishes, offer suggestions, and reel off the specials without having to look at notepads, a comprehensive delivery,” Kelly says adamantly. Referring to one of the most colourful decades in American history, the 1920’s marked a break with tradition, with the spirit of the Roaring Twenties cultivated through jazz and dance. Kelly hopes to flaunt this spirit, with the restaurant’s corner stage area acting as a platform for two and three-piece bands to play jazz, blues and swing. Although his first outlet, if business flourishes then Kelly says future expansion could definitely be on the cards in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain. “I would like to ease out of long-haul flying at some point. You can’t fly forever, there’s more to life, and cooking has always been a passion of mine,” he adds. ||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code