20 years on from when they opened their first restaurant, award-winning chefs Chris and James Tanner are now at the heart of fine-dining here in Plymouth. Find out more about the pair, discover their traditional recipes that have stood the test of time, and explore through our own experience what it’s like to spend an evening dining at their restaurant, the Barbican Kitchen. Written by Sophie Squires, photos by Abby Donald.
Chris and James first opened Barbican Kitchen in 2006, with the aim of delivering fresh, local food at a realistic price. The restaurant itself is housed in the world famous Plymouth Gin Distillery, with their menu showcasing a variety of stunning local meats, vegetables, and top quality fish from a network of suppliers.
The Tanner Brothers are acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs, having owned and operated their own businesses for the past twenty years. Their first restaurant, Tanners, opened in 1999, picking up a string of awards during its successful fifteen years in business. As well as all of their businesses, the brothers work alongside several high profile global organisations.
They are also extremely passionate about developing and nurturing future generations of the restaurant industry for both the kitchen and front of house, acting as patrons for both City College Plymouth & Bromley College in London.
DID YOU KNOW…The brothers’ love for Devon began with family holidays to the area when they were children.
After hearing great things about the Barbican Kitchen – and of course, a quick scroll through TripAdvisor – it’s no surprise that our expectations were set high before we set foot in the building. As we entered the restaurant through the sliding glass doors, we were greeted by smiling front of house staff, who promptly showed us to our table (window seat and all, weren’t we lucky!).
Our waitress for the evening, Becky, was very accommodating and nothing was too much trouble. Soon after being seated we were offered drinks and nibbles, and not long after we placed our order.
The menu offered a fantastic range of seasonal dishes.
There were plenty of options available, but not so many that you felt overwhelmed with choice. Diners were also offered the option to make any of the vegetarian dishes vegan in order to fit their dietary requirements.
In light on Chris and James’ 20 year celebration of fine-dining, we decided to opt for the dishes that have remained staple options within their menus in order to truly get a taste of the brothers’ recipes that have stood by them from the very beginning.
To start, we had the Hand Picked South Devon Crab, with mango, spring onion, and salted peanut. The both of us hadn’t had crab in a very long time, so we were looking forward to a fresh, local dish. The flavour was fantastic and it was the perfect size for a starter – not so much that you were full before your main, but just enough to appease your appetite before moving onto the main course.
What better way to truly taste a classic Tanner recipe than to opt for the fish and chips?
This dish is significant to Chris and James’ 20th anniversary, as the recipe for the beer batter has remained completely unchanged; and there’s a good reason for it.
We thought our eyes were deceiving us when we saw the massive portion of haddock presented in front of us – how on earth were we going to have room for dessert?! Don’t worry, we managed to do this with no problem at all.
The batter was thin and crispy, and the fish itself was light and flavoursome, it was the perfect combination.
The chips are triple cooked to create a perfect finish on the outer layer and a fluffy centre to bite into. The mushy peas tasted fresh and creamy and rounded off the dish nicely.
After being thoroughly defeated by our main course, our waitress asked us if we would like to see the dessert menu, and after a brief glance and nod to each other, we very quickly agreed.
I opted for the classic creme brulee, another recipe that has stood the test of time, whilst Abby chose the cheesecake as her final dish of the evening. Both desserts were rich in flavour; and for mine personally, I can certainly see why the Tanner Brother’s have not changed the recipe for the creme brulee! The top layer was caramelised to the perfect finish and the creamy centre certainly made for a fantastic final dish.
DID YOU KNOW…Over the last 20 years the Tanner Brothers have served over a million guests!
After finishing off our meal for the evening, we had a chat with the head chef of Barbican Kitchen – Martyn Compton – worked with the Tanner Brother’s at their original restaurant in Plymouth. He tells us more about the menu choices and the thought that goes into it:
“The fish and chips are their signature staple so to speak – we’ve got our recipes and if it’s not broken then there’s no point in changing it! The fish we buy locally on a daily basis, the bread we buy from Jacker’s Bakery, at the moment we’ve got a beef and a lamb dish on, all seasonal and we keep as much local as possible.
“Everything has its time – we might change things every two weeks to a month, it just depends on how it goes, but it’s all selling which is good.”
We certainly had a lovely evening at the Barbican Kitchen and plan to re-visit again soon. We were able to truly experience the dishes that best represent Chris and James’ 20 years celebrations and can certainly see why these dishes have remained unchanged.
If you’re in the area, why not book a table? Contact details are listed below:
W: http://barbicankitchen.com/ E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 01752 604448