Back to His Roots
On the eve of the opening of Rhoda, his new restaurant in collaboration with Yenn Wong, Nathan Green talks to Wilson Fok about family, food and playing to his strengths
hen he thinks back to the food of his childhood, Nathan Green immediately reminisces about his grandmother, Rhoda. “She truly embodied the meaning of the word hospitality,” says the chef, who has helmed the kitchen at Wan Chai restaurant 22 Ships for the past two years. Rhoda lived in South London—a lengthy trip from the Midlands, where Nathan resided with his mother and father, so his visits were limited.
But when they did get together, the feasts were spectacular. “Lunch would normally start around noon and go until midnight,” Nathan recalls. “It would be this procession of incredible dishes, which she would send out from her tiny little galley kitchen.” Rhoda’s signature dishes included poached salmon, beef bourguignon, pâte, prawn salad and spare ribs—simple food that packed a punch.
This month, Nathan pays the ultimate homage to Rhoda, who passed away last year aged 94, by opening a new eatery named for his grandmother and inspired by her sensational spreads. The restaurant, located in Sai Ying Pun, is a collaboration with Yenn Wong of Jia Group, with whom he worked during his tenure at 22 Ships.
Rhoda’s focus is family-style, rustic fare— the type of food on which Nathan was raised. “As a child, I was surrounded by food,” he recalls. “At an early age, I helped my mother in the kitchen, rolling out pastries. By age five, I had learned how to make the perfect omelette. One of my favourite father-son times was handling the barbecue with my father.”
At 18, Nathan finished cooking school and was ready to work. After stints with big-name chefs including Michael Caines, Tom Aikens and Tom Sellers, it was Jason Atherton who gave his career the biggest boost. “Jason called. He heard that I was leaving [Sellers’ restaurant] Story and said he would like to offer me a work opportunity in Hong Kong.” Nathan basically hopped on the next plane—and has yet to look back.
Rhoda is set to be a thing of beauty. The interiors have been designed by celebrated tastemaker Joyce Wang, whose brass and aged wood will line the 2,000-square-foot space, complete with bricks and tiling to bring a homely feel to the establishment.
Beyond the look and feel, unpretentious down-home flavours are the true focus at Rhoda. Nathan will offer a menu that changes daily and features market-fresh produce. “Rhoda is going to serve everything—different cuts of meats and offal and all,” he explains. “We don’t enjoy the term ‘nose-to-tail’ that much, because we are simply maximising the potential of the resources offered to us, such as what parts of the animal are available. It’s essentially about making the most out of the animal and minimising wastage.”
Nathan will buy his animals whole and carve them into cuts in the restaurant’s kitchen. Fish is sourced locally—with help from David Lai, who co-runs Fish School with Yenn—and grilled to perfection. Similarly, the roast chicken is deliciously moist and comes seasoned with thyme and