7 March 2016

Food - Rick Stein restaurant - Sandbanks, Dorset

Last week I was down in Dorset for work (350 miles south from North East where I am based) so I took the opportunity to have a mid week date night with one of my besties who lives there. We had a few celebrations to have as we hadn't seen each other since early December so we wanted to go somewhere special.

This restaurant choice to my friends and family is probably a little strange as I pretty much refuse to have anything to do with fish.

But I am in my early 30's and it's time to try some new foods. I am not a huge meat eater and will probably have chicken once a week, so now I feel I am going to have to start to hit my fear of fish bones and eyeballs head on.

Last week we decided to go to the newly (late summer 2015) opened Rick Stein restaurant. With branches mostly around the Cornwall area, I haven't had the opportunity to dine at one before. 

This one has opened up on the famous Sandbanks beach area so the theme of the restaurant fits the area perfectly.

AJ had been before when it first opened, but had sat in the more relaxed dining area near the entrance,  so this was a first experience for us both in the main restaurant.  

We were greeted at the front door by 2 members of staff who were very welcoming and offered to take our coats while they organised to take us to our table which we had pre booked online. 

By this point I was already distracted by a fish mural on the floor which was beautiful and looked like it was individually crafted for the space. The detail of the sea theme carried on throughout with oars and shell features.

We were shown to our table upstairs in the main a la carte dining area. You could see into the kitchen but you couldn't see much, I always like to see chef's at work creating amazing food.

The restaurant was pretty empty when we arrived at 7.15pm so we asked if we could change our table so we could sit together in a corner area and look out onto the restaurant instead of one of us looking at a wall and they were happy to accommodate. This was a super table and really added to the experience. 

I think if I was to go again it would be lovely to go during the day for lunch or maybe when the evenings become lighter as there were tables by the windows to admire the view over the water but it was a good job it was dark as AJ and I had loads to catch up on so we just wanted to soak up the atmosphere as we tried some yummy food. 

As a new to fish person.. I knew what items I definitely was staying clear of that I hadn't enjoyed previously which are the usual items most would choose like salmon and prawns. I do love a fishcake but I didn't see any on the menu.

I selected a couple of things I liked the sound of and asked the lady taking our order for more detail so I could make a final decision. I think the example she gave provided me with enough detail to make a decision but it wasn't too detailed and I wasn't convinced she had tried either of the ones I had asked about.

For my starter I chose the SEARED SCALLOP SUCCOTASH which consisted of 3 Scallops with crab meat, mussels, serrano ham, sweetcorn and chives in a creamy sauce.

This was a large portion for my starter, but good value for money. My first experience of scallops and they were very delicious and good presentation.

AJ had SASHIMI OF SCALLOPS, SALMON, TUNA AND BASS with wasabi, soy, daikon, shiso leaves and soy dipping sauce. This was beautifully presented and AJ really enjoyed what she had, I did try some Tuna, which tasted nice but I much preferred my choice as it was hot. 

By the time we finished our starter the restaurant had started to fill up and I would say it was a mix of ages and there was a lovely buzz of conversation, I can't remember if there was music. 

The decor was spot on, we felt we had enough space, the service was tentative with check backs on all courses and checking if we needed more drinks. There was up-selling on items but nothing too forceful but we were happy with our choices. 

The blue leather seating was beautiful... however there were some crazy choices of art on the walls and a few naked ladies. I felt these were a strange choice when the others were so lovely and in keeping with the sea theme. If I had been seated opposite a large portrait of a naked lady for my meal, this review would have probably taken a different turn about now.

AJ and I were looking at other couple's food selections turning up and were getting excited for our main course.

I chose the FILLET OF HAKE with beer, bacon and Savoy cabbage, served with new potatoes and as an extra I ordered some long stem broccoli. This was a fabulous choice, the fish was so soft and flakey, it tasted lovely with the sauce and cabbage. I think this was a perfect fish for me to start with as it was really light and fluffy so I could really taste everything on my plate. 

AJ chose the GRILLED MISO SALMON with rice noodles, spring onions and beansprouts plus a side order of Kale.

We were happy full by this point but being greedy and we were not ready to go home yet we decided to share a pudding.. but then we couldn't choose so ordered one each and had a nibble of both. 

I ordered the PASSION FRUIT BRÛLÉE  and AJ chose the PANNA COTTA with poached plums. 

Both were exceptional. The creme brûlée was so delicious and fruity and as expected the crunch of the top was perfect. This was both of our favourites of the two and the portion was large so you can imagine how full we were by the end of our meal.

So I know what you are thinking.. how much did all this amazing food cost?

We weren't drinking so this reduced the bill, we were driving plus it was mid week.

For 3 courses and 2 bottles of fizzy water plus optional tip it worked out as £45 a head. I think this is really reasonable, I have paid similar for hotel food before and this was way ahead of this on experience and taste.

The full visit was something to remember, and I would certainly want to return or try another branch.

If I could change anything about the experience I would say - fishcake to be on the menu, lose the naked art and please leave a wine list or cocktail menu on the table in case we change our mind.

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