Tuesday, 14 August 2012

[Out of Oxford] The Jetty, Christchurch, Dorset

A couple of years ago I ate one of the worst meals I’ve ever had in an establishment that afforded a wonderful view of sunset over Loch Lomond. Situated in a similarly idyllic spot - especially so on a warm, still August evening - right on the edge of Christchurch Harbour in east Dorset, the Jetty could be forgiven for not trying that hard. But in a restaurant just across the water from a busy fishing port with a head chef, Alex Aitken, who is a former Michelin star holder (and ex-trawlerman), standards are higher. 

They could be higher still. There were some hints of not incompetence exactly but a lack of attention to detail (the waitress jumping in to ask how our food was when it had barely arrived, the mysterious arrival of two platefuls of pre-dessert petits fours, the 'ceasar salad' and 'strawberry consume' on the menu) and as you will see we had to find fault with a few aspects of the food. However, we enjoyed the relaxed but sophisticated atmosphere, to say nothing of the view. Unsurprisingly there is plenty of seafood on offer - you'll have trouble finding a non-fish starter although the main courses are more balanced - and a special menu lists the catch of the day. The bread and popcorn served in crab and scallop shells was a nice touch.

 After an amuse bouche of chilled pea velouté I was faced with a scotch egg cloaked in brandade (£7.95). It wasn't bad, although I'm not sure the slightly greasy salt cod mixture worked that well with the egg and the samphire (more coastal produce) in the accompanying salad added even more salt. More impressive was a twice-baked soufflé with local cheddar (£7.25), which came as a gloopy mountain sinking into molten cheesy foothills and was neither too heavy or too monotonous. A mackerel beetroot salad was fresh and full of flavour (£7.50).

I'd never expected to see squid and duck on the same plate but my 'squid duck breast with squid stuffed with confit leg, tempura squid and greens' (£19.95) actually worked very well, although it seemed to be more a vehicle for the duck than the squid. The breast meat was wonderfully tender, with the skin perfectly singed, and the confit rich and meaty; the tempura was a little thick. Calf's liver with leek and potato cake in a red wine sauce (£16.50) was exceptionally tender and lemon sole with greens (£19.95) was melting and buttery, although the pile of salty samphire on which it came was a bit much. Moreover, the accompanying chips were too hard inside and had the unmistakeable smack of old cooking oil.

Desserts were rather more consistent. A chocolate fondant with white chocolate ganache and raspberry sorbet (£7.95) drew praise for its deep chocolate flavour, and like a baked cheescake (£5.95) was heartstoppingly rich; New Forest strawberry and elderflower jelly (£6.50) was a delicate, refreshing contrast. A towering hot passion fruit soufflé (£7.95) was suitably light but despite the rich fruit sauce that was poured in I found the texture a bit dry, although that may have been the acidity from the fruit.
So there were misses as well as hits, but it was a fairly satisfying dinner on the whole and we were certainly well looked after. This isn't the cheapest restaurant around but I would say it was decent value for money, at least for a special occasion, as this was (there is also a cheaper set menu available in the week). Anyway, you're also paying for this:

The Jetty
Christchurch Harbour Hotel
95 Mudeford
Christchurch BH23 3NT
01202 400950 


The Jetty on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

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