Friday, 4 January 2013

[Out of Oxford] West Beach, Bournemouth

I do like to be beside the seaside. Perhaps not so much on a damp and windy January day in Bournemouth, but the glass-fronted West Beach restaurant, mere yards from the town's famous beach, was quite a cosy place to stare out at the grey surf beating on the shore, before we strolled along the promenade and found some rather classy beach huts. But would the West Beach similarly unite style and function? As often, the answer is a non-committal 'yes and no'.

Unsurprisingly, fish dominates the main menu and the changing specials board, although I might have expected the former to be shorter and the latter longer to reflect what is caught locally each day. That said, there are oysters, lobster and mussels on offer but after the festive season we wanted something more digestible.
I had 'clam and lobster vongole' (£10; a special starter that served as a small main course). I think the name is a mistranslation of pasta alle vongole rather than a deliberate pleonasm. Continuing the Italian theme, the pasta was a bit al dente and so the strands stuck together but some unadvertised chilli gave the dish a pleasing kick and the seafood component was properly cooked: there were plenty of sweet clams, while the lobster had some although not masses of flavour. It was a shame that the winter greens (£3.50) I ordered on the side were swimming unpleasantly in butter.
Grilled sole (£20) and the vegetables that came with it were also a bit heavy on the butter but the fish was meaty and tender, flaking off the bone: my father was very happy. My mother's allergies meant she eschewed fish for a simple Cumberland sausage with red wine sauce (£12.50). The accompanying chips were slightly flabby and the sausage more like a chipolata than a Cumberland; onion rings were tasty but sweating with far too much oil. So much for New Year healthy eating.
Spiced plum crumble (£6.50) was pretty good; hearty, with the right proportion of topping to jewel-coloured fruit, although it wasn't clear how we were meant to pour crème anglaise into a full dish of dessert. A bitter chocolate and caramel tart, however, was less accomplished: the caramel was sweet and probably condensed milk-based, but the chocolate topping was hardly bitter, tasting like Bournville rather than Lindt 70%, if anything, and the pastry not crisp enough for a proper contrast of textures. Also, the clotted cream on top was off - not actually rancid, but it definitely shouldn't have been served. A cup of tea was taken off the bill as a result. That seemed fair, but no one came to explain and apologise (as should have happened, we were told) so initially we thought it was a miscalculation.
So we left with - I can't resist this - a slightly bad taste in the mouth. Our meal wasn't a disaster by any means, and I suppose West Beach deserves credit for trying, as I've eaten much worse and more expensive food in similar restaurants-with-a-view. Still, I don't think I'll be rushing back.

West Beach restaurant
Pier Approach
Dorset BH2 5AA

01202 587785


Square Meal

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