To end my week off a couple of weeks ago, a rather last-minute invitation to celebrate the 21st birthday of my dear friend Leona Everett took me to Banana Wharf on Poole Quay. Their flagship restaurant is actually in the Ocean Village of Southampton, and I have often tried to find an occasion by which I could pay it a visit – no such luck, so this provided the perfect opportunity to sample some good food.
A quick warning first of all – the drinks served at this establishment use top-quality brands such as Finlandia Vodka, so be sure to expect a slightly higher price.
Banana Wharf is situated along with west side of Poole Quay, next to other high-ranking restaurants such as Italian Gossip and Ranchos. Two sides of the restaurant are windows, giving diners excellent and beautiful views over the harbour. So typical of me to sit with my back to this – though if there had been mirrors in front of me I would have seen it just fine.
Across Banana Wharf’s three restaurants, the menu is diverse and widely-varied across more than one continent and cuisine, which makes deciding on what you want to eat a battle that no one wants to fight. From what I can tell, most of it is inspired by Italian food, with a fair few pasta and pizza dishes on offer, but there are examples of Moroccan, Mexican – such as the Chicken Fajitas (see pictured above) – or Asian – stretching from Indian in the form of a simple Chicken Tikka Masala, Chinese such as a dish of Stir-fried Beef in Oyster Sauce, or further along in the Orient in Thailand with a Thai Green Curry. There is also a range of burgers to choose from, and among the better-eating of the table, a generous list of salads, such as Chicken, Tiger Prawn and Mango Salad (see pictured), which come in two sizes.
Bar one or two individuals, none of these latter dishes took our fancy – we were more enamoured of the pasta dishes, such as the Chicken Diavolo (see pictured right), Italian for Devil Chicken, chosen by the birthday girl herself, owing to its containing chorizo, or the more traditional Spaghetti Carbonara (see pictured left), chosen by our friend Lauren.
Even I had a pasta dish for my main, so as to leave room for dessert, which turned out to be a lost cause as I couldn’t afford one in the end. Much to my disappointment, as I had had my sights set on their Banoffee Pie before I had even looked at the other sections on the menu. It’s an excuse to go back, I suppose.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here – let’s start with the starters, which are in turn just as difficult to settle upon as the main courses.
I was stuck in a rut between three different dishes: the Soup of the Day, which I didn’t manage to find out about; Cajun-marinated Chicken Skewers with Pepper Mayonnaise; and that which I finally settled on: the Crispy-fried Brie with Cranberry Sauce (see pictured). Others settled for simpler things such as Breaded Mushrooms (see pictured) or, not wanting to spoil their main course, even simpler in the form of Garlic Bread.
I was so glad to have chosen to Fried Brie – it’s only recently that I’ve started to like French cheeses. But I find with these deep-fried cheese starters, one can’t go wrong. The Camembert equivalent that was done by Café Rouge, or the Mozzarella at Prezzo. It is a pleasant start to any meal. I found that they overcompensate their tiny portion of Brie cubes with a large helping of cranberry sauce to accompany it. It really doesn’t go well with the salad, which already has a French dressing on it.
My choice of main course was much more satisfying to the stomach – the Smoked Salmon, Tiger Prawn and Crab Alfredo Tagliatelle (see pictured). The waitress did initially deliver it to the wrong person but once all the dishes had been rearranged around the table we were happy to eat it.
This dish is really cheesy and I mean that from a culinary and flavour point-of-view. But this doesn’t overwhelm the fishy flavours among the tagliatelle. The smoked salmon is not the wafer-thin slimy-textured stuff you buy in packets from the supermarket – rather it’s actual properly-smoked salmon flesh flaked in and around the pasta. The fattest and most succulent of tiger prawns that could be found. There is no sign of the crab because it makes up the Alfredo sauce, which also contains Parmesan (hence the cheesy flavour). The only thing I was disappointed by was the portion size relative to its price – just under £13 for that. If there had been a lot more then it would have been perfect.
Now for groups of our size there is a compulsory service charge, although how it turned out to be a good percentage more than our meal actually cost, resulting in all of us scrambling around in our wallets trying to make up the amount we had no idea would be so high! And relative to the actual quality of service we received, it was borderline extortion, at an average of £27 per person, when none of us had a dessert, and only a few of us had starters! Definitely the place for a couple’s meal or just one or two friends – because the service charge will be the thing that breaks the bank.