So I’m now feeling a little down-in-the-mouth, following the end of my esteemed friend Dean Connor’s four-day sojourn down here in Bournemouth. Nevertheless his visit has left me with a few fond memories, such as our visit to Poole Quay on Thursday 15th. Custom House was our venue for the evening, prior to the weekly firework display.
This restaurant made an appearance on the television programme “Harbour Lives” recently, hosted by Dorset boy Ben Fogle. It broke the world record for serving the largest fish and chip supper, but Dean and I weren’t there for fish and chips – we had come for the whole three-course kaboodle.
And contrary to what I thought, this restaurant is actually quite a posh place, as Dean did not hesitate to remind me continually while we were sat there, also frequently referencing how underdressed we were. But all this did not stop him ordering a platter of Dorset Cured Meats for his starter (see pictured). I say selection, in that I mean a few slices of parma ham, which was not dissimilar to the sandwich ham one normally buys in supermarkets.
You would not help but laugh for the crockery a little, which reminded us both of roof slates. My choice of a Mackerel Fillet (see pictured) was served on the exact same sort of plate. This little fish was presented on a tower of carrots, which was – according to the menu – pickled in lemon and saffron. The balsamic taste to them therefore did not surprise me. The menu can easily misconstrue the expectations of this dish though, as it cites the dish to come with “vegetables”, indicating a selection as opposed to just carrots and a pile of rocket leaves on the side. The fish itself was deliciously salty as Mackerel should be, and with the vinegary-ness of the carrots complementing it, it made for a very nice starter.
Custom House‘s à la carte offers the choice of the “Flatfish of the Day“. On this occasion, this was plaice (see pictured), which comes served with “herb-crushed new potatoes”, which have been formed into a sort of rösti – typical of Swiss cuisine. And then accompanying it, seemingly a favourite among fish dishes in recent times, was asparagus.
Be warned against ordering this sort of dish if you get impatient with de-boning, as I normally do not. However, by the time the skeleton from this plaice had been removed, there was very little flesh left to eat, and indeed some of the meat had taken some of the smaller bones with it. Whenever eating a bony fish, I always say that off the bone is the only way to eat it. However, on this rare occasion, I wish it had come deboned.
Dean was alright though with his Chicken Suprême (see pictured), which had been given a very French going-over. Served with “Sweetcorn à la Française” and “Jus Rôti” – essentially sweetcorn relish and gravy – in addition to the enigmatic Mushroom and Thyme Ballotine, which confused my former co-presenter even more greatly – he was already out of his depth in such an elegant establishment – all this accompaniment took the spotlight off of the chicken itself I suppose. The Ballotine resembled a thick wedge of either sausage meat or pâté.
For desserts, aside from the Raspberry Three-Ways (which Dean found highly amusing), the classic Sticky Toffee Pudding and the Milk Chocolate Tart me and Dean were tempted by a Passionfruit Parfait (see pictured below) and a Vanilla Panna Cotta respectively.
One word. Small. They were £6.95 each and the portions were tiny. I’m sorry – Expensive Tastes and that’s all very well – but a little ring of passionfruit-flavoured ice cream topped with half a pineapple ring and a coconut tuile for just under £7? I’m afraid it loses a couple of points with me on that one. Needless to say it was delicious – the ice cream carried the whole dessert off on its own – the accompaniments could just as well have sat in a ramequin on the side.
Dean’s Panna Cotta (see pictured) didn’t seem so bad – of course I did have to explain to him what it was before he ordered it – “a sort-of congealed custard” was essentially what I told him. The word “custard” sold it, but I think he was happy that it came with berries, which just so happen to be among his favourite aphrodisiacs. Funnily enough I have a feature on that very subject planned for a couple of weeks time – so stay tuned for that. I was more attracted by the shortbread biscuit that came with it. It seemed to have kept its solidity as opposed to the coconut tuile that had accompanied my parfait, which had gone a little soggy atop the ice cream.
Decent service, good quality, amazing presentation, but then hideous prices. Definitely one to impress a lady if you’ve got the wallet for it, but otherwise move down the Quay and go for something cheaper.