Prior to my mother’s wedding rehearsal a couple of weeks ago, I treated myself to lunch before I met my friend Mantas for a few games of snooker. That was supposed to be at an Italian in Bournemouth called La Strada, but they weren’t opening for lunch on this occasion because of a flood in the back. So I went to the next place that struck my mind – The Print Rooms, which used to be the offices of our local newspaper. That is a glamorous joint, but their kitchen was shut, so I could not sample their fish tapas platter.
So by now, I’m running out of ideas, and just want to sit down and eat something, because by this point I still had a good two hours before I was due to meet Mantas. And after the other two aforementioned restaurants, I reminded myself that there was a Portuguese joint just around the corner from the hotel. Third time lucky? Oh yes.
Funchal By Night, named after the capital of Madeira, sits just above the area of Bournemouth known as ‘The Triangle’, which in turn is just above the top of the high street. I have never had Portuguese food before, so I thought now would be as good a time as any. It isn’t the largest of establishments – with cakes on the counter and the TV on in the corner, it had more of a café, but it wasn’t empty when I went in. The waitress seemed to be on the abrupt side, but given this breezeless heat and humidity, it’s enough to make anyone crabby – I’m no angel in this regard myself. I tried to diffuse this a little with my usual light humour – I’m not sure it worked, so I just got on and ordered.
My starter was a green vegetable soup – Caldo Verde com Chourico (see pictured), which as the name implies also contained chorizo sausage. The vegetable within this soup was mainly cucumber, though from the taste and texture of it, a considerable amount of olive oil. It was less of a soup and more of an emulsion, with the added paprika juices from the lovely and fat chorizo. Don’t get me wrong – the dish was nice in taste – and just the right temperature. It was also complemented well by the simple bread and butter accompaniment the waitress gave me.
I had not deliberated for very long over my choice of first course; my entrée was a totally different story – meat or fish? It feels like a long time since I last had a fish dish in a restaurant (actually it’s just been a long time since I ate in a proper restaurant), and when I saw Grilled Red Snapper on the menu, under the name of Pargo Grelhado (see pictured), I could not decline the chance. The poor creature, still intact on my plate, looked quite severe in expression, so I wish they had brought the plate with the fish not facing me.
Eating fish in this way can be quite a challenge, especially when you are trying to pick away all the inedible bits, and savour all the good stuff. Once the spine and the head has all been taken away, and you’ve resorted to scraping the flesh away with your fork, the dish doesn’t look anywhere near as big, nor as appetising. And I have to say that there was a hint of burntness about the flavour of this fish in some instances. It was served with both salad and seasonal vegetables, which struck me as a bit much for such a dish – either one or the other would have sufficed.
Needless to say I was a little disappointed by the main, but overall it was still a good meal – given that I was starving! However, it’s not a contender for the top 10 this year, and I can’t say I’d eat there again if given the choice. It was an experience getting to eat a different brand of cuisine for once though.