Loch & Quay, Christchurch

A welcome sight for anyone passing through Christchurch’s high street. Whatever your preference – meat, fish or veggie – they cover it…

Anyone who has a habit of passing through Christchurch will know Loch & Quay by sight. It is a glass building – pretty much all windows – set in amongst a load of traditional brick ones. Its chicness and style really do help it stick out.

As such, it’s a restaurant that’s been on my to-review list for a while now. And in looking for somewhere to go for dinner with two very good friends – Rianna Oak and Kyle Munn – it quickly felt like the right time had finally arrived.

Not that the restaurant itself can help it, but parking in Christchurch on a Saturday evening is a nightmare. After a lot of eagle-eyed circling of numerous car parks, we found the last space behind a theatre about a five-minute walk from Loch & Quay. It’s a consideration you should take if you decide to go – if you’re not local, it might be an idea to taxi there. Saves you the stress of finding a spot.

The menu is varied enough to cater for a wide range of appetites, preferences and lifestyles. If you’re not keen on fish, for example, there is a wealth of meat dishes to satisfy you instead. However, it is a small restaurant (even if they do cater for any party or occasion you can think of), so the later you arrive, the more likely they are going to have run out of something.

Tempura Coconut King Prawns, served with a Mango Salsa

In our case, for example, the calamari, steak and house white wine were all gone, and we arrived at 9pm. Fortunately for us, that made very little difference to us. Only Kyle said he would have had calamari to start, but instead decided against a first course altogether, not attracted by any of the other options.

Rianna contented herself, after a long time in choosing, with some Tempura Coconut King Prawns (see pictured above), served with a Mango Salsa. Those look gorgeous, don’t they? Too often one finds Tempura Prawns deep-fried to little more than a crisp, utterly rid of their flavour. Not in this case. In fact, Rianna remarked they tasted like “a prawn-flavoured Bounty”.

Venison Croquettes

My own starter came in the form of a pair of Venison Croquettes (see pictured). I know – that sounds interesting, right? There were only two of them, which was a tad disappointing, but they were still packed with flavour. It was minced venison put in with a little layer of mashed potato, and turned into an otherwise traditional croquette. Awesome quality and taste, though the side salad and the multicoloured crosshatching of sauces lent little more than colour to the plate.

(If you want to make your own potato croquettes, follow this link to our recipe!)

Gourmet Homemade Beef Burger

Naturally, next we move on to the mains. Kyle eventually settled on a Gourmet Homemade Beef Burger (see pictured) for his choice of entrée. Delightfully modern presentation (sarcasm for those who hadn’t gathered). I wonder where chefs will serve burgers when they get bored of boards and baskets. But as a dish, it looked delicious enough. If I had been in a burger kind of mood, I would have happily eaten it.

One small thing — don’t order extra chips unless you mean to share them with the table. The burger comes with plenty of them. Major carb overdose if you have a second helping.

Moules Marinière

A true restauranty classic up next — Moules Marinière (see pictured), which served as Rianna’s main course. You can often find places stinting on mussel portions, which is madness since they cost so little. It takes an extortionate supplier probably not worth their salt to overcharge on mussels.

The thing that really makes this dish is the Marinière Sauce. In this case, it was so creamy and full of flavour, it’s actually a shame there wasn’t more of it. Definitely enough to merit a couple of pieces of bread, though.

A pleasant surprise came from the waiting staff’s diligence – they brought both a fingerbowl and a second bowl to dispose of your empty shells. In my experience, one does sometimes have to ask for the latter.

Fillet of Sea Bream with Spinach Mash and Seasonal Veg

No shells or extra crockery for me. My entrée was the night’s special. Fillet of Sea Bream with Spinach Mash and Seasonal Vegetables (see pictured), namely.

At the time, I thought this was the first Bream dish I had had since 2012, when this blog had only just started. At an Italian by the beach called Vesuvio. I’ve remembered since that it was at Marco Pierre White’s pop-up restaurant at the Grand Harbour Hotel in Southampton – still a fair few years ago, mind you.

In short, we were long overdue.

The first thing that took hold of me was the garlic. Though there were no chunks of it hanging around in the dish, the flavour was undeniable. And that was in the carrots! I hadn’t even touched the fish at that point. As I made my way through the main, those flavours seemed to intensify. The flesh of the fish was so rich and succulent; only having two fillets was quite enough to make for a satisfying meal.

Spinach and mashed potatoes both generally accompany fish well, but I was surprised that both combined together, they made just as good a combination. Something to experiment with if you’re making something like a fisherman’s pie.

Loch & Quay’s Chocolate Brownie, with Pistachio crumb and vanilla ice cream

The carbohydrate overload had done for Kyle by that point, and Rianna and I both were only half-contemplating a dessert. In the end, we decided to share Loch & Quay’s Chocolate Brownie (see pictured). I accompanied this by a little glass of port.

Rich and sumptuous with every mouthful. The ice cream and chocolate straw did more for the flavours than the pistachio crumb. But overall, so indulgently chocolatey that to have had a whole one at that stage of the game would have been pure masochism. The port had a smokiness about the sweetness that enhances those flavours even more. It would have been just as good if served with a caramel or toffee-related dish, I think.

All of this, plus the £19 bottle of wine that Rianna and I shared, still came to less than £100. With the extraordinary food comes a decent variety and very attentive and friendly service. All you have to do is mind how late in the evening you arrive, or you may be a few dishes down.

The only thing I would not recommend it for is its size. As I mentioned earlier, they do offer to cater for a number of parties and occasions, but if your guest list is over 50 people long, it’ll be a tight fit…