Miller & Carter, Bournemouth

Visited for a special occasion, reviewed by special request. Could this be the most stylish steakhouse on the South Coast?

Regular readers will know we don’t really do chain restaurants when it comes to reviews. We have done them when content is running low, or more particularly, when they meet certain requirements. The standard and style of their food, for example, or the reputation of the founding chef. After all, our 300th issue last year was at Brasserie Blanc, at their now-closed Covent Garden restaurant. Suffice it to say, where we deem it appropriate, we will review a chain establishment and critique the standard of their food, service, value, variety and presentation, but they are not considered on any scoreboard for the year.

The BH2 cinema-restaurant complex in Bournemouth town centre is a popular destination for anyone seeking lunch, dinner, or any other meal of the day for that matter. While I have tried a select few of the places there, one that has eluded me time and time again, for want of a worthy occasion to visit, is the Miller & Carter Steakhouse. Earlier this year, another of their restaurants much closer to where I live burned down, so this was my first ever visit to one of their chain.

It was in celebration of my dear friend, hotel operations manager and long-time co-reviewer Ellie Wicks’ birthday at the end of August; a last-minute invitation to easily one of the most stylishly-decorated restaurants in Bournemouth. All black leather and dark wood furniture, with accents of red. The sort of thing one imagines a mogul or millionaire owning. And while I profess to being neither of those things, I did feel right at home.

Our meal began with us being led to the wrong table; Ellie’s sister had been down earlier to place a couple of balloons on the table we had booked, which the host led us straight past. Once we were in our seats, menus in front of us, it was pretty plain sailing.

8-ounce Fillet Steak, done rare, served with fries; a lettuce wedge with garlic mayonnaise and parmesan dressing; onion loaf and beef dripping sauce

From Rump to Chateaubriand, every cut of beef you would expect to find on any respectable steakhouse’s menu — my choice, along with that of Ellie and her sister, was the Fillet Steak, in my case done rare (see pictured). All steaks come served with fries (sweet potato, should you wish), a slice of onion loaf – which we’ll go into later – and a lettuce wedge, in a dressing of your choice. You also get a choice of steak sauce, of which there are a decent number to choose. Respectively, I had a Garlic Mayonnaise and Parmesan dressing and the Beef Dripping sauce. Sides range from the usual suspects such as Garlic Button Mushrooms to the high-calibre Grilled Half-Lobster. My advice would be to save a little room for dessert; the side dishes alone sound as though they could qualify as a main course anywhere else.

First of all, it is really is so rare (no pun intended here) to find a steak restaurant that will obey your instruction as to the doneness and actually get it right. I asked for a rare steak, I received a rare steak. And yet, the knife cut through the meat cleanly and perfectly; there was no hacksawing away at it to reveal the crimson beneath. The Beef Dripping sauce really was a high point – take it from me, it’s even better than it sounds. The onion loaf was a strange thing to behold. The best way I can describe it is to get you to think of the grilled onions you get from those burger vans, all mixed together into a sort of hash. I mean that in every positive way – it tasted great; it was just a bit unusual.

Raspberry Crème Brûlée, served with a shortbread biscuit

Always leave a little room for a pudding on these birthday meals; something light but nonetheless sweet will suffice. In my case, it was a Raspberry Crème Brûlée (see pictured) that served as dessert. A far cry from my usual third course on my formerly-regular trips to Café Rouge, wherein it would be a bright pink custard merely flavoured with raspberry under the caramel crust. It was a far superior case here, with whole raspberries suspended in a divinely rich vanilla crème, all concealed under a crispy layer of golden melted sugar. It had all the fancy decorations to make it colourful and pretty, but in truth the only thing it needed was the little shortbread biscuit that came on the side.

Miller’s Chocolate Orange

Obviously, they did something special for Ellie, whose choice of dessert had been the fittingly flamboyant Miller’s Chocolate Orange (see pictured) – though if they start making Terry’s Chocolate Oranges like these, their sales will go through the roof. It was a sphere of chocolate ganache and orange toffee, topped with a scoop of orange sorbet. Crowning it was a tuile of almond and hazelnut, or a nougatine as they refer to it on the menu. As if that presentation was not enough, they even tubed a Happy Birthday message to her.

Impressed is definitely the elected word for my first experience at Miller & Carter. A place to definitely visit whether you’re a steak lover or not; there is a lot there on the menu to satisfy any diet or appetite. There are so many non-steak options on there that one could be forgiven for almost forgetting they were in a steakhouse altogether!