Terroir Tapas, Southbourne

When a restaurant gets voted best in the area, it would be rude not to pay them a visit…

You may or may not know that, in addition to running this site, I am a contributing editor of another online publication – Humans of Bournemouth. A kind of human interest-tourist information hybrid magazine. Toward the end of 2018, I got a poll going on our social media accounts, asking our readers to vote for their favourite restaurant in Bournemouth. To my amazement, I had only visited one of the Top Five – NEO. Clearly, there’s still some work to be done in reviewing all of Bournemouth’s restaurants; I started with the winner of that poll — Terroir Tapas in Southbourne. Joined by Rianna Oak and Kyle Munn.

Between the three of us, we were a little unsure what to expect – I had gathered that they were quite a chic and stylish establishment based on the look of their website, while Rianna suspected they were a little more hippy-esque, given their environmentally conscious values. It turns out, it’s a happy marriage of both. A small venue furnished with sleek and pristine worktops and tables, while absolutely nothing goes to waste throughout the restaurant. That includes constructing work surfaces from recycled broken crockery and so on, but also in terms of the food and drink (more on that later). You can sit at your own table, at the chef’s counter or at the bar. Makes for a more social dining experience to choose the first option as we did.

Highball – Gin and fresh Russet Apple juice, garnished with an apple pulp biscuit

There is a very decent variety of tapas dishes on offer. So much so that it took us a while to come to a decision what exactly we wanted. In the drink department, however, it was far easier for Rianna and I. We both could not resist the Highball (see pictured). This is a mixture of gin and fresh Russet Apple juice. Here’s how committed Terroir is to avoiding waste — the leftover pulp from the apples they use gets made into a biscuit, with which they garnish the cocktail! This biscuit was really unusual, almost like a wafer-thin, apple-flavoured flapjack – that’s the best description I can give. Meanwhile the cocktail itself was wickedly strong. Perfect for blowing the winter cobwebs away.

I believe we were served by the owner and/or manager, who was very helpful and informative about the food and service, given it was our first time here. Two dishes each are recommended to begin with, served as and when they are ready, rather than all at once.

Out of the three of us, Kyle is probably the most health and fitness-conscious; neither of his dishes had any complications like meat or fish involved and, as such, they came out first. Terroir Tapas’ Wood-fried Bread with dips and K.F.C., short for Korean-fried Cauliflower, in this case (see pictured below).

Wood-Fried Bread with dips
K.F.C. — Korean-fried Cauliflower

This duo of dishes looked just divine. However, I can only attest to the taste of the bread, since Kyle was generous enough to let the rest of the table have a sample. The most gorgeous fluffy texture; say nothing of the flavour. When added with the dips, it reminded me of Naan bread in a way, but much more moist. Cliché though it may sound, it literally did melt in the mouth, as Rianna was quick to remark. Just leave it on the tongue and let it dissolve. I liked it so much I even considered ordering a portion for myself in Round Two.

Scallop, Black Pudding and Apple

Next up were Rianna’s choices, both of which were fish-based in some way. First to arrive was the Scallop, Black Pudding and Apple (see pictured). In all these dishes, I was enthralled by the colours. I find a fair few places that serve tapas often run the risk of serving a lot of brown dishes, so the variety here was a pleasant surprise. The three of us were present the first time Rianna ever tried scallops, back in 2017 at The Fox & Hounds – good to see a lasting impression. This time, it was her first grapple with black pudding, whose pairing with the shellfish has become ubiquitous, but lovely nonetheless. It was in little cous-cous shaped beads, serving as a bed for the scallops, rather than in chunks. And choosing apples in lieu of something predictable like pea purée, for example, was quite an innovation in my opinion.

Hake and Haddock Bisque

Following shortly afterwards was the Hake and Haddock Bisque (see pictured). For those not in the know, a bisque is a soup made from puréed shellfish – in this case, crab, according to the server. The two fish pieces appeared to be in the soup, alongside a wealth of herbs. It was a far bigger portion than I had in mind; if I had known it was going to be as big as that, I might have ordered it myself.

Whole Mackerel

Speaking of which, time for my choices. To remain suitable to a blog entitled Expensive Tastes, it only seems right that my dishes should be among the pricier on the menu. We began with a whole Mackerel (see pictured). This fish was coated in a delicious lemon and herb sauce, the meat fell away from the bones and was packed full of flavour. There was one tiny issue in eating it, however, which was the plate couldn’t really accommodate the skeleton that needed removing; I had to use a side plate that the cutlery was sat on. But if that’s the only thing I can find to moan about in this review, they’re not doing too badly!

I may have forgotten to take a photo of my second dish – it was just so irresistible that I could not wait to eat it. It comes highly recommended all the same – Pork Belly with Kimchi Slaw and Chicory Marmalade. A delectable and colourful array of flavours. The pork was tender and succulent, the Kimchi Slaw complimenting the savoury with a marriage of subtle sweetness and spice. However, I wasn’t overly keen on the chicory marmalade; it had a curried aspect to its taste that I didn’t feel was quite right in this particular dish. You can’t win them all.

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Lemon Cream

Two dishes in – were we satisfied? Not quite, but we weren’t thinking any more savoury. That’s where Terroir comes in with a couple of sweet options; only a couple, mind you. The three of us all had a slice of Chocolate Mousse Cake, served with a lemon cream on the side (see pictured). What a sumptuous piece of chocolate handiwork. Kyle opined and I agreed that the texture was just like an Aero – light, bubbly and full of rich flavour. But then I suppose that’s what one goes for in a chocolate mousse cake.

So, was this place worthy of the title of Best Restaurant in Bournemouth? You will have to wait for the 2019 scoreboard on New Year’s Eve to know for certain, but I’d say it stands a perfectly good chance. Their variety, service and presentation cannot be faulted. The setting and ambience are truly quite unique, as well. Right down to the David Attenborough documentaries playing as a soundtrack in the loos, of all places! Definitely try Terroir Tapas out – you won’t be disappointed.

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