An impromptu visit to my home town of Bournemouth with the companionship of my well-travelled friend and fellow trainee journalist and presenter Connor Mackay led to us having lunch somewhere other than a Wetherspoons.
Our conversation in his car on the journey down led to the time he spent working in Spain, and he spoke to me about a German restaurant he had eaten in while he was there. And there I made the decision to go out and have a proper lunch at a proper restaurant. While The Crab in Bournemouth, does not serve German cuisine, nor does it have anything resembling that which Connor described on its menu, it serves up some truly nice food.
The à la carte menu was very varied indeed – each dish exuding sophistication and elegance – John Ross Smoked Salmon with Caesar Risotto; Poached Egg and Parmesan; Baked Scallop Thermidor with Gruyère Cheese; Squid and Lobster Ravioli with Oriental Sweetcorn; or Salcombe Crab and Crayfish with Tomato Gazpachios. Food particularly favoured by members of upper social echelons. And they are only starters. For main courses there were items such as: Spiced Scallop and Monkfish with a Sweet Potato Curry; Pecorino Gnocchi with a Tomato and Pepper Gratin or Crab-crusted Dover Sole. In Connor’s own words, he felt out of place in there, but I did my best to reassure him that if he’s sophisticated enough for me, then he should not be worried.
We preferred to opt for the set lunch menu, £16.95 for two courses, or just over £20 for three. Two it was – I was paying. The food may be pricey but there are little perks to it – the first of which was a complimentary Espresso cup of Crab and Lobster Bisque (see pictured). A soup, as I had to explain to Connor, made from puréed shellfish. It was lovely and warm, although it did feel strange drinking it from such an unusual vessel even though that is what bisques are traditionally served in. The flavour was only mildly fishy and not greatly salty either – both disadvantages to one such as I, who loves strong flavours.
Another thing that was on that à la carte menu was a Roasted Red Pepper Velouté. I had no idea what a Velouté was until now – the set menu had a Parsnip Velouté and I love parsnips. A roast dinner is not complete without them. Not many other vegetables can encompass both sweet and savoury flavours at the same time. It turns out, a Velouté resembles another form of soup (see pictured). It is actually a sauce, one of the five “mother sauces” designated by French turn-of-the-century culinary legend Auguste Escoffier. The title of whatever sauce is served is determined by which stock is used, and in this case it was Parsnips. With merely a little oil drizzled over the top, there were no airs and graces about it. I told Connor as I was eating it that it reminded me of the white sauce we used to engulf our vegetables in at Christmas.
He had chosen Plaice Goujons (see pictured) for his first course, which had come with nothing more than a small salad garnish. And there were only four of them, so not a good deal to start with. We had been brought some bread to share, however, which were accompanied by butter, cream cheese and – rather interestingly – Curry Mustard. I’m normally one to snub anything with Curry in the name, but in this case I was entranced by its appearance. It was mostly mustard-based but there were a few flecks of orange in there, and I am happy, albeit surprised, to say I quite liked it. There was only an undertone of the curry powder, and Connor and I both agreed that it would be good to put in sandwiches with meat.
Onto the mains now, where Connor had ordered Chicken served over Lentils (see pictured) The dish’s title itself escapes me, but from what my dinner companion said, the meat was moist and succulent, and that he was pleased with it.
As for me, I had ordered a Salmon with Herb-Crushed New Potatoes and Green Beans (see pictured below). I have been seeing a lot of these herb-crushed potatoes this year – the new way to serve spuds – to mash them up still unpeeled with rosemary or some such and cook them before moulding them to a cylindrical shape. They taste so good though. And I cannot fault the salmon at all! Excellent texture all the way around and beautiful flavour.
The Crab has to be one of my new favourites in Bournemouth, if anything for the wide variety of gorgeous-sounding courses on the menu. But superior quality as well – the service could have been slicker but that’s part-and-parcel of working in a busy restaurant. The ambience, with its glittering décor, a piano in the corner, and white wine served in actual ice buckets, gives every essence of eloquence and sophistication. My kind of joint.