This summer I, plus one, was invited by the Bournemouth Tourist Office to spend a couple of days in the jewel of Britain's South Coast. My parents used to holiday in Bournemouth, in the 50s, so I have wonderful memories of playing on the lovely sandy beach there. And hot summers|! Despite living in pebbly Brighton, down the road, I still go back whenever I can. The last time was a couple of years ago, on my own, to see Noel Gallagher in concert. More on that trip here.
As is typical of England, my friend Dalia and I arrived in Bournemouth on a day when it was more like Florida than the UK, just gorgeous. But, by the very next day, it was lashing winds and rain and more like mild autumn! So what do you do when the weather lets you down, which it inevitably does in this country, and you're only visiting for a couple of days? You eat, drink, walk and be merry, that's what you do! And we did, with bells on, and Bournemouth did us proud!
First stop, after visiting a very tropical looking Bournemouth beach, was the Grade 11 listed Victorian hotel where we were staying for two nights. The Green House is a luxury, boutique hotel, one of the top eco hotels in Britain and easy walking distance from the beaches and the city centre.
The hotel's been restored beautifully by the owners and has a really sound eco policy in place: sustainability, recycling, reclaimed, low-energy, non-toxic & natural are the buzz words here. From the light bulbs to the pillows, everything in the hotel, including the furniture, has been sourced to any full eco warriors' approval. And the beds.......just incredible, so comfortable.
The hotel very kindly turned the double bed into two singles, the shower room was enormous and the Victorian touches, like the fireplace, made it all very special. Being two girlies though, we found the bath in the corner of the bedroom a bit odd and would have preferred a more accessible wardrobe in that corner instead of the bath - albeit a beautiful bath!
We were due to have dinner on our first night at the hotel so hit the beach, after unpacking, for a proper walk to build up our appetite.
The Arbor Restaurant at the hotel was a real treat. It has 2 AA Rosettes and the menus change seasonally to ensure they use the best of what's local and sustainable. From farm to fork, trawler to table, the food is fresh and locally sourced, just the way I like it - and delicious!
The starters were exceptional, the one on the left was Rosary Goats Cheesecake: beetroot sorbet & pickled beetroot on an onion digestive base and as delicious as it was pretty. Rosary Goats Cheese is a creamy, British goats cheese. Must try it. The starter on the right was smoked salmon with creme fraiche, pickled radish, cucumbers & onions & was also worthy of its 2 Rosettes.
The fish and meat courses were excellent and beautifully presented. I had local fish, and my friend had lamb, both cooked to perfection and very yum!
.....and the puddings were all that you'd expect: fresh, locally sourced, and pretty!
We went to bed stuffed full of good food & alcohol determined to walk it all off the following morning - after breakfast! I haven't had avocado with my eggs since I was in Australia so was pleasantly surprised to see it on the menu at The Green House. Nice touch.
Despite the abysmal weather we woke up to, we had a brilliant morning at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, which you'll be able to read about in Part 2 of my visit to Bournemouth, coming soon.
We spent quite a while in the magnificent museum so by the time we came out it was time for our next meal! ( Can you believe how much we're eating? It just goes to show that walking it off really does work as neither of us put on any weight.) So off we went, in the rain, on the Bournemouth Land Train to Boscombe. It was a great way to travel, despite the weather, to our lunch spot, the trendy Urban Reef.
The interior of Urban Reef was really welcoming & cheerful, as were the staff. We couldn't eat a whole lot but the smoked mackerel pate, cured salmon, arancini, & salads we shared were delish. There was lots of fresh, local fish on the menu, as mains, as well as fat chips, burgers & veggie dishes to keep the hungriest happy. It was lovely meeting the General Manager, Simon, and this is certainly an eaterie I would visit again. A really good 'London meets the surfers' vibe: cool, casual & chic!
The little Land Train back to Bournemouth Pier wasn't due to turn up for another 50 minutes (check the times first is my advice) so we walked the two miles to our next appointment: with a Beach Hut! The Tourist Board had very kindly arranged an afternoons' beach hut hire for us (which anyone else reading this can also do.The Tourist Office is by the Pier) not knowing what the weather would be doing that day. However, as you can see, we managed to laugh a great deal and so did the few people passing us that day, and we got to put our feet up! We loved it.
After a walk back to the hotel, and a well-earned rest after inhaling all that fresh air, we were actually hungry enough to face our next gastronomic feast, at Brassiere Blanc, which, at the time of writing, had recently opened in the Marriott Cliff Hotel. This time we took a taxi!
Now, Dalia and I have eaten, more than several times, at other Brassiere Blancs at lunch time and haven't been overwhelmed by any of the meals we've had previously. This evening was a whole different ball game. I can quite honestly say I had one of the best meals I've had this year and, despite the fact that we had, up to then, been wined and dined in Bournemouth more than superbly, that dinner is one that I will rave about for months! We smothered Esmal (his photo below), the Head Chef, with kisses when he came out to meet us such was our joy!
Most unusually, I ordered boeuf bourguignon, which literally melted in my mouth, and Dalia had bouillabaisse, which elicited a 10 out of 10 from her.
I am particularly fussy about my green salads, and they're often a let down in restaurants, especially the dressing. This time the side salad was as good as I am used to in France or at home. (That's not meant to sound arrogant!) And the pudding, which we shared, was also perfection personified.
One top tip passed onto us by a staff member: the best chefs usually work at night, whatever the restaurant. Sort of make sense doesn't it. And would explain why our previous experiences at other Brasseries were good but not earth shattering. Or maybe it's just that Esmal, and all the staff we met there, are just very special!
Oh and let's not forget my favourite usual salmon starter. It was another melt in the mouth dish.
Replenished and happy we had a lovely walk back along the seafront, the skies had cleared and Bournemouth's Big Wheel kept us in happy snapping mode till we turned in for the night. Why do tourist attractions like this look so much more exciting at night!
And just look at what we woke up to! A completely different place in the hot August sunshine. Because I wanted a couple of photos of Brasserie Blanc during the day, we took the Cliff Lift up to the Marriott and got to see how different the restaurant is for lunch when it's sunny. I can't guarantee the food will be as good as it was for us at dinner time, but wow just look at that view! You could be in the South of France.
So that was my quick guide to the best places to eat, drink, sleep & walk in Bournemouth. Whether it's out of season, the height of season, wet or sunny & hot, there are plenty of places to go where even the fussiest Foodie will be satisfied. And there's loads more to do in Bournemouth, other than stuffing your face & walking it all off, which I'll bring you in Part 2.... coming soon!
Hope you enjoyed this post and do let me know if you like beautiful Bournemouth too. And if you want to read about any other city breaks, you can find more on the new drop-down menu, Blog Categories, at the top of the page. Click here.
See you next week, have a great week,