Sandbanks is a gorgeous little, sandy peninsula on the edge of Poole in the United Kingdom. Not much happens down here and aside from the roar of super cars it’s a very peaceful place. So Rick Stein opening a new restaurant was the biggest news since rumour of a minor royal being spotted at the annual beach polo event.
Aside from a few hotel lounges there was just one bar on the peninsula itself, the Shore Bar. I visited it regularly and was sad to see it close after a fire gutted the kitchen. Months passed, then one autumn morning whilst walking past the boarded up Bar, I looked up to see a rather intriguing sign – “Rick Stein Sandbanks Coming Soon”. Cornwall’s renowned chief was opening a new seafood restaurant in Sandbanks. Seriously?
Rick Stein is a really rather famous chef who has made seafood his speciality. He has a restaurant in Australia and other establishments in Cornwall. His four restaurant in the small Cornish fishing port of Padstow are widely credited with putting the town on the map, his impact on the local economy such that it has been nicknamed “Padstein”.
Advance to late 2015 and Rick Stein Sandbanks opened its doors. For the first couple of weeks trying to get a table at the weekend was tougher than getting a ticket to see Adele at the O2. A few months later and the restaurant is still very, very busy, job done Mr Stein I’d say.
On entering the restaurant it’s obvious that money has been spent. Multitudes of waiters busy themselves serving customers, whist bar staff cope well with thirsty punters. The restaurant’s contemporary interior is lovely, rustic without being too cold, lots of wood and pastel colours soften the clean lines. The layout is split into two distinctive areas: a bar at the front of the property where customers can enjoy food and drink and the restaurant proper located up a few steps to the rear. The short journey between the two taking you past the establishments large open kitchen packed full of chiefs. The resturant area is perhaps not quite as cosy as the bar but its large floor to ceiling windows offer great views across poole harbour.
There are many covers throughout but diners are by no means packed in. Waiters are attentive and helpful, friendly without a hint of stuffiness. Courses are served in god time, the dramatic pause in-between just long enough. This is no mean feat in a new, large, packed restaurant at 9:00 pm on a Saturday night.
And so to the food. A quick look at the menu tells you that this restaurant offers classic seafood dishes at very reasonable prices, (starters at less than £10 GBP and the majority of mains at less than £30 GBP), I was extremely tempted by the Cod and Chips at £16.50 GBP, cheap date! The whole thing is designed to be a casual bistro as opposed to a fine dining pilgrimage. A concise and varied wine list was nearly enough to tempt me back to the fray after months of abstinence from my favourite tipple. We had the Sashimi of Scallops, Salmon, Tuna along with the Bass and the Cornish Crab Wakame to start. For our mains we chose the Lobster Thermidor and Turbot Hollandaise. Each course was delightful, the fish fresh as you’d hope of a restaurant that prides itself in locally sourced produce and cooked as well as you’d expect of a restaurant bearing Mr Stein’s name. The portions were of a good size, the available accompaniments perhaps a bit sparce, but the thin chips that came with my lobster dish were fabulous – there’s no shame in a side order of fries here. The yummy Chocolate Pavé and Gingerbread Pudding deserts didn’t disappoint either.
Rick Stein Sandbanks is full night after night and ruthfully so. The name above the door has got customers in but the great food and charming service has people like me coming back for more.
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