Restaurant review: Schpoons & Forx, Hilton Bournemouth
The opening of the second Hilton hotel in Bournemouth has been one of the most anticipated events of the past decade. Already a hot favourite with visitors, including a Premiership football team or two (swoon), us locals can treat ourselves to an overnight stay for a special occasion for just over £100 currently.
But, let’s be honest, there are other reasons to visit: the sumptuous spa, the uber-cool Sky Bar and, of course, the restaurant Schpoons & Forx.
Managed by Andy Pugh, the menu has been put together by celebrity chef Matt Tebbutt and, with local culinary legend Matt Budden overseeing matters as executive chef, the message is clear: modern British cuisine delivered with passion and flair.
The restaurant serves 140 covers on the ground floor of the hotel.
The kitchen is open-plan and you can see (and smell) the tandoor and stone oven, which adds to the anticipation.
After a quick drink in the Sky Bar, we were whisked downstairs and shown to a comfortable bankette-style table. The decor is luxe: rich wood finishes, jewel-toned tiles, fine china, all the ingredients (sorry) for a special-occasion meal.
If you are dining in a group, you may like to check out the sharing plates menu, which features a whole roast duck, lamb loin or roasted fish. Perfect for two or more with similar tastes or for larger groups to order in advance.
My guest and I ordered off the main menu, however. On the advice of the team in the Sky Bar, I had my eye on the steak section of the menu… More on that later.
For starters, I went for a mozzarella salad (£9.50), made with thyme and honey roasted figs, balsamic shallots and a selection of winter salad leaves. The mozzarella was so creamy and fresh; most likely because it comes from Laverstoke Farm, just up the road in Hampshire.
My friend was slightly more adventurous and went for the sautéed scallops in a ham hock broth (£11.50). Of course, scallops are not easy to get right but my friend declared them perfect and loved the unusual mustard fruits and salsa verde dressing.
As mentioned before, for the main we’d been told wonderful things about the steak and they didn’t disappoint. On the contrary, they delighted and amazed. 42-day dry aged steaks, basted and cooked in a tandoor to seal in the flavour – beyond delicious. They were served simply with duck fat scraps (chips) and watercress. And rightly so – the flavours from the meat were so fantastic, anything more elaborate would have been overpowering.
We managed a few mouthfuls of dessert – creme brûlée and local cheeses served with fig salami and biscuits – but were so well fed we couldn’t really do them justice. I shall have to return for a sweet treat some other time.
Both Hilton hotels are a welcome boost to the town’s tourism and it seems Schpoons & Forx will also help our reputation as a foodie destination grow, too. Perfect for a special occasion but well priced enough to justify a mid-week bite, too. Bravo Matt & Matt.
hilton.com/Bournemouth, 01202 200187
Signature starters include sautéed scallops, braised ham hock, mustard fruits and salsa verde; truffled pizzetta bianca and roasted ox tongue with beetroot pickle.
Sharing mains include whole John Dory roasted in seaweed butter; tagliata and roasted bone marrow, kale and tarragon; and from the tandoor oven, whole Hampshire chalk steam trout with blood orange, red onions, fennel and land cress. Look out for the daily-changing flatbread-style pizzas laden with seasonal ingredients. Desserts include warm marmalade and almond tart, a lemon ripple baked Alaska and warm chocolate and pomegranate tart – ideal for sharing.
LEVEL8IGHT The Sky Bar, Bournemouth’s highest bar, features a striking wall showcasing 49 different types of gin and boasts a dramatic vista overlooking the Bournemouth coastline.
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