Libertine’ (by dictionary definition): a freethinker; one who freely indulges in pleasures.
Well if you can’t beat them join them, as they say – onward to ‘pleasuretown’! Also known as, ‘The Libertine’. Situated in Westbourne, this independent gem has locals flocking for what they have to offer. Their mission and ethos is both charming and refreshingly honest: “To embrace freethinking, in a generally enjoyable atmosphere. By providing fresh, quality food, paired perfectly with a good wine list and great beers and ales”. What more could you ask for?
The gastro pub is divided up into three sections: the main bar area, the informal dining area and the eloquently entitled ‘Forge’ – an outdoor/indoor eatery space where wood burning pizza ovens and off beat hipsters can get stuffed and wind down. We found a cosy spot in their dining area, overlooking their petite beer garden. As we took our places and settled down, it was time to begin the review.
The menu is an eclectic mash-up of pub classics, signature wood-fired pizzas and a few rustic yet refined dishes too. To start we opted for the ‘Rosemary and Garlic Baked Camembert’, served with lashings of sticky onion jam and crusty sourdough bread. I mean, when was cheese ever a bad idea? Silky melted cheese, pulled apart with the insertion of the contrastingly crunchy bread. The luscious aromas that arose as the cheese was split: the intense and slightly floral trace of rosemary and the distinct and moreish smell of the garlic – to die for. In addition to the Camembert we also got to sample the ‘Bloody Mary Prawn Cocktail’, a rather special twist on a definitively eighties starter. Packed with zing and zest this dish was a real stand out. The prawns were well cooked, the sauce was punchy and the addition of fresh herbs brought a modest sophistication to the dish. Feeling prematurely full, we fought to muster up the strength to go on, but like true heroes – we soldiered on.
For main we ordered a variety of dishes, including: one ‘35oz Bulls Head’, ‘Smoked and Streaky Bacon Pizza’, a ‘Meatless Lasagne’ and a classic ‘Bangers and Mash’ – Libertine style. With quite a selection of goodies at our disposal, we felt not unlike kings and queens at a banquet fit for such guests.
The Bulls Head (fear not) was plated as a enormous T-bone, rather than a beastly carcass. It was seriously tender for such a large cut of meat there was only the tiniest pinch of gristle here and there, but that’s entirely to be expected with such a portion. With an ample amount of medium-rare meat, this could easily have stood up against a T-bone of normal proportions, which is arguably more manageable to cook.
The Smoked and Streaky Bacon Pizza was rather special too. They certainly didn’t scrimp on the toppings; with layers upon layers of salty bacon, partnered perfectly with West Country Brie. The subtle sweetness of the Brie made for a delightful contrast against the potent flavours of the red onion and sun-dried tomatoes: overall a simple, nonetheless knockout dish. But the joy didn’t end there… Being good sports, we thought it only fair to delve further down the rabbit hole as we fell helpless to the alluring call of dessert.
Now this is a somewhat shameful, but honest, confession. Though I have no issues giving up my time, my skills (whatever they maybe), or even my money to others, I take somewhat offence at the notion of sharing – though not sharing in general. I mean very much (if not exclusively) that I have a deep rooted issue with sharing – oh, I can’t even say it… sharing food. I know, I am a terrible human being, so you see whilst the suggestion of a sharing dessert platter was heard, it was also very quickly dismissed. Which is why I decided to opt for the ‘Chocolate Brownie’, alone. It arrived warm, gooey and rich, just as I had hoped it would. Aaaah, the comforting and familiar flavour of chocolate, there’s nothing quite like it; the rich and decadent aromas, the moreish texture – all totally on point. Having washed it all down with a frothy coffee, it was time to part ways.
My final report; If you’re looking for an independent that serves delicious food in a quirky yet cosy atmosphere you need The Libertine.
Make a reservation, or just pop by!
a. The Libertine, 1 Alumhurst Rd, Westbourne, Bournemouth, BH4 8EL
t. 01202 767498