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Lunch at the Ventana Grand Café

We’re back baby.

After what feels like a lifetime (in reality a couple of weeks) of review-less lunches, the team’s morale was low — it was going to take some seriously tasty food this time to pull us out of our gastronomical slump. This week’s adventure led us to Bournemouth’s Oceana hotel group. More specifically, The Cumberland Hotel. Where a little gem of a restaurant lies, producing some classically delicious food, otherwise known as the Ventana Grand Café.

Through the hotel lobby, behind the stylish lounge, we found ourselves at the host stand, where Kris, our coincidental server for the afternoon, was waiting. First impressions: wow. The décor is certainly flamboyant and clearly no expense has been spared, with luxury trappings, artfully dressed tables and general indulgence in plentiful supply. We took our seats (our own individual armchairs, I might add) and began scanning the menu, keen to see if the extravagance continued. Before we could nail our food choices, Kris keenly saw that we were properly hydrated — by which I mean gin and tonics all around — to help the decision making process. We handed back our menus and awaited the first courses to arrive.

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To start, I opted for a classic; Steamed Cornish Rope-Grown Mussels. It’s a fan favourite of mine for many reasons. Everything about it, from the ceremonial eating, the mopping of sauce; it all feels so right and this was a stellar example of how it should be done. Gorgeous, fresh mussels, without a single grain of sand in them, swimming in this flavour-packed sauce of cream, white wine, parsley and a healthy dose of garlic. It was heavenly. Among our team’s other choices were the incredible Pan-Seared Scallops, the moreish Crispy Duck, Bean Shoots and Watercress and the aesthetically presented Scotch Egg of Black Pudding and Quails Egg — all of which recovered glowing reviews around the table.

Our starters had almost filled us to the brim, but, ever dedicated to the pursuits of food reviewing, we continued. Following my incidental pesctarian theme I decided to sample the Pan Fried Loch Duart Salmon Fillet, served with wild rice, a duo of pea and beetroot purees, tenderstem broccoli and charred lemon. The fish was beautiful, especially the salt-enriched skin and with a squeezed of smoky charred lemon the whole dish sang together in sublime simplicity. Across from me, Ross was tucking a meaty fillet steak, drizzled in a creamy Isle of Blue cheese sauce, making drawn out hums whilst repetitively dipping chunky-cut chips into the pool of meat flavoured cheese pulp. To his left, Ciaran was slicing through the Ventana Signature Variations of Dorset Lamb: one Braised Shank Shepherd’s Pie, one Rump of Lamb Hot Pot and finally a Lamb & Mint Toad in The Hole — a lamb extravaganza, as it were. Each mouthful presented the meat in a new and exciting way, with the braised shank coming out on top as the favourite of the trio.

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Stuffed and slipping sweetly into a food comma, we decided to call it a day. Overall, the food was beautifully cooked, well presented and served in a lavish setting. Whilst it might not be the cheapest necessarily, it’s well worth the money and we recommend making a reservation ASAP!

By Charlotte Williams

t. 01202 556529
a. The Cumberland Hotel, East Overcliff Drive, Bournemouth BH1 3AF
w. www.cumberlandhotel.oceana-collection.com

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