Are you trying to get out of the doghouse? Do you want to really impress on your first date? Would you like permission to go to the pub with the boys this weekend? Are you lacking the funds to achieve these impossible dreams? How did I guess! Keep reading because this is the answer.
The Escoffier Restaurant can be found deep within the bowels of Bournemouth and Poole College at the Lansdowne campus in Bournemouth town centre, Dorset. The food is prepared and served by students from the School of Hospitality and Catering. Now, a cynical person may turn up to Escoffier expecting to be seated in a student canteen and served beans on toast….burnt toast. However the restaurant has been nationally recognised as one of Bournemouth’s best fine dining experiences, winning many prestigious awards.
As I walked through a typical college corridor, beans on toast didn’t seem impossible, however entering the restaurant was like entering another world, I actually had to look behind me to check the corridor I walked down was indeed still there! The room was tastefully decorated in cream and white, with soft chandelier lighting. Everything element of decor whispered ‘elegance’ and ‘class’ from the draped ceiling to the pristine white tablecloths. The students work in the restaurant as part of their college course, under the expert guidance of some of the best chefs and restaurant managers in the region, giving them invaluable experience when it comes to applying for jobs in the real world. Our waitress was smartly dressed and extremely professional, if a tad nervous.
The pressure was really on for the food to match the opulence of the surroundings, and it did not disappoint. We started our five course meal with an appetizer of Manchego and Risotto – not knowing much about fine dining, Manchego sounded like a new dance move to me, but I was relieved to discover it was actually a flavoursome Spanish cheese. I am a huge fan of most cheeses and as this one was so tasty I also ordered it as a starter – well, Courgette, Manchego and Mint Croquette with Grilled Asparagus and Serreno Ham to be precise. I then had a small, refreshing Watermelon Sorbet before my main course of Belly of Pork, Chorizo, White Beans and Olives. It was cooked to absolute perfection, it’s sheer quality shining through the rich flavours. But the best was yet to come – Praline Semi-Freddo with a Dark Chocolate Sauce. Again, in my ignorance, the only Freddo I knew of was the small Cadburys frog-shaped chocolate (which I would have been more than happy with incidentally). However, what arrived was a semi frozen ice cream/cake which had the texture of frozen mousse – due to it being two equal parts of ice cream and whipped cream – YUM!
The menu is themed throughout the academic year and each menu is available for a certain number of weeks. For example, our menu was entitled ‘Moor from the Mediterranean’, which will be followed by ‘Memoires de France’. There are plenty of options to choose from on each menu, although if you’re anything like me, you may need to ask a member of staff to explain some of the names, which they are more than happy to do (or print the menu from their website and have a google session!). The portion sizes are ‘gourmet’ which is code for ‘on the small side’, however the food is so rich and delicious it really is all you need. You come away feeling satisfied, not stuffed.
Escoffier’s high standard of cuisine brilliantly showcases the calibre of the students that this nationally recognised school of catering produces, some of whom have gone one to work in prestigious jobs at The Ritz, Claridges and even cooked for Royalty at Buckingham Palace. One of their best known former students is celebrity chef Adam Byatt who regularly appears on James Martin’s Saturday Kitchen.
I’ve left the price until last, because it’s the best bit, and as soon as you see it you will stop reading immediately and run off to book a table. A five course luxury gourmet dinner will set you back £20.95…….are you still there? This is your only opportunity to eat food cooked to Royal standards for the price of a trip to Nandos….why would you still be there?
The restaurant caters for large parties and special occasions and is also open for lunch at just £10.95 for three courses, or £8.95 for two courses – see www.thecollege.co.uk/about-bpc/the-escoffier-restaurant for more details.