“She loved the sea.
She liked the sharp, salty smell of the air, and the vastness of the horizons bounded only by a vault of azure sky above. It made her feel small, but free as well.”
George R. R. Martin
I always believe that some of the best dining experiences, are the ones that evoke memories of childhood. Whether it’s the comfort of a favourite dish, a smell that seeks to remind you of home-cooked meals or a location, that leaves you reminiscing over carefree days in the sun.
With relatives in the South of England, I was extremely lucky that many of my childhood holidays were spent at the seaside. These were the days where the six week school break seemed like a blissful eternity, and July and August were actually considered Summer months…hint hint Wales! Almost always a trip to Sandbanks in Poole was on the cards, and while in my youthful innocence ‘Millionaires Row’ was of no real interest…it was the stunning beach that called to me and the usual game of ‘who can see the sea first?’
Still now I can remember the familiar salty sea air combined with the smell of suntan lotion, digging holes that would apparently reach Australia, picnics where everything smelt and tasted of banana (urgh!) and paddling in the sea…
However, it’s at this point that I return to the present and push the clock 30 years forward. Now with young children of my own, it’s rare that I manage to escape the everyday routine (let alone drop everything!). Needless to say, when the opportunity arises, I take it…especially when the occasion involves a road trip, a promise that I can go for a paddle – ha ha! and a family outing to dine out at Rick Stein’s restaurant.
From the outside, the modern and clean exterior of Rick Stein Sandbanks is relatively unassuming. However on entering, you are greeted by a welcoming front of house team who kindly guide you to your table…I say guide as with over 200 seats, you could quite easily get lost in this restaurant. With a spacious ground floor dining and bar area to the left, you can choose to dine in a slightly more relaxed environment or head upstairs past the open kitchen, to the more formal dining of the harbour view restaurant – which I have to say certainly lives up to its name…what a view!
Dining in the evening, we were presented with the à la carte menu to explore – offering a good variety of dishes including steak (if you aren’t a seafood lover), prices ranged from £6.95 upwards for a starter and averaged at around the £25 mark for main courses.
Kicking off our Rick Stein journey, an amuse bouche of two bite sized pieces of beautifully crisp sweet chilli hake were enhanced with a creamy, but not overpowering mustard flavoured mayonnaise.
Amuse Bouche | Sweet chilli hake with mustard mayonnaise
With a good choice of hot and cold starters on the menu, we all opted for different dishes, including a Black Cuttlefish Risotto and Gremolata Prawns. However, the two standout starters were the Sea Bass Ceviche and London Cured Smoked Salmon.
Sea Bass Ceviche | £9.50
Cured with orange and lime juice, and served with a red onion and fennel salad, the fresh sea bass and citrus base made for a light and refreshing starter.
London Cured Smoked Salmon | £13.50
A seemingly modest starter, thin slices of cured smoked salmon sat simply in the centre of the plate and were served with a home-made walnut bread. A true delicacy, I honestly have never experienced smoked salmon that tasted this fresh before. Needless to say, based on the starters we were excited to see what would arrive next.
Almost appearing too good to eat (let alone even touch!), the ‘Fruits de Mer” dish of seafood, was for want of a better Welsh adjective…lush! Displayed in a bowl held above table level on a stand, it was served in the French style, left in the shell and on ice with mayonnaise and shallot vinegar. I love seafood, however this was actually the first time I had experienced this style of dish. The shellfish was well cooked and included oysters, winkles, cockles and razor clams, with my favourites being the brown crab claws, mussels scallop and langoustine,
The ‘Fruits de Mer’ | £29.50
Lobster Thermidor | £48.96
Ok with a price tag of nearly £50, as you would expect Lobster Thermidor is more of what I would consider an ‘indulgence’, and I certainly had a spot of ‘food envy’ going on, as it was placed in front of my sister. However, if you are visiting a seafood restaurant, then what better way to celebrate than with a French seafood classic! Of the forkful that I managed to procure, it was a gloriously creamy mixture of lobster meat, stuffed into its shell and served with a lightly-browned cheese crust.
Hot Chocolate Fondant | £6.95
While I have to say I was feeling a little full by this point, it also seemed a little rude not to check out the desserts on offer, especially when one of them happened to be in the form of a hot chocolate fondant. Naturally, I gave into temptation (as the kid in me would say…my ‘pudding compartment’ wasn’t quite full!) Served with a salted caramel ice cream, this was a deliciously oozing plate of loveliness that I have to say, rounded off a very pleasant dining experience.
- Make a reservation, and if possible ask to be seated in the upstairs restaurant. We had a fantastic table and it was a joy to watch the sun set over the harbour.
- The front of house team were welcoming and knowledgeable about the dishes that were on offer.
- If you fancy something a little lighter, Rick Stein Sandbanks also has a set lunch menu available at £25 for 3 courses
- It’s near the sea…woo hoo! And yes I did have a paddle afterwards (well I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to relive a small piece of my childhood!)
Would I go again?
Personally I feel that this is a restaurant for a special occasion – while the menu is varied and the ingredients used are clearly of a high quality, it is on the pricier side of things. However, I certainly wouldn’t miss an opportunity to visit if I was in the area again.
Would I recommend Rick Stein Sandbanks?
Definitely. It truly is a well-designed and modern restaurant with stunning views of the harbour. The food’s not too bad either – ha ha!
Monday – Friday: Open for coffee: 10am | Lunch: 12 – 3pm | Dinner: 6pm -10pm
Saturday: Open for coffee: 9am | 12 – 10pm
Sunday: Open for coffee: 9am | 12 – 9pm
“She turned her face to the sun and watched the last seconds of the day drop into the sea.
And for that one moment…she was free.”
The Octopus Diaries
(yes – that was the view from the table!)
Address | Rick Stein, 10 -14 Banks Road, Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset, BH13 7QB