review by Adam Trimby
Join us as we delve into the delight that is Upper Deck, the restaurant and bar at The Harbour Hotel in Christchurch, where Mudeford Medleys and Marvellous Mocktails permeate the menu and fill the soul.
There are sayings in all languages that reflect pretty much the same sentiment: when something is good, and by this I mean particularly superb, then it will leave one speechless.
I would like to express this idea at the start of my review for Upper Deck because this is how I have felt since leaving the restaurant. So, forgive me if this recap comes across a little verbose, but I haven’t uttered a word about my experience since that evening and there is an awful lot to say about it.
Upper Deck is the restaurant and bar inside The Harbour Hotel in Christchurch on Mudeford Quay. It has an extensive menu for evening dining as well as lunchtime menus, bar snacks, a nice place for drinks and even an option for afternoon tea. The highlight of the restaurant is obviously its outer decking area, which gives customers a choice of alfresco dining in the warmer months and is such a wonderful experience that it is listed in The Times: Top 25 alfresco dining spots in Britain.
Although not embarking out onto the deck, the inside is equally as stunning. The lighting is quite low and unimposing but at the same time you can still see the food on your plate and the person in front of your face.
The music is unlike any I have listened to in similar restaurants. It is rather contemporary, down-tempo even, and very chilled.
When entering the restaurant Marta and I were shown to our seats by Nico, the assistant manager, who was quick to offer us drinks and menus.
Having overdone it on my tipple allowance for the weekend the previous night, I had opted to drive and was very interested in drinking some of the Mocktails on offer.
I went for an Elderflower and Apple juice with mint concoction, which really hit the spot and put me straight in the mood for food.
Menus are often dangerous areas, allowing lots of room for indecision and a desire to try too many things that the stomach and the pocket just cannot take. Although the menu at Upper Deck offers a good variety of different meals, I didn’t find myself overloaded with options. A quick scan down the page and I almost knew exactly what I wanted. I just needed a little confirmation from the waiter – his professional opinion.
When Raul came to take our orders, I asked him which cut of steak would be the best and what sauce he recommended to go with it. Kissing his fingers and exploding them from his lips he said, “The red wine sauce is just…” He didn’t need to finish his sentence. I knew precisely what he meant.
All of our meals came out relatively quickly and perfectly timed in courses. Our starters, Marta’s Mudeford Crab Croquettes and my Twice Baked Cheese Soufflé (Arnold Bennett special), both tasted amazing. In particular, the cheese soufflé was one of the best I have sampled and the addition of haddock was simply incredible.
Our mains were a different story. Marta went for something from the specials menu, Hake and Crab Herb Crust served with mash, Crushed Peas and Beurre Blanc Sauce, while I tackled the 10oz Ribeye Steak with Marbled Fat with a side of French fries.
I know that eating by the sea has the enormous benefit of fresh seafood caught and prepared daily, but, in my case, the steak could not have been better. It was cooked perfectly and didn’t make me wish I had taken the aqua option – even though I have it on good authority that the Hake was so mouthwateringly delicious that Marta could’ve eaten two of them.
The crowning jewel, the best in show, was rightly saved until last. An Espresso Panna Cotta with Almond Ice Cream that had such an amazing blend of bittersweetness that it was extremely difficult for Marta and I to share. Spoon arguments ensued.
There are a number of things one would want from a perfect evening’s dining. For me, these include, good company, great food, comfortable seating and a lovely atmosphere.
Upper Deck managed to cater for all of these, even though I brought my own company. They were warm and friendly, helpful and extremely polite. I enjoyed conversations with a number of the staff before even getting down to the good stuff – the main event – the absolutely gorgeous food.
With all this stacked together, there is nothing else to say other than Upper Deck was undoubtedly good – in the particularly superb sense.