review by Janine Pulford
With the heart of the kitchen powered by a man with 20 years experience as executive chef at Royal Ascot, it’s easy to see why the Ventana Grand Café is a Bournemouth jewel. Working alongside many famous chefs over the years, Steve Golding has a natural flair for creating menus for discerning palates.
The night Louis and I sampled the menu, we discovered his dishes offer a perfect balance of flavours combined with textural elements too.
The maître d’ Semir, welcomed us. He used to work in the City and spent six years with Gordon Ramsay at the famous London Savoy Grill.
Semir showed us to our table and served a bottle of chilled water before a sizzling appetiser for two arrived. Succulent fillet steak, king prawns and chicken breast exquisitely presented with onions, shredded beetroot, micro herbs and a small basket of lattice chips.
Opulent flavours danced together as the proteins melted in our mouths with delicate chips adding a satisfying crunch.
Semir recommended a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with a crisp and fruity flavour with this course. Perfect.
An Amuse Bouche of Thai Curry Soup and Caramel Popcorn followed. Its kick, crunch and coconut undertones cleansed our palates ready for the main course.
Ventana Signature – variations of Dorset lamb for Louis and Whole roast Mudeford sea bass took the limelight, or rather lemon light, for me. The soft and delicate fish was laced with lemon purée imparting an outstanding zing. Butter poached crab claws tangoed with winter kale, micro herbs and chorizo croquettes. I loved the crunch of the croquettes followed by the softness of the potato and small pops of chorizo.
Louis’ lamb was cooked three ways: a melt in the mouth goulash; perfectly grilled sweet lamb in a jus and a homely mint toad-in-the-hole to add punch. It danced the fandango with a dash of pea purée, finely diced carrot, potato three ways and roasted baby beetroots – not forgetting an oaky flavoured Spanish Rioja to help it down.
Louis’ brief envy of the ‘between two buns’ burger meals was soon forgotten as was his yearning for the Ventana Chateaubriand Sizzler for two, which is apparently a bit of a show-stopper.
Relaxing before desserts we gazed on the pool outside, which was lit, but the far-reaching sea view we know from Bournemouth’s East Overcliff Drive was hidden in the night. Like the Chateaubriand, it will have to wait for another day.
We shared a bittersweet molten chocolate tart with caramel popcorn, Earl Grey tea ice cream and banana caramel. The ice cream was a flavour I couldn’t eat on its own, but with the chocolate tart it took on a heavenly quality. Top marks to the chef for such a well-balanced dessert, although the popcorn could have been crunchier and the molten a little softer.
The cheese trolley offered a variety of local cheeses including a delicious Isle of Wight soft blue along with juicy grapes, jelly, walnuts and celery. Semir uncorked an Argentinian Malbec Shiraz for the finishing touch.
Steve Golding told us the menu changes every few months. The food as much as possible is locally sourced. Having lived in Dorset for 14 months he says, “I am passionate about the local people and what they do. I love great food and I have lots of interesting an innovative ideas coming up in the summer.”
There are four Bournemouth hotels in the group and each one caters for different tastes. The Cumberland is the first to have its menu uplifted by Steve Golding.
Hotel Manager Zack added: “The Cumberland is also the perfect place for evening parties and wedding ceremonies.” He should know, he had his wedding there prior to working at the hotel. He said the hotel soon hoped to become four star as all the rooms are currently being upgraded.
The Ventana Grand Café is a part of the Cumberland Hotel experience, but equally available to anyone wanting to celebrate a special occasion like Valentine’s Day or simply to enjoy a Sunday roast or a fine meal with some sensational Dorset flavours as you overlook the sea. Portions are generous and service is impeccable.