Described by the Mail on Sunday as a ‘Jewel on the Dorset coastline’, The Kings Arms Hotel and Restaurant can be found in the town of Christchurch, just 8 miles to the east of neighbouring Bournemouth. The restaurant inside the hotel has retained its’ BiB Gourmand (an award from the illustrious Michelin Guide that denotes “exceptionally good food at moderate prices”) every year since it was first awarded the accolade in 2014.
We phoned and made a reservation back in November for Valentine’s Day evening and were informed that there would be a 5 course tasting menu available as well as the usual á la carte option. Tasting menus have always intrigued me, how a Chef or indeed Chefs can maintain a high standard of food over more than the traditional 3 courses as well as the ability to produce a menu that showcases a range of abilities, flavours and produce all whilst ensuring the guest is able to move at the end of the meal. I’m saying right now, this place nailed it.
Fast forward into 2016 and the anticipation starts to build, peaking as the day in question arrives. Never wanting to be late for anything, I decided to make sure we arrive a few minutes early, which was just as well, seeing as there appeared to be little obvious space for parking a car, other than the small lay-by opposite the Hotels entrance. After locating a space, parking the car and a short walk, we made it to the restaurant ten minutes early for our reservation.
We made ourselves known to the member of staff on the entrance to the restaurant, where we were asked if we’d like to be seated or have a drink at the bar. Partly because I couldn’t wait to start the meal and partly because we thought we would be there for a while, we opted to be seated straight away. As we were shown to our seats we were once again told about the two different menus on offer, and having already previously decided we confirmed our choice of the 5 course tasting menu. During this time, the friendly waitress asked for our choice of beverage for the evening, and after some deliberation we opted for a bottle of 2014 Fantinel Friuli Grave Pinot Grigio.
Before the waitress had a chance to return to the table with the bottle, the first course of White Bean Veloute was served. I have to say I was surprised to see a soup on the menu considering how they can be quite heavy going and there would be another four courses to follow. I shouldn’t have been worried. They were presented in tiny cups, not too dissimilar to that of an espresso cup, which delivered exactly the right amount to be able to taste the delicious, smooth, incredibly moreish Veloute without leaving me wanting six hours before the next course.
We had no sooner finished the last mouthful of the veloute when another waiter appeared at our table, removed the empty cups and moments later, returned with the dish I had been most looking forward to – the Ballotine of Duck served with a pea shoot salad and cherry compote. The Cherry Compote was a delight. Sharp, juicy compote that really complimented the Duck. I do feel though, that had this been served hot, it might have been elevated still further.
Next up came the Lobster Ravioli with a Lobster sauce. On first inspection 2 ravioli each didn’t appear to be much, but it turned out to be just the right amount. Lobster being one of life’s luxuries, it was thoroughly deserving of the silky texture of the Ravioli. This accompanied with the Lobster sauce just added that little bit more luxury on to an already luxurious dish.
The fourth course was a ‘Surf and Turf’ to share, which consisted of a sticky rib of Beef, a rare fillet and grilled Prawns all served with some skinny fries and a rocket Salad. The Prawns were cooked to perfection, my only issue was the first one I had, had a cocktail stick running through it that I hadn’t picked up on and it subsequently stabbed me on the inside of my mouth. I was I have to say, a little apprehensive when I saw the word ‘rare’ next to ‘fillet’ on the menu as so many times have I been caught out when ordering a ‘rare’ steak. This time though, to my absolute delight it was bang on. The ribs too, just fell apart and although, when divided between the two of us there wasn’t a great deal each, for a few glorious moments, I was in meat heaven.
At this point, a couple who had been placed between us and another couple when the restaurant still had plenty of other seating options, did something we should have done earlier on in the evening and requested some time between courses having noted how quickly our courses were being delivered. We followed suit before the final course of the evening.
Roughly ten to fifteen minutes later, the dessert of White Chocolate, Strawberries spiked with Praline and a Passion Fruit sauce was served. This was exactly the sort of dessert you would want after four previous course; indulgent without the bloated feeling that follows, with the fruit refreshing and cleansing the pallet. Unfortunately, for my other half, this was ruined by the presence of the Praline, which we had earlier in the evening been told would be removed due an allergy. Being a fairly light allergy we were able to just remove them ourselves without any ill effects, much to our inconvenience.
All in all, despite the rushed service (less than 90 minutes in total, a fact that may have contributed to a £25 bottle of Wine being omitted from the bill), the seating of their guests despite what appeared to be a relatively quiet Valentine’s Day evening and the Praline not being removed from the dessert of my partner, our experience of The Kings Arms was pleasant to say the least and could quite possibly lead to a return in the future.