Ventana Grande Café at The Cumberland Hotel: Restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 16:08 09 January 2017 | UPDATED: 16:08 09 January 2017

Ventana signature dish of Variation on Dorset Lamb

Ventana signature dish of Variation on Dorset Lamb


A new innovative locally inspired menu has John Billington’s taste buds dancing with delight

The arrival of head chef Steve Golding at the Cumberland Hotel has raised already very good standards to the realms of excellence. Taking the best that Dorset has to offer, Steve has created dishes to delight and satisfy. And as for being truly local, my heart soared at the prospect of tucking into oysters from Brownsea Island – just across the water.

My current favourite tipple is a Negroni and in many places asking for one just gets a blank stare, but not at the Cumberland. Within a few shakes of the cocktail mixer, a perfect Negroni, complete with a slice of orange and two ice cubes was in my hand, while my wife Tracie sipped on a gin and tonic made with the smashing Bathtub gin. To get the taste buds standing to attention were some delightful appetizers, including satay popcorn, parmesan crackers and a couple of cones – think tiny ice cream – one packed with smoked salmon and cream cheese and the other with a top notch Coronation chicken.

An amuse bouche of white haricot and white truffle veloute with tempura seaweed prepared us for the delights to follow – half a dozen succulent Dorset Rock Oysters. For us such spanking fresh produce like this should be eaten unadorned, without even a squeeze of a lemon. A single chew (possibly two) and you swallow the essence of the sea. Wonderful!

Tracie’s colourful starter of Roast Candied Beetroot – featuring three different types of beetroot - was accompanied by a stunning New Forest goats’ cheese parfait, while I plumped for a warming Winter Vegetable Scotch Broth with an oxtail spring roll and smoked bacon powder. That most versatile of sherries, a Tio Pepe Fino, cut through the richness of the oxtail beautifully. To match our main courses we continued the Spanish theme with a carafe of Marques de Ulia Rioja Crianza, all smooth red berries and cherries with soft tannins and a long finish.

For our main course Tracie opted for the signature dish of Variations of Dorset Lamb - a braised lamb shank shepherd’s pie, a rump of lamb hotpot and a lamb and mint toad in the hole - it was like three favourite Sunday lunches all at once. I tucked into Calves Liver Steak with blue cheese dumplings, blue cheese veloute and sauté kale - a bold flavour combination that worked brilliantly.

When alerting our waiter Martin that we’d like to share a cheese course, he indicated to the Dorset Cheese Trolley waiting in the wings. Hurrah! These cheeses were not only served at the proper temperature, they were also absolute crackers. Taking them, French style, before the pudding, we sampled Rosary Goats Ash, Wookey Hole Cheddar, and Wigmore a stunning ‘guest cheese’ made from unpasteurised ewe’s milk and, my own favourite, the Isle of Wight Blue. These were accompanied by homemade jellies and chutneys.

Our puddings were quite simply divine. I indulged in a rich Molten Bittersweet Chocolate Tart with caramel popcorn, Earl Grey Tea ice cream and banana caramel. Tracie’s Arborio Risotto was a grown-up reinvention of a pudding classic and featured a mascarpone and almond rice pudding accompanied by locally made Giggi’s pistachio ice cream.

Yes, change can be a very good and delicious thing indeed. 

What’s on the menu

• Starter - Pan Seared Quail with Puy lentils, lardons & Cognac glazed apples

• Mains - Whole Roasted Mudeford Sea Bass with butter poached crab claw, lemon puree & chorizo croquette | Wild mushroom and pumpkin risotto with Parmesan and saffron shards drop if space tight | Chateaubriand Sizzler for two with triple cooked chips, Portobello mushrooms and crushed peas

• Desserts - Flights of Seasonal Eaton Mess: apple crumble, chocolate brownie, rhubarb fool & crushed meringue | Pineapple and Coconut Pannacotta with mango and lime sorbet

Ventana Grande Café

• Starters from: £6.20; Mains from: £14.60; Desserts from: £6.20

• Wines by the bottle from: £18.75 (by the glass £4.60)

• The Cumberland Hotel, East Overcliff Drive, Bournemouth BH1 3AF, 01202 290722

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