They say the art of writing a good review is to take the reader on a culinary journey.
To lead them creatively through your experience, and end with the big reveal and summary. Though I will guide you on a journey through my night at Bournemouth’s Schpoons and Forx restaurant, I feel I need to raise a valid point right at the very start of this review and hope you stick with me.
And thus so, my early big reveal: The BEST steak I have ever eaten.
Now, most who know me personally, or have glanced at a picture on Instagram will know that I am ruddy-cheeked for a reason. I have devoured many steaks in my time on this planet, so I feel I am in good stead to make that comment, and I stand by it.
Before I dive headfirst into a round-up of the food eaten, I’d like to give you a little bit of a background on Schpoons and Forx as a destination. The restaurant is situated on the ground floor of Bournemouth’s City Centre Hilton Hotel. Housed in a soaring glass structure, the 172-room property, opened in 2015, offers views to the coast and across the famous British seaside town.
What makes this Hilton Hotel a little different from the rest is its interiors. Designed by Ted Baker fashion brand founder Ray Kelvin, the hotel is stunning, and no expense has been spared in the restaurant. It sits tastefully on the right side of glam. From the earthy grey and mustard furniture to the extravagant lightbulb pendants from the ceiling, it feels like a luxury - but without being intimidating.
Look even closer, and you see the incredible eye for detail Ray Kelvin has, with light fixtures containing spoons and forks, and wooden spoon garlands hanging from the ceiling. I defy anyone not wanting a replica in their own home.
At the helm of Schpoons and Forx from the beginning is Executive Chef Matt Budden. Bringing with him more than a decade of experience as an executive chef in Michelin-listed and AA Rosette-awarded kitchens in the U.K, Matt’s philosophy at the restaurant is clear: bringing together local produce, seasonal menus and clay oven cooking to provide a unique take on the British dish. We’ll come back to the clay oven very soon.
Matt’s passion for Dorset, its food scene, the suppliers he works with, the local ingredients available and Bournemouth as a food destination is unprecedented.
Not only does he want to make Schpoons and Forx THE place to eat in Bournemouth, but Bournemouth the place to eat in Dorset.
Heavily involved in local initiatives, including inspiring and supporting the next generation of cooks into the kitchen, Matt’s devotion to producing great local and seasonal menus is seen in every element of his dishes. Not only for diners to eat but for the next generation to cook.
So let’s chat food. The first thing you realise when you glance the menu is local produce is King. From Dorset Stokes Marsh Farm beef and New Forest wild mushrooms, through to Dorset cheddar and Dorset wasabi, the menu speaks of the region. Another thing you notice quickly is the method of cooking. Sprinkled throughout the menu are offerings of “clay oven-roasted” or “tandoori roasted” dishes, which reflect the kitchens choice to remove their conventional ovens for clay ovens and a tandoor. Brave, but so worth it.
We kicked off with crisp monkfish cheeks with katsu sauce & coriander and the beef cheek arancini with Dorset wasabi & watercress. Even before we had taken our first mouthful, we were clapping at the ample portion sizes for a starter. Why have something so scrumptious and only have one?
The monkfish cheeks were a dream, cooked well with a light batter that practically melted in your mouth. The dish came served with a warming, but not overpowering, katsu sauce. The beef cheek arancini arrived with a side of the slow-cooked beef cheek, on a bed of broad beans and surrounded by the richest, tastiest sauce. This was all your comfort foods, mixed together and magic sprinkled on top of it. At this point, I just wanted to work my way through the starters.
But alas, to mains it was. And what a main (hence my opening statement). And if you have stayed with me long enough, we are right here, together, at the defining moment of the entire meal. THAT STEAK.
The steak in question was a tandoor ribeye of local Dorset Stokes Marsh Farm beef, served with fresh Dorset watercress, roast bone marrow, skinny fries & aioli. Oh yes.
Did we have sides? Erm, obviously. We shared tandoor broccoli, taramind & yoghurt sauce; and baby spinach with olive oil, lemon & garlic. I know it my job to describe the experience with more than several thousand M’s. But really, it was MMmmmmmmmmmmmmmm level of yum.
It made me seriously consider purchasing a tandoor for my house. Still, I quickly gathered that though the tandoor brought this meal up a level, it is the skill of the Chefs and the quality of the produce that made this one of the most memorable steaks I had eaten. Perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth beef, with a side of bone marrow, and a choice of sauce, this meal sounds pretty simple but has to be eaten to be believed. The sides were perfectly cooked, and I now will only eat greens that are smothered in tamarind and yoghurt.
It is a highlight dish, and one I feel you should go and try as soon as you can, as it represents Schpoons and Forx to a tee. Simple, honest cooking, with great products and by skilled Chefs. What more can we as diners really ask for?
Also, we ate pudding. Hand on heart, a starter and a main at Schpoons and Forx will set you up for a full belly and a need for a nap. Still, for the true foodie heroes amongst us that live by the holy three-course, then I recommend you follow my lead and order the mini pudding platter. Mini versions of all the mama puddings on the menu - and I probably would advise one portion and two spoons. Share, go on, you know you want to.
If you are having doubts about going to a “hotel” restaurant then A) Don’t, and B) trust me. This is one of the restaurants to eat at in Bournemouth - and I know - when by the seaside there is this British desire to stuff our faces with fish and chips and soak in the sea air, but for one night, add this to your list. The food scene here is bubbling, and Schpoons and Forx is leading the way.
Chatting Food Contributor: Ellen Pope
Self-confessed potty mouth, mother of guinea pig and eater of 99.9% of food (don't bring me marzipan and tell me it is food). Ellen is the founder and Editor of Chatting Food Magazine and on a one-woman mission to talk food at everyone. Usually found tweeting, eating, sleeping, repeating.