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Olive pitstop: ten great places to eat & drink in and around Bournemouth

Discover our pick of the 10 best places to eat and drink in and around Bournemouth when you're road-tripping through Dorset

Once dismissed as God’s waiting room, Bournemouth has come a long way in recent years. On the Dorset coast, fringed with sandy beaches and sandwiched between the dramatic Jurassic coast and the tranquility of the New Forest, it strikes a fine balance between town and country, and makes the perfect jumping off point for a longer trip to the southwest.

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1. Sister to local’s favourite Boscanova, in Boscombe, South Coast Roast is the best place in the town centre for a coffee. These guys take the bean seriously, offering a variety of different blends and brewing methods to satisfy the most picky coffee geeks (espresso with milk is the house favourite; opt for a 6oz if you’re a flat white fan). It’s not a huge space, but there’s a big communal table in the middle (this is the kind of place where people know each other), high stools at the window, and a bench outside if you want to soak up the sunshine with a coffee in hand. It’s the perfect spot to grab a homemade brownie or sandwich, and your favourite brew, and people watch. facebook.com/SouthCoastRoast

2. Ojo Rojo opened in March to much social media fanfare. It’s the second venue from the team behind Smokin’ Aces, a cocktail bar down the road, and this time focuses on bringing mezcal and Mexican street food to the masses. There’s a great selection of mezcals (and tequilas), covering everything from fruity and floral to earthy and smoky, so chat to the bartenders and ask them to suggest one to suit. Order some tacos too. We loved the braised pork belly ones with apple, slaw, pomegranate and super-crispy crackling. ojo-rojo.co.uk


3. Having started out as a small neighbourhood restaurant, Koh Thai has expanded rapidly over the last six years and there are now nine sister restaurants scattered throughout the southwest. There’s a large branch in Bournemouth town centre, but our favourite is the original, on the edge of Boscombe. It’s the place to go for authentic Thai food. Start off with some Thai tapas to share (spring rolls, ribs, prawn tempura) and don’t miss the pad Thai, beef penang or, if you’re feeling brave, the infamous jungle curry. koh-thai.co.uk

4. Turn right at Bournemouth pier and a short walk brings you to West Beach. With its light, bright interior and concertina doors opening onto the beach, this is the ideal setting to enjoy the summer evenings over some fresh-out-of-the-water seafood – Poole Bay lobster, or crab and fennel salad with orange and ginger vinaigrette and a crisp glass of picpoul. west-beach.co.uk

5. Part of a row of unassuming shops – Co-op, Beds Are Uzzz (sic) – in Southbourne, Restaurant Roots is so hidden that if you blink you might miss it. Run by a husband-and-wife team, it’s a tiny restaurant that squeezes in just 26 covers but offers a fantastic-value, five-course tasting menu. Typical dishes include homemade breads and dripping, delicate mackerel ceviche with oyster cream and expertly cooked quail. Read our full review here. restaurantroots.co.uk

6. The Little Pickle Deli Café is just as pretty and homely as it sounds. Focussed on showcasing the best locally sourced produce, pop in for tea and cake ‘like your granny used to make’, Dorset deli boards with local ham, homemade chutney and coastal cheddar, or an irresistibly fresh crab sandwich. littlepickledelicafe.co.uk   


7. James Fowler and his team at The Larder House, in Southbourne, are serious foodies. It’s a casual, intimate space with bare wooden tables, but the food is excellent. The Sunday lunch is a must-try. Afterwards head upstairs to The Library for some post-dinner cocktails. James won UK World Class bartender of the year in 2014, so there are some seriously delicious drinks available and lots of cosy corners to settle into. thelarderhouse.co.uk

8. The capital has been inundated with gourmet burger joints for some time, and now the trend is rolling out across the rest of the country. After a few attempts (and subsequent closures) of other burger places in town, 7 Bone looks set to stay. There are dogs and sandwiches on the menu (including a patty melt and shrimp po’boy) but the quirkily-named burgers are where it’s at: try the Robert Johnston with truffled garlic mushrooms and truffle mayo, or keep it classic with the Prince Charles is Overrated; aged beef patty, bacon, cheese, iceberg, pickles and ‘dirty spread’.  7bone.co.uk

9. Hidden within the beautiful Grade II-listed Green House hotel, on the East Cliff, Arbor restaurant scores top marks for sustainability. The wine list includes bottles from Poole’s English Oak vineyard that are distributed by electric car, and the restaurant’s seasonally-changing menu takes inspiration from around the world. Find out more here. arbor-restaurant.co.uk

10. A trip to the seaside wouldn’t be complete without fish and chips. Our tip, though, is to avoid the tourist traps along the front and make the short drive (or appetite-building walk) to Westbourne. This village-like area is filled with stylish gift and antique shops and is home to the best fish and chips in town – at Chez Fred. There are always queues out of the door for the freshest fish and crispiest, fluffiest chips to takeaway, or there’s an old-style restaurant at the back. chezfred.co.uk


Written by Sarah Kingsbury

First published April 2016


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