Saturday 18 April 2009

La Roche Restaurant, The Haven, Sandbanks, Dorset

Boasting a great setting overlooking the English Channel and the chain ferry chugging back and forth to an unspoilt beach on the Isle of Purbeck, La Roche has cool, minimalist decor, which some diners may find a little clinical and soulless. You can eat a la carte or from the set menu (£15 for two courses and £20 for three courses). Ahead of the starters, comes a selection of warm and delicious rustic bread rolls. Eat them up because the portions on the set menu are small. The choice of three starters can include six al dente asparagus tips with a drizzle of Hollandaise sauce and a modest bowl of concentrated artichoke soup. Among the three mains, the small fillet of sea bream, served with potatoes, vegetables and a concentrated fish sauce, is expertly cooked and has a delicate, salty and moreish flavour.

Unfailingly professional and patient
La Roche has an extensive wine list starting at about £19 a bottle, but you can get a half bottle of the light, crisp and dry Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine for £12.50. On the children's menu, the main courses (£6 apiece) include a fat finger of succulent fish in batter accompanied by a handful of plump chips and a small dollop of mushy peas. Hungry youngsters will also appreciate the biggish bowl (£3) of excellent Italian ice cream with a biscotti biscuit. Service by the youthful staff in their smart waist-coats is unfailingly professional and patient, even with clumsy kids, but it can get slow as the evening wears on. 7/10