Monday, 7 December 2009

Basilica, Westbourne.

I like Westbourne a lot. That may be a slightly biased view of the area seeing as I live there, but I think it has everything you need and is still in close vicinity to Bournemouth, without being too busy. I like to use my local, independent business' because without them there wouldn't be that charming character Westbourne owns. One thing had been troubling me lately though. The arrival of the new Pizza Express may have given a new lease of life and a fresh lick of paint to the empty old bank by the zebra crossing, but I notice that while the pizza chain's latest outpost is full every night, some of the local restaurants sit very quiet and empty. This year when we had a long overdue get together with friends, the wife and I had made a point of going to one of the indpendents in town and chose Basilica. Walking past that morning we noticed the second letter 'i' from their sign had fallen off and watched as two men struggled with a ladder and some brown parcel tape. Yes you heard correctly, they had decided that rather than have their sign spelt wrong they would sooner have fat, brown tape plastered over their very smart looking sign. Had they not thought of clear sellotape? Surely a tube of superglue wasn't too much of an ask. I know times are hard but this is the christmas season, the time for restaurants and the catering industry to stuff their stockings with cash, or was that the gentlemen's clubs? Perhaps they didn't get the memo.
We had to pre order our meals the day before, and before you ask, no this wasn't a get together on the scale of a Liverpool Victoria christmas party. No, there were just seven of us. Starter and Main.
I had bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for an appetiser, it was gorgeous, followed by the fish special which was pan-fried fillets of sea bass and squid rings on spinach mash with a tomato, wine and caper sauce. It was really well presented and the flavours were perfectly balanced. The fish was soft and tender with the skin slightly crispy. The wife had Byrek which was like a filo pastry pie containing goats cheese, leek, spinach and pine nuts which was as delicious as it sounds. I don't think anybody was disappointed with the quality of the food, but there was a query on the quantity of a certain dish. A friend who ordered a £7.50 starter of prawns was agog upon delivery of only two, very normal looking prawns with a smattering of salad leaves. Well the money they saved on the superglue for the sign obviously wasn't going towards respectable sized portions. After eating our main courses and a bit of chatting it was time for desserts. The wife noticed on the way in that the restaurant had big chocolate brownies in a glass fronted chiller cabinet. When the dessert menu arrived the brownies were not featured and so she went upstairs to ask the lady behind the counter if she could have one. Certainly is what you would usually be told. which one in particular do you like the look of, perhaps. Not, "Erm... well I don't know if you can. I suppose if thats what you REALLY want." My wife doesn't stutter. She doesn't trail off mid sentence staring into oblivion. Of course it is what she wanted, that's why she had walked up the stairs and asked you for it. What part of, Please may I have one of those Brownies for dessert, could possibly have made you think that she wanted something different. Begrudgingly she handed one over as if it were her child into the custody of the taliban.
As I mentioned before the food was really good and service for the most part was pleasant. The prawns, or lack of, were a let down. They did not drop the charge for that starter, nor reduce the price of it. In fact upon leaving, I had one foot out the door when a waiter came running up to me and said, "You pre-ordered right. Well you knew how much the prawn starter was then." Yes but did we know it would be only two sorry little stripped prawns with some baby spinach? They must either be struggling or just trying to cash in, but either way at this time of year and in these economic times keeping customers happy would go a long way. It was just a shame that by eating a brownie, the wife completely ruined the feng shui of their chiller cabinet.

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