I must admit that I got that little bit more excited about our imminent move to Bournemouth when I heard about the new Hilton Hotel that opened in the city centre last month. Normally the opening of a new hotel wouldn’t incite this level of enthusiasm, but with a Sky Bar with views over the city, an upscale restaurant (Schpoons and Forx) where the interiors are as stunning as the menu, and an eforea spa – I knew it was going to be somewhere we would end up spending a lot of time when we move in.
We were kindly invited to try out the Level8ight Sky Bar and Schpoons and Forx restaurant, to indulge in some cocktails and road test the restaurant menu. Myself and Emma from The Style Box joined a host of other bloggers and arrived on a recent chilly Thursday – taking the lift straight to the eighth floor to arrive at their ‘destination bar’. The Level8ight Sky Bar boasts dramatic coastal views as well as the claim of being the ‘highest bar in the South West’. Inside, it feels plush and exclusive; the drinks menu offers inventive cocktails and premium spirits (including 49 different gins!), and the bar’s food menu features tapas small plates and afternoon tea.
We started our foray into their cocktail menu with Bournemouth Sours – their most popular cocktail. The Bournemouth Sour encompasses Conker dry gin, lemon juice, egg white, sugar syrup, Havana club fruity essence and Angoustra bitters topped with pinot noir, and is priced at £14.99.
After a couple of delicious cocktails we were invited into the restaurant by Matt Tebbutt – the chef who oversees the beautiful Sky Bar and the Schpoons and Forx restaurant. Having Matt heading things up – Matt, who often pops up on Saturday Kitchen and presents Food Unwrapped, and more importantly, who graduated from Leith’s School of Food and Wine and trained under Marco Pierre White – is a total coup for the Hilton and has really served to put the new restaurant and bar on the map.
We were seated in the restaurant and took in the stunning surroundings. The open kitchen sits in the heart of the seating area and features a tandoor and stone oven, as well as boxes full of fresh herbs and crates of baked breads. Wooden spoons and industrial lighting hang from the ceiling, tinges of gold and copper glimmer in the soft lighting, and the whole restaurant is filled with unique and quirky touches, from pots full of bendy spoons and forks (of course) to hand painted plates hanging on the wall.
We were treated to a mind-blowing assortment of dishes – get ready to get hungry! We started with cockles (lemon juice expertly squeezed by the lovely Rhiannon Duffin…)
We then moved on to truffle oil and cheese flatbread (totally delicious), raw vegetables served with a garlic and anchovy dip and mackerel cooked with cumin and coriander…
… scallops with ham hock and salsa verde, mozzarella with roasted figs, and medium cooked steak served with chunky chips. The steak was undoubtedly the best I’ve ever tasted – utterly tended; meat that just melted in your mouth.
We had mussels, clams and red mullet cooked in vermouth, loin of lamb served with flatbread and tzatziki, halibut with seaweed butter and smoked haddock and mascarpone risotto.
Matt took the time to explain every dish as it was served to us, and it was clear that selecting every addition to the Schpoons and Forx menu has been a total labour of love. Then Matt uttered the words that everyone longs to hear – “Shall I bring the puddings out?” (Just when you thought we couldn’t possibly eat any more…) For dessert we had vanilla pannacotta with 30-year-old Port, banana tart with caramel and amaretto, creme brûlée, chocolate tart, wafer thin pineapple with passion fruit and soft meringue, a red wine and mint sorbet, and rumbaba.
I hadn’t imagined that the restaurant’s dessert menu could be as good as their main dishes, but everything was absolutely delectable. The passionfruit and pineapple meringue was my favourite – the soft, chewy meringue and the sweetness of the fruit were a perfect match. The restaurant prides itself on using fresh, local produce and seasonal ingredients – the apples in the apple and calvados clafoutis for example are sourced locally – and it really shows. I also love that the majority of the items on the menu are Sharing Plates. It makes it so much more pleasurable – so much more of an experience to share food with friends and family, and to be able to taste just how delicious that steak is together. (Though, hands off my pineapple and passion fruit meringue).
We were totally spoiled by Schpoons and Forx and we all came away with very happy bellies indeed – I just can’t even explain just how amazing the food was and how much I would recommend it to others. I loved it so much that I dragged Tom there for lunch on Saturday, and he was bowled over by the food too. If you’re anywhere near Bournemouth or planning on being in the near future then you must try Schpoons and Forx and the Sky Bar – you won’t be disappointed!
Have you visited the new Bournemouth Hilton yet?