A major refurbishment in 2014 has put this elegant colonial-style pub/restaurant right in the mix of Poole’s fine dining scene, writes Nick Marshall
The living was already easy in Canford Cliffs, with Sandbanks and Poole Harbour a short walk in one direction, and Bournemouth up the coast in the other. Come at the weekend, and a steady convoy of designer labels with the obligatory spaniel in tow makes its way from the village, down the chines, to a Blue Flag beach, which is backed by some of the oldest beach huts in Europe. It’s fair to assume several of these wanderers will more than likely stop for lunch and a loosener at The Plantation, in search of formidable, locally-sourced cuisine, real ale, and a warm welcome.
There’s plenty of bar seating inside for those cold winter afternoons, clean-lined restaurant seating for more formal dining, and a delightful conservatory for soaking up the sun. In summer, head out to the garden to take a trestle table or huddle beneath a thatch-roof hut.
Head Chef Seth Le Noury had some big boots to fill when he arrived in February, but established himself in style with an ambitious but refined menu that pays homage to seasonal Dorset produce. Choose from trusty gastro-pub dishes, such as fish and chips, burger with Westcombe Cheddar, or Dorset gammon, all around the £13 mark. Alternatively, take your pick from a changing seasonal selection that incorporates fresh catch, Dorset steak, and local vegetables imbued with the same colonial flourishes that define the decor. And you’ll still have change from £20.
On a Saturday lunch with the sun above, the conservatory lends itself equally to spreading out with a bowl of chunky chips and the big papers, as much as it does for settling down for three-courses of quality cuisine among the banana leaves. To start, the seared scallops with king prawn, samphire, and garlic butter is a triumph of condensed flavour, while the heritage beets with goat’s cheese and candied walnuts is light and full of spring.
To follow, the duck breast with a sweet and sour sauce gives a South Coast nod to the Far East, beautifully tender yet undeniably gamey. The fillet of sea bass over chorizo, on the other hand, arrives trailing Mediterranean aromas.
There’s a final treat from the pudding menu. An outrageous sticky toffee pud, which arrives piping hot and oozing treacly sauce over caramelised bananas, and a chocolate terrine with honeycomb that is dense and creamy.
Owned by the Upham Group, the bar draws its strength from Upham Brewery’s excellent ales – Tipster, Punter, and Stakes. English hops and South Downs water delivering smooth, citrusy bitters with a pleasant toasted finish. Work up a thirst with bar snacks including beef dripping chips, and devilled whitebait.
Manager Terry Cloutman has struck the right balance here. The Plantation feels like a Canford Cliffs village pub, but if you’d made the trip down to the coast, here at the end was worth the journey.
53 Cliff Drive, Canford Cliffs, Poole, Dorset, BH13 7JF