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Food Hotel: The Greenhouse, Bournemouth

4 Grove Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3AX
01202 498 900
Cuisine: European
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From rags to riches with an eco-makeover and an innovative new chef.
 
The Green House opened in Bournemouth in April 2010 following a remarkable £5million transformation, taking it from down-at-heel seaside residence to a destination in its own right. Under Gordon Jones, the former restaurant has been replaced by The Green Room, and the 32-roomed Grade 1 listed Victorian property given the sympathetic treatment it deserves.
 
Jones, an ambitious character, started out with Michelin-starred chefs Martin Wishart in Edinburgh and Martin Blunos in Bath. A 7-year stretch at The Royal Crescent followed, during which Jones became the youngest chef of a five star Relais & Chateaux hotel with two rosettes under his belt. His mantra in the kitchen is 'keep morale high' and his chosen medium is song. ‘There’s always music in my kitchen when we’re prepping, and lots of singing along. We have fun, different music themes on certain days’.
 
With The Green Room, Jones has taken an unusual approach. Rather than creating a full menu, a trio of ingredients are listed for each course in order of flavour importance. It’s a format that’s intended to court discovery among the intrepid; to encourage those who might bypass the offal option to relish it. What, then, can I look forward to tonight? Jones is cagey. ‘There’s been a massive delivery of fennel, and a glut of tayberries... but I’ve yet to write the 9 course tasting menu.’ 
 
Even as my companion and I sit at our table contemplating the completed flavour list, we have little idea of what to expect. The meal begins with a savoury, salmon-pink consommé littered with finely cut carrot, courgette and flower petals. Amongst the 8 courses which follow are chicken winglet, seared scallop and shallot puree and a surprising dish of smoked eel and new potatoes with lime jelly. 
 
We also enjoyed vegetable crisps, shredded pork belly, a caramelised sage leaf and sprouting fennel and caraway amongst combinations which are consistently intriguing and delicious. Jones' dislike of dairy manifests itself in cleaner flavours which lend an almost Japanese refinement to the menu. A salad featuring Beenleigh blue cheese is the only concession, with the meal culminating with a flavoursome tayberry tart.
 
Upon departure, dinner guests are provided with full copies of the menu presented as a wax-sealed scroll, testament to Jones' playful nature. This considered touch means a post-prandial dissection of the meal is in order, allowing us to relive the pleasures of the table anew as we linger in the bar with our petit fours.
 
To bed, then- and we benefit from comfy eco-beds. The refurbished hotel's green credentials are remarkable. Rooms are furnished with handcrafted, sustainable, British-made items and lighting is energy-efficient, with the majority of electricity generated on site. Carpets are 100% local wool and the wallpaper coloured with vegetable inks, whilst eco-paints from Farrow and Ball are also locally sourced. Water is both filtered and carbonated on-site and, of course, the hotel’s car runs on the restaurant's spent cooking oil. 
 
Environmental awareness certainly doesn't translate to penury. My morning shower has the power of a monsoon deluge- and, along with the specially commissioned shower gel, is remarkably adept at removing any residual grains of Bournemouth beach. Towels are white, weighty and smooth as velvet to the touch- I don't want to unwrap myself to get dressed. 
 
But breakfast is calling, beginning with a trio of fruit compotes; apricot and peanut, prune and pear, and spiced apple. Yogurt comes from a lady in the New Forest and flavoured by Jones- today we try rhubarb, tayberry and mango. More substantial fodder is also sampled, in the form of succulent local wild trout, scrambled eggs and horseradish. We linger long enough that we're the last to exit the dining room- and, as we pass the kichen door, I'm certain I can hear Jones singing jubilanty along to the Beatles.
 
The Green House, 4 Grove Road, Bournemouth, BH1 3AX
Tel: 01202 498 900, www.thegreenhousehotel.co.uk
A double room is between £180 and £240 per night.
The nine course tasting menu is £45 per person (without wine).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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8 August 2010
By: Henrietta Clancy
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