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With breath-taking views across the bay, a window table at The Boardwalk Restaurant and Bar in Woolacombe is a great setting for a romantic meal. The brightly decorated interior lends the place a more casual vibe, however, and The Boardwalk is just as popular with families and large parties as it is with couples, so the atmosphere on a Saturday evening in mid-season is jovial and relaxed. When writing this restaurant review though, I should point out both the risk that tables can be hard to come by in the height of the summer holidays, and the disappointment you’ll encounter if you turn up during the winter months when, like most of the restaurants in Woolacombe, The Boardwalk closes for the off-season.
After a hard day’s surfing, my dining partner and I were pretty hungry and couldn’t resist the value offered by The Boardwalk’s set menu (£17.95 for two courses, £20.95 for three). To start, I chose the soup of the day, which on our visit was mixed vegetables. Smooth and rich, with a simple but satisfying blend of potato, butternut squash, broccoli, onion and (I suspect) a few other veggies I couldn’t quite pick out, the soup was a deliciously warming way to begin the meal. Sadly, the advertised accompanying “crusty bread” was more shop-bought than home-baked and didn’t have much crunch to its crust, but I was happy enough to leave it aside in anticipation of my main course. My dining partner’s deep fried whitebait were brilliantly fresh and crisp, though the accompanying sauce was a slightly disappointing mayonnaise rather than the anticipated tartare.
For main course, I opted for roasted chicken supreme served on a warm salad of new potatoes, red peppers, green beans and chorizo with a tomato and tarragon butter. I was quite puzzled by the prospect of the warm salad, so asked our waitress when ordering whether it also included lettuce leaves. She looked a bit sheepish at that and told me that there was no lettuce, and that salad might not actually be the best word to describe the dish. She reassured me that it was good though, so I decided to give it a go. When it arrived, I immediately saw what the waitress meant, as the potatoes, peppers, etc. had clearly been slow cooked to form an almost casserole-like concoction and the tomato and tarragon “butter” was more like a sauce. Mis-description aside, however, the dish was actually a rather brilliant main. The enormous chicken breast, still on the bone, was perfectly tender, the meat succulent and flavoursome. The new potatoes retained just enough bite, while the red peppers were meltingly soft, their sweetness tangible and teasing on the tastebuds, especially when contrasted with the texture of the slightly spicy cubes of chorizo, which were beautifully crispy on the outside with a mouth-fillingly chewiness in the centre. The only element of the dish that was a little lost was the green beans, which were as soft as the peppers and simply overwhelmed by the intensity of the tomato and tarragon juices in which they swam. My dining partner ordered his sirloin steak medium-rare, but it was served medium-well, which was an unfortunate error, though the locally sourced meat was still full of flavour. The accompanying portion of chips (thick cut, with fluffly middles and nice, crispy outsides) and onion rings (deep fried but delicious) can only be described as mammoth. The result was, sadly, that both of us were defeated by our mains, unable to fully clear our plates. Nor could we contemplate dessert, despite such tempting offerings as vanilla bread & butter pudding, and chocolate fudge brownie on the menu.
The wine list at The Boardwalk is quite limited, but the Chilean house merlot that is available by the glass is fruity and very drinkable, with soft tannins and not too much acidity. Service was swift but very friendly, our waitress more than willing to answer our various questions about the menu, and the price is not to be sniffed at – two courses, a glass of wine and tip coming in at around £23 per head. Taking into account the minor quibbles with the food, The Boardwalk gets a fine three and a half Forks-Up.The Boardwalk Restaurant and Bar Esplanade
EX34 7DJ T: 01271 871115