With its stunning sea views, warm, friendly atmosphere and unfussy bistro style food, The Boardwalk Restaurant & Bar has long been a favourite dinner venue for me and my dining partner on our occasional trips to Woolacombe, in North Devon (see a previous review here). We were therefore curious to hear on our last visit that The Boardwalk had changed ownership over the summer, and just had to return to see what had changed and (of course) pen another restaurant review.
To start, my dining partner just couldn’t resist the moules marinières cooked in white wine with cream and shallots, sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley, and served with a sizeable hunk of warm, crusty bread. The fairly concise menu still included some classics, such as my dining partner’s moules marinières, or crispy deep-fried whitebait, from under the previous owners, but I was keen to try some of the new offering, which seemed to represent a move towards a slightly more upmarket approach. I went for one of the daily specials, a crayfish cocktail served on a generous bed of garden salad, with spinach and lamb’s lettuce, sweet tomatoes, refreshing cucumber and tangy red onions. The crayfish was fantastically fresh, with a rich texture that contrasted beautifully with the crunch of the salad, while the marie rose dressing was a wonderfully subtle blend of flavours with a smooth, creamy texture and just a hint of spice. Although the menu had said that it would come with bread and butter, I didn’t mind the absence of this accompaniment – for a starter, the portion was quite generous enough without.
Moving on to main courses, my dining partner chose a daily special, an absolutely enormous roast piri-piri half chicken served with chips and a mixed garden salad. I’m told that the chicken was delicious, and my dining partner certainly made short work of it, despite its size. The fat chips were fluffy on the inside and crispy on the out, and the salad was a decent mix of leaves, tomatoes, cucumber and red onion. I was thoroughly impressed with my own main, of pan fried duck breast, dauphinoise potatoes and creamed leeks. The duck was slightly overcooked, but was nevertheless a tender and tasty piece of meat, moistened by the accompanying port wine jus. The dauphinoise potatoes were well executed, layered with creamy, garlicky sauce and finished with a lightly browned gruyere cheese topping, and the creamed leeks were subtly seasoned, the portion just big enough to be satisfying without being overwhelming.
A hard day’s surfing meant that we just about had room for dessert, and the sweets on offer were certainly too tempting to pass up. My dining partner’s choice of lemon cheesecake was sumptuously creamy, with just the right topping to base ratio. My own choice, a very prettily presented sticky toffee pudding, was an utter treat. The sponge was surprisingly light and the sticky sauce was perfectly pitched – sweet but with a slight underlying hint of burnt caramel bitterness. Rather than ice cream, it came with a generous dollop of thick local clotted cream. I hadn’t expected it, but this was the perfect accompaniment – it didn’t run away like melting ice cream would, and its smooth texture and soothing taste balanced out the intense sweetness of the sticky toffee brilliantly.
The wine list is fairly short, but all reasonably priced and offers a couple of wines of each colour by the glass as well as the bottle. My dining partner and I shared a bottle of fruity, easy drinking Chilean Merlot which was slightly tannic but went well with our meals. Service throughout was consistently friendly, and our waitress was very patient with my indecisiveness when I was torn between starters. With three courses, wine and service coming in at around £36 per head, the new Boardwalk offers good food at decent value in a relaxed setting (though it is a touch more expensive than the old Boardwalk, as it no longer offers the excellent value set menu we enjoyed on our previous visit). Overall score? A consistently impressive three and a half Forks-Up. (One note of caution – at the time of writing, The Boardwalk’s website is still displaying the old menu so we advise calling for details of the new one if you’re curious).The Boardwalk Restaurant and Bar Esplanade
EX34 7DJ T: 012 7187 1115