19th March 2016 @ 1230
I looked for a venue for four covers that would be easily accessible by my Dad, now 92, and my wife who is vegetarian who does not have trouble with access but gets fed up with unimaginative menu choices for her in restaurants. This search was triggered by my sister in law (SIL) suggesting an Argentinian steak house on The Quay where she had taken Dad earlier in March. This choice had to be shot down as vegetarianism in a steak house would be as contradictory as a Martini to a teetotaller.
A couple of internet searches and the Thistle Hotel with its Anchor Bar popped up. I rang them on an 0871 number to ask about the vegetarian options. I ended up paying seven pence a minute to listen to ersatz international hotel lobby music for two minutes before I was given an alternative free number to ring. Once through to the Anchor Bar I was told about six options including teriyaki noodles, falafel served on a bed of spinach, sweet potato curry and spaghetti carbonara. Not one veggie burger, chilli or lasagne so this sounded good enough.
They do not take bookings.
The four of us found our way from the car park to the Anchor Bar which is all it was, a bar with a few tables. The SIL’s jaw dropped quicker than the Dow Jones index on a certain day in 1929. We had arrived, it was a warm place on a bitterly cold day and Dad was looking forward to his lunch, so we stayed.
Having seen on the website that the bar could seat forty covers and then seen the bar for real I doubted this could be possible without a high degree of laptop intimacy amongst the diners but hey ho, no problem on this particular Saturday morning.
The menu as promised over the phone was a choice of international and traditional British fare. Dotted discretely amongst the choices were the vegetarian options. SIL chose the catch of the day which on the day was two fillets of bream served on a bed of mash potatoes with fresh spring vegetables. Dad chose the traditional British fish and chips which was a veritable plateful. My wife had the spaghetti carbonara and I had the steak and ale pie served on mashed potatoes and with fresh spring vegetables.
The service was good to excellent with a refreshingly friendly and welcoming attitude. Even when the SIL asked for her fish to grilled rather than fried it was ‘no problem, chef can do that for you’. The food came on hot plates within twenty minutes of being ordered.
A small downside was that the bar area was dominated by a huge wall mounted television. This was only a very small downside as the volume was switched off and it was showing Arsenal, my favourite team, playing Everton. The coincidence of fact that Arsenal scored the first of their two victorious goals at the same time food was served bears absolutely no influence on our opinion of the Anchor Bar. The view from the bar is across the upper decks of Sunseeker boats tied up in a marina against a backdrop of Brownsea Island.
No comment needed about the quality of the food as every plate was cleared without complaint. If there were going to be any they would have come from the SIL but she actually said that her fish was really good.
As I said earlier, it is not possible to pre-book covers for meals here. I expect that during the summer months the place is heaving and business will be good enough without taking reservations. So, that should be a warning about trying to eat there in those peak months. Otherwise I would not hesitate to make a revisit or recommend the place. Allow £20 per cover to budget for main courses and a drink. There is parking at the back of the hotel which costs £3 for two hours.