An original, independent review by Charis Webster:
My initial thoughts about 60 Million Postcards are that its an artistic, avant-garde place with alternative music nights and a laidback atmosphere, where struggling musicians, artistic students and creative types meet up over a beer or two. Ive never really given a thought to their menu, so when Im told its filled with homemade pub dishes with a difference, I decide to give 60 Million Postcards a try.
My initial thoughts were also wrong about the clientele, in one corner are a few businessmen in sharp grey suits and in the other are a trio of friends snacking on a sandwich and chatting amongst themselves. In walk a pair of women, armed with designer handbags and buggies complete with giggling children. It seems like a range of customers enjoy 60 Million, and I hope Im one of them.
It is unquestionably unusual inside; the bohemian-type feel is unique and inviting and there’s definitely plenty to look at. The pub is a massive open space interrupted by splashes of colour from various sources. Behind the bar is an array of postcards, pictures, hanging ornaments and hundreds of miscellaneous objects from across the globe. Down one side are raised, private seating areas giving a sense of privacy to customers that want it, and by the front door is a lounge area in the style of Central Perk, complete with worn-leather, comfy-looking sofas. By the far end is a DJ booth and adequate floor space for a boogie at the weekend, accompanied again by comfy sofas a place to rest your dancing feet no doubt.
We order from a man with a purposefully unkempt fashion sense and a softly spoken voice. I go for the Three Cheese Macaroni and my guest orders the Grilled Halloumi Stuffed Mushroom Warm Salad accompanied by Homemade Double-Cooked Maris Piper Chips. It’s then that I begin to wonder if it’s not a little odd how the menu mentions several times that the chips are homemade. If they’re putting such emphasis on the fact that these are homemade, does that mean nothing else is? I query the waiter who is happy to indulge in an informative conversation about 60 Million Postcards. Some of the dishes are made on site, and some are not. In fact, the place is actually a Mitchells and Butlers pub who own 1600 restaurants and pubs all over the UK, including some well-known brands like The Toby Carvery, O’Neill’s and The Harvester. This comes as quite a surprise, considering the layout, design and general feel of the place, I would never have guessed it came from such a large family. Reputation tells me that pub-chains are notoriously value for money and that’s about it, but I guess as they say, the proof is in the pudding (or in this case the macaroni cheese).
Our food arrives, and my small bowl of macaroni cheese packs a devilishly good smell, and the taste is just as good. I’d go as far as saying it is one of the best macaroni cheeses I’ve ever had, and with some anguish I must admit it’s even better than my own. The chef informs me that the three cheeses in it are Emmental (the Swiss cheese with the holes), good old English Cheddar and, shock horror, Goat’s Cheese. I hate Goat’s Cheese! Don’t I? Usually, the small, pungent cheese produced by goats is enough to put me off food altogether, so quite how it has not only managed to get past me in this dish, but actually taste good too, completely baffles me. It adds a rich, unusually moreish taste, and there’s just the right amount of sauce coating the pasta shapes, which for the record, are more of a Gomito pasta (bent tubes) than thin-hole Macaroni. The cheesy sauce is rich and powerful, strong and flavourful and the whole thing is divine.
The homemade chips are also scrummy; the thin strips of fluffy Maris Pipers are cooked well with a nice bite to them, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but they’ve been flavoured with something that gives them a lovely herby taste. It’s a shame though that tasty chips like this are served in a boring, plastic dish and I feel that a more appetizing presentation would have done them more justice.
My guest’s dish is equally as impressive as my macaroni cheese. Served on a bed of Babygem lettuce, three field mushrooms have been topped with grilled Halloumi and one of those dressings that justifies finger-licking. The juicy, field mushrooms work well with simple slices of peppery red onion, fresh green cucumber and ripe red tomatoes and the warm cheese is salty and delightful. Sprigs of thyme add a deliciously earthy flavour and the whole thing is a tasty meat-free lunch.
After being proven wrong about my slightly judgemental approach to pub-chain food, I go for a well-priced dessert Belgian Waffle for £2.45. The warm, spongy waffle is topped with sweet, sticky maple syrup and a generous amount of syrupy blueberry compote. It’s topped with a dollop of perfectly contrasting vanilla ice-cream, speckled with real vanilla beans and the whole thing is a comforting end to a fantastic meal. What’s more, I leave a mere £10 note lighter and a now open mind about pub-chain restaurants. At least here, in the heart of Bournemouth I’ve found a pub with superb prices, friendly staff, a decidedly non-chain-like atmosphere and to top it all off, delicious homemade dishes!
Visited by BHbeat editor Charis Webster in December 2010