An original, independent review by Charis Webster:
There was much hoo-haa when Gary Rhodes put his name to two restaurants in Christchurch: Rhodes South and King Rhodes (now The Jetty and Jacks Restaurant). But two years later, he was gone, and as I walk through a street filled with eatery after eatery, Im left wondering who needs Gary Rhodes anyway?
Alex Aitken, a Michelin Star chef with clear talent and an abundance of experience, brought his love of local food and sustainable produce to Jacks Restaurant at The Kings Hotel on Castle Street.
The first thing you notice about The Kings Hotel is its grandeur. Overlooking the quintessentially British bowling green and historic castle remains, the famous Christchurch Priory peeps out above the green tree tops. It’s a superb view from the restaurant, and I kick back and watch a few keen bowlers making the most of it all.
I order three courses from the set menu for £15.50. In times where a good pub main course can easily cost £15, I’m left eagerly anticipating what a reputable restaurant like Jacks can do for the same price, stretched over a starter, main and dessert.
Whilst I wait, I notice the stylish but not intimidating surroundings. The high ceilings give a sense of opulence, and the deep purple walls bring it right into the 21st century. Chandeliers cast a nice light on the room, whilst the wide open windows and the view outside make the place feel like youre in a stately home, with the bowling green and castle remains as your characterful garden.
I’m treated to an Amuse Bouche to cleanse my palette, a refreshing tomato and red pepper Gazpacho with a tasty peppery kick. My starter of Cured Gravadlax with Celeriac Remoulade arrives not long after, minus the Remoulade. I’m not one for complaining, and nor would I want to, as the not-too-thick, not-too-thin slices of delicious, local salmon slither down my throat without need or want of a celeriac garnish. It’s a delicate starter, accompanied by complementary bread and butter, and goes some way into quenching my incredible hunger. But it’s the main course I’m excited for: Pork Chop (local, of course), Mash, Spring Greens and Calvados Cream.
A short while later a monster of a pork chop is put before me. Beautifully cooked, meaty and moist, I’m tempted to pick up the chunk of meat with my bare hands and eat it à la Fred Flinstone. Accompanied by creamy, lump-free mash and al dente spring greens, the meal is super. And if the star of the show isn’t the pork itself, it’s the phenomenally tasty Calvados cream. Up North we’d call that gravy, but it’s certainly nowt like the one my gran used to make. It’s sweet and tasty and compliments the meat perfectly.
Somehow finding room for dessert, I await my Apricot Cheesecake and Raspberry Sorbet. The homely-looking square of cake is subtly sweet, and not the dense, sugary kind that is set, rather than baked with eggs. This one is most certainly of the baked variety, and is imaginatively filled with whole apricots. It is nicely accompanied by a tart raspberry sorbet which gives it a delightful edge. The whole dish is a tasty end to a tasty meal, and I’m pleasantly surprised as I leave completely full, morally justified from eating local produce (the farthest of which came from The New Forest) and change from a twenty pound note.
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