For some, the word ‘Soho’ conjures up thoughts of the Red Light District, but for others, it represents a more cosmopolitan image, where ‘living on the edge’ is now distinctly cool rather than taboo. With that in mind, I step into the ‘distinctly cool’ Soho Restaurant, on the main high street of Westbourne, and search to see if the place inside indeed matches the name.
Soho is nicely lit, thanks to a flood of daylight through the large windowed front-wall, and subtle lighting from spotlights picking up on orange accents throughout. Natural woods, neutral tones, modern café-style tables and a comfy lounge area complete the look.
I browse from a menu, largely Italian-themed, and am a little unnerved by the eccentric selection of pizza toppings. There’s Aromatic duck (yes, the kind you get from a Chinese takeaway) and Grecian Gourmet (that’s with Feta, cashews and pesto). If I’m ever a little fed up of the usual pizzas, like Hawaiian (although they do have that too), Soho is somewhere I’ll visit for one of their Gourmet Pizzas. My guest opts for good old Hot and Spicy, a small size at £7.95.
I order the Soho Mini Burgers from the Lite Bites section at £6.95. Service is ultra-friendly, and with two young, fashionable waiters at the bar laughing with customers like a scene out of ‘Cheers’, I comfortably order our dishes and am handed a buzzer. Another brave step into largely unknown territory for Bournemouth Restaurants, this method of service means that interaction with staff is minimal, and the focus is shifted to the kind of ‘see to yourself’-style restaurant associated with the busy, fast-paced life of the modern socialite.
I sit down with my buzzer, and stare at it for 15 minutes until it buzzes frantically and I know our food is ready and waiting.
Serving food on wooden boards is the little black dress of 2011, with celeb chefs like Jamie Oliver putting this type of rustic food service on the ‘got to do’ list of modern restaurants. I collect our food from the heat-lamp pass myself, a bowl of French fries in one hand, and a circular wooden board in t’other.
The pizza, cooked in an authentic clay oven, has a crisp base and an oozy, cheesy topping. The spicy sausage, salami and peppers taste lovely with medium-hot chillies, and the hot pepper sauce gives the whole thing a subtle spicy kick.
At first, I wrongly judged Soho as one of those places where portion sizes are a little on the small side, and that I’d need to stop by Greggs on my journey home. As you can imagine then, my ‘Mini’ Burgers come as a bit of a surprise. If those are Mini I daren’t think what their normal burgers look like. The two are more than enough to fill me, and I’m suitably pleased that my suspicions of Soho are put at bay. The tasty homemade 100% beef rounds are topped with real, melting cheese and sweet, caramelised onions. The accompanying fries are excellently crisp, and the whole meal is worth its £6.95 price tag.
We finish our meals in the comfort of the laidback surroundings, not feeling at all threatened by any new-type of pretentiousness, summarising that service was indeed friendly and fun, the atmosphere was much the same, and the food was a well-portioned, tasty success.