Charminster in Bournemouth is rich in culture; the main high street is teeming with restaurants offering cuisines from far and wide. Amongst the crowd is Starz which somehow, still manages to stand out amongst the others. But then, it is a little different from the rest – with its glistening signs, fluorescent lighting and unique American-diner concept.
Starz is the kind of place that just about every passer-by looks into, and there’s even the odd, well-timed glimpse from passing drivers whose attention is grabbed by the eye-catching restaurant. Black and white, mosaic tiles together with black leather booths, blue up-lighting and Hollywood show reels on the walls complete the all-American theme. But trying to marry great food with this kind of quirky novelty is for me, an uncertain aspect. I’m shocked therefore, that almost all of the main courses are homemade (minus the burgers) and I take comfort in picturing the chefs inside Starz working away over a bubbling hot pan of Beef Chilli, or Penne Primavera.
The staff are well-placed at Starz, and in my experience, a happy atmosphere makes for happy staff and happy customers. That certainly seems to be the case here, as my guest and I are greeted by two waitresses who bounce up to us with that overtly-friendly American charm (although they’re both English). We take a seat by the window and I notice the place is almost full even on an ice-cold weeknight in November. Unlike the weather, the ambience is delightful, and I enjoy some toe-tapping Motown classics as I ponder over the menu. It’s a collection of well-priced dishes, and with everything from Loaded Jacket Potatoes to a Full Rack of Ribs, the menu has something for everyone.
I order Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Peppers to start and Wicked Mac & Cheese with a twist, as a main (swapping the accompanying fries for buttered green beans at no extra cost). My guest orders a simple plate of Ham, Eggs and Chips.
The Jalapenos arrive a short time later. They’re definitely not homemade, but the fact that they’re so tasty and cost under a fiver means that I’m not complaining! The spicy kick you get from the whole Jalapeno is enough to make your tongue tingle, but not enough to leave you gasping for water, and the cream cheese filling is rich, warm and divine.
Whilst waiting for my main course, my guest and I sing along to Stevie Wonder’s Superstitious, which pumps out of the speakers and somehow encourages each customer to simultaneously bop their head to the beat.
Our main courses arrive, and I notice that my Mac and Cheese has a delightfully crisp cheese topping. I will point out though, that Mac and Cheese is by default, Macaroni pasta and not Penne, like this one. The ‘twist’ is Tabasco, which adds a tasty extra depth to the sauce, but the pasta itself is overcooked and slightly soggy, and the sauce isn’t as rich in cheese flavour as I’d like it to be. But the green beans are tasty and perfectly cooked and a great alternative to carb-heavy fries.
My guest’s main is simple, but done well. The chips are perfect – not too thick and not too thin, crisp on the outside and fluffy and hot on the inside. They’re served in a mini deep-fat-fryer basket which is a nice touch. The slices of slightly warm ham taste like real ham, and not like the over-processed, supermarket variety I had been dreading. Although the eggs look a little brown for some reason, they taste fine and the yolk is still intact, ready to puncture with a chip.
In all, my visit here will be remembered more for the ambience than the food, although just over £10 is a fair price to pay for a filling meal. The unique concept and quirky interior is enough to put a smile on your face even during harsh wintery nights, and the friendly service is a real winner.