What is elegance? According to the dictionary, its definitions include “dignified grace in appearance” and “good taste in design, style, arrangement”. Words like this are often used frivolously in marketing and advertising, so when a restaurant claims to be ‘bringing back elegance’, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was an empty promise, or a case of style (in language) over substance.
Happily, when you walk in to The Print Room in Bournemouth, it’s immediately evident that they’re committed to their promise. Compared with many of the pubs, bars and chain restaurants in the town centre, this place is stands out as a cut above.
The old Bournemouth Echo building is home to the restaurant, and although the Echo’s offices are still there, on some of the upper floors, the days of digital communications and lightning quick logistics mean that the on-site printing presses are long gone. Instead, the room that once housed them is now the home of The Print Room. Although fairly unassuming from the outside, on the inside, it is a beautiful Art Deco building, faithfully preserved with its original windows, internal doors and many other original features. The restaurant itself has fantastic high ceilings and has been decorated in a stunning Art Deco style, with chandeliers, a long bar, and a mixture of booths and ‘sofa style’ table seating. On the far wall, opposite the entrance, is a huge projection screen, which shows old black and white films without the sound. This could be awful – but actually seems to work really well and adds to the ‘elegant’ atmosphere. The final touch is live music from a pianist, which is loud enough to provide lovely background music, but never intrusive. It’s fascinating to imagine the place as it once was, with the noisy printing presses working away to produce the local papers. This is referenced in some of the decor in the booths – framed reproductions of news stories, dating right back to the early 1900s. A fascinating read, and an interesting talking point.
It’s a regular Saturday night haunt for Mr W and I on our weekends in Bournemouth and last weekend was no exception. Next door to The Print Room is its companion, The Ink Bar, which is pleasant for a drink during the day, and also has a food menu, but has started having guest DJs in residence in the evening, which in our opinion makes it a bit too loud (it’s a relatively small bar) for pre-dinner drinks. Instead, we prefer to have a drink at the long bar in the restaurant before we eat. At this point, I must apologise for the quality of the photos in this blog post – there is something about the light in the restaurant that makes my photography worse than usual, and the results really don’t do the place justice at all!
The Print Room has an impressive cocktail menu, and we started with a couple of these – a Singapore Sling for Mr W and a Cosmopolitan for me. Both were excellent, and we watched the cocktails being lovingly made. While we were there, the bar man was attending to a request for twelve Espresso Martinis, and was giving each one individual attention. Certainly no cutting of corners here! The bar itself is lovely, adorned with a variety of retro Laurent-Perrier bottles, whose design also has an Art Deco feel to it. It’s as if no detail has gone unconsidered, and this really pays off.
This is another place where we are such regular visitors that most of the waiting staff now recognise us and give us a special welcome, but from my observations, the service seems universally excellent, and very attentive, despite the high-backed booth seating having all the potential for some diners to be ignored or overlooked. Unusually on Saturday there were three or four very large groups in, and although several of the staff, when we asked how their night was going, said how busy they were, this certainly wasn’t reflected in the service. Happily, although at least two of the groups were stag and hen parties, they all seemed quite refined and quiet compared with the usual Bournemouth Saturday night crowd. I don’t know if The Print Room has a door policy (it doesn’t appear to) but somehow, they seem to manage to keep a certain level of clientele which is in keeping with the style and atmosphere that they aim for.
The menu encompasses numerous different cuisines, with a couple of Asian-themed main courses, plus strong French influences coming through – and even gourmet burgers if that’s your thing. Once again, we didn’t go for a starter, wanting to appreciate the rest of our meal instead. I chose a Barbary duck breast, served with a prune jus, savoy cabbage, and my old favourite, Dauphinoise potatoes. Mr W chose my absolute favourite dish on the menu (but it was his turn!), honey glazed ham hock with mash.
Despite missing out on the ham hock (apart from a couple of mouthfuls stolen from Mr W when I’d finished my meal – he’s a slow eater!) I was absolutely thrilled with my duck breast. It was slightly pink, tender, juicy, not fatty and cooked perfectly. The prune jus was the perfect complement, and there was just enough of it too. Savoy cabbage always goes down well, as does the Dauphinoise, which was an excellent specimen – although possibly on the small side compared with the meaty duck breast. Overall, though, an excellent choice, and probably now a close second favourite.
Now, on to the ham hock. This really was delicious! Finely shredded ham, with a distinctive, sweet, honey taste, shredded, and then reconstructed before being cooked again to brown on the outside, and served with the ham bone back in. The mash and greens that it comes with are just the right accompaniment, and this really is one of my favourite main dishes of all time – and it’s consistently good, with Mr W’s version at the weekend being no exception.
Dessert time, and I decided to try something new, namely an orange meringue pie with lemon and lime ice cream. This was served as an individual tartlet type pie, with lovely crisp pastry, containing a delicious tangy, rich, orangey filling. The meringue topping was exactly how I like it – not baked, so fluffy and creamy on the inside, with a very thin crisp layer achieved probably with a blow torch but perhaps by flashing under the grill. The ice cream was similarly delicious. It’s unusual to find citrus in an ice cream, rather than sorbet, format as a frozen pudding, but I actually prefer the creaminess of ice cream when accompanying a dessert, so this went down very well indeed.
Dignified grace in appearance? Absolutely. Good taste in design, style, arrangement? Oh yes. And how about adding ‘food’ to that list? This place has more than earnt its elegance badge, and if it’s a refined dining experience you are after, which has substance to back up its style, then it comes highly recommended.
I don’t think I can rave enough about The Print Room. As well as dinners, they are open for business lunches (I would certainly consider it for a lunch if I was working in Bournemouth) and afternoon tea, and sometimes have live vocalists performing, or special events for occasions like Wimbledon – and there’s a private dining room at the back, which I’ve not yet been in, but it looks lovely. I’m constantly surprised that somewhere with such a high standard of food, service and, well, elegance, is practically upon my doorstep, in amongst a myriad of average bars and restaurants. It’s more like stepping into a little bit of London. We love to dress up when we go out, and this is one of the few places locally where I don’t think you could ever feel overdressed. I just hope it can manage to maintain its sense of exclusivity and quality whilst continuing to do good business. If the busy Saturday night we experienced was anything to go by, things are looking good!
Food: ***** Service: **** Atmosphere: *****
The Print Room, Echo Building, Richmond Hill, Bournemouth BH2 6HH