The Mouth – Bournemouth – Poole – Christchurch

Boscombe Cafes – the best and the rest..

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I want to let you in on a Boscombe secret. No, not the one about the dominatrix. It’s that Boscombe, ‘blight of Bournemouth’* is home to an outrageous amount of good food, especially good cafes.

You can get good priced meals in lovely little independent venues ran out of passion.

I have been to almost all of them many times over and, apart from the town centre, no other area of Bournemouth offers such quality and variety.

I want to give you a sample of what’s on offer. Anywhere I would recommend as decent gets a ‘+’ and anywhere good gets a ‘++’ and the very best ‘+++’. (*Copyright Daily Echo reader comments section.)

Everywhere is within a 15 minute walk along one main strip. Starting on Christchurch Road on the fringes of Pokesdown you have the Coffee House (+), a nice venue popular with white van men that does decent standard breakfast/omlette food with house specials, though the coffee is better than the food. The Sandwich Box is a few doors down and is not worth a visit.

 

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The huge Eats, Beats and Treats is one of the very few places I haven’t tried but it looks interesting, a sort of skater and graffiti ha

ngout. Further along is the new Little Pickle (++) which is a cutesy new deli cafe with good food and a nice, though slightly awkward interior. The few tables are arranged in such a way you often have to share and you are right under the eyes of the staff.

 

Some people don’t like Cafe Culture (+) a Portuguese place near the precinct, but I do, and the coffee (just ask for coffee, not the latte) is the best in Boscombe. The food, and the customers, are a mix of rough and ready English and portuguese family.

Their portuguese food is good – the titanic Bife Brasiliera is a steak, rice chips and omlette monster meal, though sadly I think the insane, brick-like Picadinho, a dish made of layers of melted cheese, bread and various meats, then topped with a prawn, has been discontinued.

 

 

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The Salad Centre opposite (+) does a good selection of hearty hot ve

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getarian

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food in a

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interior and for reasons I do not understand is more popular with pensioners than anyone else. They will warn you before giving you a big serving, should you ask for one, and that warning is justified.

As you reach the precinct you hit what is now a Boscombe institution, Cafe Boscanova (++).

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The clientele sums up the mix you get in the area – weather beaten people with tattoos sat outside enjoying a smoke and a coffee, and inside yummy mummy’s, students and hipsters. The service can be frustratingly slow but the food is healthy and quirky – a vegetarian east end breakfast, anyone? The cafe is usually busy but if you can get a sea it’s well worth a visit, though while the atmosphere is excellent, the food is only very good.

market.jpgIt’s worth pointing out that on Thursdays and Saturday’s the precinct hosts a market with a quite fantastic fruit and veg stall and a very much less reassuring fish stand. There’s also a strange meat van where a brummie with a microphone tries unconvincingly to seduce people into buying apparently endless quantities of pork chops for £10.

Cappucinos and Poppins are two functional cafes on the precinct. The later has the edge thanks to slightly better food and amusing staff outfits. It also has a less depressing interior.

The Diner (+) also has a somewhat crushing feeling despite a recent refit but does a good line in burgers and chips.

I haven’t tried Cafe Pacifico in The Sovereign Centre though it looks uninspiring. Planters Cafe in the Royal Arcade recently closed.

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Heading left on to Sea Road you find the best cafe in Boscombe and the best one in Bournemouth – International Cafe (+++).

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Don’t walk in through the sliding doors and ask for a menu because there aren’t any. Instead there are three layers of north African daily specials – ask for a mix of rice and salad.

 

This won’t be the tawdry, dry chunks of tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce than is the standard in too many British cafes. This is a selection of about 8-10 delicious tastings of freshly prepared and dressed types of vegetables and humous.

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Typical mains, always tender and in a sauce bursting with flavour, are marinated chicken, lamb sausage, and salmon with lemon. You’ll need to get down there quick though – the owner is thinking of returning to Tunisia since the popular revolution during the Arab Spring.

Opposite is Tea@Marie’s (+) which has a dire interior but does straight down the line food quite well and its English breakfast is respectable. The windows look directly on to the epicentre of Boscombe’s street life so there’s no lack of entertainment.

img00515-20120403-1036.jpgHidden off Sea Road down Roumelia Lane is an absolute gem,

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Rosie’s (+++) Italian Cafe. The eponymous owner is a bustling, friendly woman who clearly loves what she does. The place is so small, and the seating so tight, that it is fairly ridiculous. But the food is great – the Italian breakfast of cured meat, scrambled egg and sliced peppers on granary toast is rendered heavenly by the strategically placed gorgonzola. The homemade lasagna and cakes are very good and the English breakfast is truly high cuisine – taste the rich, sweetly cooked tomatoes to see what I mean, a million miles from the burned yet still cold grilled horrors of many a cafe.

img00512-20120403-0959.jpgHeading back on to the main road you can find Nativ (+) a tiny Nigerian cafe restaurant where you can, if you to be like me, amuse the cheerful owner by eating African style with your hands. Clean with good food and a friendly atmosphere.

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Cafe Romeo (++) is a few doors away and seems to be a sister cafe to the Bakehouse in Southbourne.

Ignore the functional interior and English breakfasts and get the platters – the best has haloumi, greek salad with feta, iounza (a very tasty type of pressed pork) hummous and pitta bread. At just £4 they are healthy value for money. The cakes here are superb too. Points lost, however, for the annoying flat screen TV playing euro-pop that is so ubiquitous in north African and Turkish run cafes.

Crumbs (+) is a charity cafe run by disabled people that does decent paninis and that sort of food.

And finally on the corner at The Crescent is Rendezvous Cafe, a tired greasy spoon of no real merit. The customers seem to be penniless students and people with severe medical ailments.

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There are lots of trendy new restaurants in Boscombe too but I am focusing of them in this round-up. Highlights include the stunning seafront setting of Urban Reef, Reef Encounter which does a very good English breakfast, Koh by The Crescent which has a fantastic interior, with great glass windows and moody lights, and does a great Thai beef salad. Urban Beach on Sea Road has lovely decking and locally sourced food but my favourite is the old school Italian towards Pokesdown, Marco Polo. The artichoke and anchovy starter is to die for.

There are also some nice coffee and cake places. Probably the best is The Crooked Book book shop – the most peculiar, the tea and tarot shop. And the various bars and pubs do food (try Cellar Bar, ignore Mello Mello) as well.

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Posted by on Apr 30 2012. Filed under Boscombe, Food, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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