New Brighton seafront
THE moaning wind buffeted and battered the seafront like some unhinged ghost train careering out of control.
Clouds blotted out the moonlight and, as I looked up from under my hood, pellets of steely rain hit my face like the lash.
It was a hellish night, a mix of King Lear’s blasted heath and the torture endured by trawlermen riding the mid-Atlantic rollers. Welcome to New Brighton! Thankfully we only had to brave the squall for the short distance from the car to the entrance of Turner’s Restaurant and Bar.
Preconceived plans had been literally blown away by the foul weather, so a visit to the city was postponed in favour of a venue closer to home.
Now we had been down this particular road before, New Brighton not exactly being renowned for its gourmet dining, but optimistically had the notion that there must be more on offer than flaccid chips and a tiddler ensconced in a torrent of batter.
Turner’s is in the Queens Royal Hotel building situated next to the grotesque eyesore that was once the resort’s Ritz – the Grand Hotel. This dereliction on a prime site is a striking emblem of the once-bustling resort’s decay.
Inside, the restaurant is made up of a large room with a bar at one end and a separate smoking/library area. The decor is reminiscent of a granny’s parlour, walls festooned with framed pictures and also garnished with decorations at the moment; a tip of the hat to the looming festivities.
The menu is varied with a reasonable selection of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes. My starter was king prawns (pounds 4.45), presented standing to attention around a sea of storm-tossed salad and, although the dearly departed crustaceans were succulent enough, they would have benefited from a piquant sauce.
My dining companion preferred pate au maison (pounds 2.95) and seemed to relish each mouthful, her lips and tongue engaged in some sort of torpid pas de deux of appreciation, like a ruminating bovine.
To accompany the meal I had chosen a bottle of Sancerre (pounds 12.75), although it appeared the waitress was a little perplexed by this and a staff discussion I could not but help overhearing included something about it being “the pink one”. I awaited its arrival with interest but instead of the rose I was anticipating sending back, it was actually the correct bottle.
It was zestful, citrussy with a tantalising melon perfume, a typical Loire Valley sauvignon blanc that just fell short of matching the coquettish appeal of some New Zealand counterparts. A perfect ally for the prawns, it was later overpowered by a tangy main course.
The wine list was not extensive but with examples priced from pounds 8.50 appeared to be present value for money.
For the main course my cutlery took aim at a plate of duck a l’orange (pounds 11.50) which was imaginatively presented with portions of fowl fanned out in some sort of symbiotic nod to the orange wedges they nestled under. The meat was tender if a tad overdone while the sauce lacked body, comporting itself rather more like a gravy, which is not to my particular taste.
My companion was immersed in a dish of salmon and prawns (pounds 9.50) languishing in a butter sauce but occasional vocal emissions resembling some sort of rapturous crooning seemed to indicate all was well. Despite this mysterious melody the dish began to recede from view and this was no mean feat for my petite partner, consisting as it did of two imposing fillets of fish accompanied by a shoal of prawns.
Each meal also came with a side dish of sprouts, cauliflower, carrots and a boiled potato lacquered in butter which were perfectly fine. The encore was ice cream (pounds 1.75), a light dessert being preferred, bearing in mind what had preceded.
There were a number of other diners but those closest to us seem to have been offered a Christmas menu and, as that was not passed our way, I cannot tell what it consisted of.