‘Jazzing up The Jetty’ is the buzz word at this waterside restaurant. Part of the Harbour Hotels Collection, The Jetty restaurant has been getting some serious attention this winter, with a mini makeover – introducing a new look alongside new menus.

With a new floor, décor to the walls, corner banquette seating and some TLC to the bar and doors, the interior style is distinctive and contemporary.

There is no place for formality here. Rather, the restaurant will provide a social, relaxed dining experience.

It is a fantastic place to gather, open a bottle of wine, take in the breathtaking views and choose something from the totally delicious menus.

The Jetty is located within the grounds of the Christchurch Harbour Hotel. It is literally on the water’s edge of the estuary at Mudeford with breathtaking vistas of the landscape and seascape across to Hengistbury Head.

Indeed, The Jetty continues to lead the way as an award-winning Dorset restaurant, overlooking the harbour.

Chef patron Alex Aitken has introduced a wide range of menus, using the very best local, seasonal ingredients – with fish landed daily at the quay and producers from the local area dropping seasonal ingredients right to the restaurant’s front door.

With more than 30 years in the business, Alex Aitken is one of the most renowned chefs in the region. Having started his career as a trawlerman this ‘raw’ fishing experience proved invaluable and a culinary asset during his career as a chef. Alex spent twenty five years cooking in the New Forest, including many years running his own highly-acclaimed restaurant, Le Poussin in Brockenhurst, which led to his Michelin Star in 1995. Later, he became partner and director of cuisine at the luxurious Lime Wood in Lyndhurst and is now the Chef Patron at The Jetty in Mudeford, Upper Deck bar and restaurant at Christchurch Harbour Hotel and the Kings Arms in Christchurch.

Self-proclaimed home-grown chef Alex boats a wealth of knowledge and he brings his expertise to the pass at The Jetty, serving a delectable array of local dishes, which are fresh, seasonal and simple.

It is easy to see why this Dorset gem has scoped a catalogue of awards in recent years including Gold in the Taste category at the 2012 South West Tourism Excellence Awards and Christchurch Best of the Best Awards, won consecutively in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

My experience at The Jetty was one of utter delight. On a winter’s night, we arrived to a warm welcome and a beautiful aroma coming from the kitchen.

Whilst we perused the menu we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink; Furleigh Estate Blanc de Noir, 2009, (£9.25 125ml glass) – a lovely English sparkling wine.

The Jetty offers a fine choice of renowned wines. A list of ‘Greats and Favourites’ includes a bottle of Evolution Sokol Blosser Winery Oregon, USA 16th Edition, £42.50, and one of the most expensive wines in the world, Lafite Rothchild 1990 for £750.

We had three menus to choose from – the main a la carte menu, the Catch of the Day selection, which changes according to what has been freshly caught that day, and the Jetty Tasting Menu. We plumped for the latter, keen to sample an array of specialities. The Jetty Tasting Menu is £55 per person (£35 to include a small glass of wine to accompany each course). With such a fantastic array of flavours let them decide the wines for you.

This light, delicious collection of Jetty dishes is designed to be enjoyed by the whole table.

While we waited for our food to arrive, we tucked into some fresh home cooked granary bread and devoured an assortment of canapés consisting of salmon rolls, scotch egg with hollandaise sauce, cheese straws, taramasalata and fish fondue – divine.

Our Tasting menu commenced with an amuse bouche –- a perfectly cooked parmesan and Winchester cheese soufflé, light as a feather with a powerful flavour.

Next to arrive was sticky pork belly with crispy prawn beignets, ginger, spring onions and Chinese cabbage.

Our Sommelier Szymon poured the accompanying tipple of Pinot Gris, Santa Florentina Famatina Valley, Argentina 2012 (£23.50 a bottle). Its floral notes cut through and complemented the flavours of the dish, which were wonderful.

Continuing on, we enjoyed fresh Weymouth scallops and crispy squid with risotto nero. Presented in a shell, the scallops were as tender as butter, and the squid ink risotto was washed down perfectly with Picpoul de Pinet, Chateau de la Mirande Languedoc, France 2010 (£26.50 a bottle).

Up next was poached turbot cutlet. This arrived with ribbons of vegetables, herb gnocchi and a light vermouth sauce. While not typically associating red wine with fish, we sipped a fine Pinot Noir Reserve, Vina Mar Valle de Casablanca, 2012 (£27.50 a bottle). This Chilean red complemented this white fleshy fish superbly and enhanced the balanced flavours. The Tasting menu then presented us with a meat dish – quail and foie gras. Roasted quail off the bone was presented on chicory tart tatin topped with seared foie gras.

Every element had a rich full-bodied flavour, matched wonderfully with Barbera d’Alba Josetta Saffirio, Italy 2010 (£45 a bottle) – a darker red wine with berries, blackberries, and medium to full-bodied notes.

To refresh the palate we were treated to a goat’s cheese Waldorf salad – including a mix of dried apple crisps, jelly, grapes, walnuts and celery – the smell was heavenly. To wash it down Szymon recommended a sweet dessert wine – made from the same grape as cognac; Pineau des Charentes, France (£6.50 per glass).

For the finale (yes, we were full but I can never refuse a dessert!) we had one of the best puddings we’ve ever tasted; light fluffy passion fruit soufflé with hot passion fruit sauce, a masterpiece. And to drink? The Chateau Fayau Cadillac, France, 2009 (£5 a glass) an exquisite dessert wine.

Whilst we reflected on our splendid culinary journey, we sipped our coffees and managed an after dinner canapé or two, consisting of marshmallow, vanilla shortbread, coconut, chocolate truffle, meringue and lemon.

A veritable feast I highly recommend.

  • The Jetty, 95 Mudeford, Christchurch, to book a table call 01202 400950 or visit thejetty.co.uk, christchurch-harbour-hotel.co.uk