Nicky Findley discovers the new eaterie creating a buzz in Poole When it comes to eating out, Ashley Cross in Poole is rapidly reinstating itself as the focal point of Dorset’s restaurant scene.

One of the key players in this resurgence is charismatic restaurateur David Sax. This is the man who transformed The Cow from a crumbling pub into a place worthy of note in a Michelin eating out guide and also won National Freehouse and Pub of the Year.

On the back of The Cow's success, Sax bought The Museum Inn in North Dorset which became the 'go to pub in the country' favoured by the likes of Guy Ritchie and Madonna.

"We ended up being commissioned by Guy to do all of the catering at his estate which then brought in the likes of Robert Downey Jnr, Thandie Newton, Gwen Stefani, Marco Pierre White and Jamie Oliver to either stay or eat with us," says Sax.

"Jamie Oliver became a regular staying guest with us. On one particular night we laid on a special private dinner for Jamie and his guests.

"We presented massive carved logs full of roasted wild game to his table. We also did a fabulous Sticky Toffee Pudding with Guinness Ice Cream.

"Jamie loved the ice cream so much that after he had finished dessert he borrowed a chef’s apron and marched into the kitchen demanding to be taught how to make it."

Sax adds: "Jeremy Clarkson even stayed with us and didn’t punch anyone!"

So understandably there has been much intrigue surrounding David Sax's latest venture, Maison Sax, the former Brit pub in Britannia Road, which opened its doors in September.

What used to be a classic British boozer complete with large TV screens and slot machines, is now a French-inspired bistro and bar.

I’d already heard good things about the food and the menu is reasonably priced. Sax said he wanted to pitch it at the same price range as Pizza Express. But if you do want to splash out you can treat yourself to a Chateaubriand for two for £48 or 10oz rib eye for £21.

Although the bar area seemed a little bare (Sax was waiting for his art work to arrive at the time of writing) the bistro was buzzing which is always a good sign on a Tuesday night. We were given a warm welcome from the cheery staff and restaurant manager Johnny talked us through the various options which included a Classics section such as Beer Battered Cod & Chips (£14), Mushroom & Ale Pie (£11); Mains including Brisket Bourguignon (£15) and Chargrill with steaks and salads.

Starters included seasonal Soup du Jour (£6) and Chicken Liver Parfait (£7) but it was a no brainer for me when I clocked the Wookey Hole Cheddar souffle (£8.50).

This proved to be a great choice - definitely in the same league as Alex Aitken’s famed twice baked souffle (Alex is the chef patron of The Jetty in Christchurch). Perhaps it’s because it’s made with a quality cave-aged cheese that gives it such a distinct flavour, or the fact it was paired with a baby leaf salad in such an exquisite walnut and truffle dressing.

Meanwhile my husband was making short work of his Tempura Tiger Prawns (£9), four fleshy crustaceans in a light batter served with a dipping sauce of tangy chilli, ginger and coconut.

For mains, Johnny recommended that I tried the Grilled Seabass Fillet (£16) which was draped over crushed violet potatoes with chorizo and cockles, topped with a generous handful of samphire - an inspired combination of robust flavours which enhanced rather than over-powered the delicate flavour of the fish.

My husband’s Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb (£16) looked like a work of art as the meat had been shaped into perfect sphere which crumbled into a generous portion of tender meat on a bed of Cavolo Nero (Italian kale) in red wine with truffled Dauphinoise potatoes.

For dessert we shared Bread & Butter Pudding with a Berry Compote (£6.50) served with crème Anglais - just enough sweetness to complete the meal. Although the dishes are not overly complicated, the emphasis is on preparation and quality ingredients. The rear garden is worth a look too as it’s been given a Mediterranean makeover complete with fairy lights. Maison Sax is a big venue with the potential to be the new heart of Ashley Cross if it can pull in the pub trade too.

Maison Sax, Britannia Road, Poole T: 01202 612150 W: