Because it would appear I’m becoming known as somewhat of a pizza aficionado (finally, my talents are getting the recognition they deserve!), the lovely people at The Wood Oven invited me along to their blogger event last year.

Pizza box

Perfectly situated on Boscombe beach (seriously, you couldn’t ask for better views!), The Wood Oven is part of the Urban Guild group of restaurants. I’ve been to all the others and they are wonderful; I highly recommend the breakfasts and Sunday roasts at the Urban Beach Hotel.

The group’s founder, Mark Cribb, gave a really interesting talk about the inspiration behind his restaurants and three things became clear:

  1. He’s incredibly passionate about hospitality and bringing people together over great food and drink
  2. His menus all centre around great locally-sourced food and home-grown produce
  3. He absolutely loves what he does!

I think that last point is crucial to his success. Nothing is more inspiring than seeing someone talk passionately about a business they’ve built from absolutely nothing, and learning what drives them.

He also went on to explain the reason behind the company’s logo – a pineapple, which is dotted all over their restaurants, menus and marketing materials.

Apparently the pineapple is a well-known symbol of hospitality, though embarrassingly, I worked in hospitality for three years and had no idea! Back in the day, when pineapples were expensive and hard to come by, if a host served one at a party it was seen as a sign of opulence. Their eye-catching appearance soon inspired door-knockers, banister acorns and other home ware – seriously, you’ll start to notice that they pop up everywhere! Even today, you’ll no doubt have seen all manner of pineapple accessories – lamps, vases, trinket boxes. Now it all makes sense!

Mark then handed over to his head chef, who ran us through the basics of pizza making. He also showed us photos of his research trip to Italy. It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it, eh?

Pizza chef

I watched and listened as his showed us the best way to knead and stretch the dough. Easy, I though to myself. I’m going to be a pro at this.

Um…it turns out I wasn’t quite the natural I thought I would be.

Several attempts and two balls of dough later, I gave up and decided to embrace my failings. The result:

Say goodbye to boring round pizzas and enjoy a spot of f(el)ine dining with the Geek Pizzafique CAT PIZZA.*

I mean, look how cute! It has herb whiskers and a mushroom nose, for crying out loud!

Sure, the others tasted really good, but were they cat-shaped? Nope.

We took our marvellous creations down to the kitchen and prepared to be pitted against each other in the ultimate test of creativity and culinary aptitude. I suspect I won more points for the former, but really, who wouldn’t want to eat a meowzzarella (thank you, I’m here all week), anchovy, rosemary and pawperoni pizza?

After the winners were announced (shockingly, I didn’t make the top three), we rounded off the evening with a cupcake decorating class, hosted by Urban Reef’s resident baker.

All in all, it was a lovely evening, and though I didn’t win a coveted guest spot on the Wood Oven’s menu, after a playful (and somewhat aggressively rigorous) campaign of harassment on Twitter, I managed to persuade the guys to put my glorious cat pizza on their specials menu.

Winner winner, kitten dinner**.

So, if you find yourself in Bournemouth and have a hankering for pizza, these guys are definitely worth checking out.

* Does not contain actual cat

**Again, I must stress, there are no actual cats in this pizza

 

Now I’m going to start this post by saying that I’m not a vegan, so a plant-based raw café wouldn’t be my usual choice. However, I’d heard such good things about Sukha Lounge (in particular, their hot chocolates!) that I had to give it a go.

Located next to Yoga Lounge, Boscombe, Sukha Lounge has exactly the relaxing, peaceful vibe you’d expect. The owner, Juliette, is warm and welcoming, and her passion for her food shines through.

Naturally we started with her famous hot chocolate and it did not disappoint! Made with cacao nibs, dates and almond butter, it’s hard to believe a hot chocolate so smooth and indulgent is completely dairy-free.

We were torn between the colourful array of salads on offer, as well as the sumptious all-day breakfast options, so we ordered ourselves a bit of a feast!

Fresh, crunchy and flavourful, the spring rolls were a personal favourite, and the pancakes topped with peanut butter and berries were a definite hit as well.

What surprised me the most was how much variety there was. We were spoiled for choice and each dish was simple, but full of great texture and flavour.

And then there were the cakes. Oh, the cakes. We tried a selection, including lemon cheesecake, banoffee pie, chocolate and raspberry cake and quite honestly, the most delicious apple tart I’ve ever eaten. Each one was indulgent, rich and impossibly creamy.

Last up I had a matcha latte, something I’ve been very keen to try for a while. Creamy, comforting and with an interesting seaweedy flavour, I could see how it might be an acquired taste, but I loved it.

I came away from Sukha Lounge feeling calm, relaxed and most importantly, full! The food is healthy and delicious, and the atmosphere warm and inviting. The simple, stripped back decor is complemented nicely by a few quirky pieces of furniture and soothing music helps to turn the cafe into a little oasis.

Vegan or not, you should visit Sukha Lounge if you want wholesome, delicious food served in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. I promise, you’ll be glad you did!