WHEN The Crab first opened its doors around seven years ago, it soon established itself as one of the best seafood restaurants in town.

But somewhere along the way, it started to nose dive resulting in a zero food hygiene rating just a few months ago.

Well the good news is that The Crab has now clawed its way back to the top after being awarded the highest hygiene rating of five out of five.

And when it comes to crustaceans - they don't come much bigger or better than this. But more about the crab later.

The decor is different - the understated, intimate elegance has been replaced with a bolder more open plan layout.

Live music, provided by a female vocalist accompanied by a pianist on a white grand piano, added to the relaxed atmosphere.

The menu is as varied as Rick Stein's in Sandbanks, but more competitively priced.

There's a specials menu including Crab Macaroni Cheese with truffle oil (£9.95) for starters or whole grilled plaice (£18.95) served with new potatoes and caper butter for mains.

Alternatively you can go a la carte with seafood classics such as Lobster Thermidor Gratin (£11.95), Dorset Rock Oysters (6 for £14), Moules (starting at £9.50) or Posh Fish & Chips (£16.95). There are meat and vegetarian dishes available too.

Fortunately the lovely assistant manager Petar knows the menu well and was able to guide us through the various options while we sipped a glass of Prosecco (with a raspberry bobbing on the surface) and tucked into a basket of sliced warm bread.

Petar said everything is made on the premises including the speciality salmon bread that came with a trio of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, aioli and a pat of butter.

For starters I had the Chilli Fried Squid (£6.50) which was a generous portion for a first course with just enough of a chilli kick to warm the cockles, served with tobacco onions and chilli jam sprinkled with fragrant coriander shoots.

My husband had Tempura Tiger Prawns (£10.95) also served with a chilli jam and half a lemon neatly wrapped in gauze.

Although The Crab Royal Fish Pie (£18.95) was tempting for mains, I can never resist lobster thermidor so I went for the half lobster option for £23.95 served with baby leaf salad and gremolata potatoes.

But I confess I had a pang of food envy when my other half's crab dish arrived - a whole dressed crab served with garlic and chilli butter (£24.95) with a pincer big enough to break your arm (almost!).

To round off this seafood fest, I chose a Chocolate Marquise which was as elegant and exquisite as it sounds, served with an orb of banana ice cream, chocolate crumble, a banana marshmallow adorned with flowers and a white chocolate swirl artistically perched on top (£7.95).

It's good to see The Crab is back where it belongs, at the top of the list of best seafood eateries in Bournemouth.