AS you step across the threshold of this shiny new restaurant with the tinted plate glass in Ashley Cross, Poole you feel as though you have arrived at Roberto Cavalli’s dining room.

The interior is an elaborate mix of vividly coloured, exotic animal print, studded leather chairs and touches of bling.

And this is exactly what Alex Salles, the charismatic Portuguese restaurateur, intended.

For Alex, who co-owns the new Mediterranean-style restaurant in Commercial Road, says he is a big fan of the flamboyant Italian designer.

And after working as the restaurant manager at The Ox further up the road for two years, and working in the restaurant business for several years overseas, Alex has very clear ideas about what he wants to achieve.

He is certainly passionate when it comes to fine food and wine and escorts us to the bar to order a Conker gin and tonic where he talks at length about the menu which is upmarket Mediterranean with some original sounding dishes.

Clearly as much thought has gone into the food as the interior design!

Moments later we are joined by one of Alex’s loyal customers who waxes lyrical about the place declaring it to be the best restaurant in town.

By the time we were settled at our table I was hoping the food would match the hype!

Alex recommends a taster style menu starting with a sharing platter of vol au vents, (£6.95) fresh tasting wild mushrooms in garlic cream on a bed of light puff pastry topped with peppery rocket leaves; Pulpo Alla Gallega (£6.50) slivers of octopus tentacles, which had been pan fried in olive oil and were lovely and tender and sprinkled with paprika, arranged on slices of focaccia and Gambas Alla Guillo (£10.50) fleshy king prawns in garlic and white wine served in mini pockets of focaccia.

We couldn’t fault the quality or presentation which was excellent.

For my main course I had to try the ‘Fish NO Chips’ (£14.50) – beer battered cod served with a squid ink risotto which was very rich and served with tartar sauce and wedge of lemon.

This was followed by a taster of one of the restaurant’s steak dishes - a 28 day aged 8oz fillet (£22.50) in a red wine shallot jus, served with huge, hand-cut chips, oven roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine and creamed spinach with garlic.

Alex explained that the emphasis is on slow-cooked food and natural ingredients with plenty of fresh herbs and fine olive oil.

From The South is decadent, it’s different and it’s definitely not boring!