POOLE’S Custom House certainly has a colourful past. About 250 years ago it became the site of the most famous incident in British smuggling history, when a cut-throat gang of 30 smugglers smashed their way into the building and stole two tons of contraband tea.

When the Grade II listed building became redundant it fell into disrepair, but today it exudes its original Georgian splendour once again, having been restored and converted into a downstairs bar serving drinks and snacks, with a plush restaurant on the second floor.

It still has plenty of period features – including the original weighing hook – but has a real air of sophistication and a menu to match.

The Custom House proved a welcoming sight on a distinctly chilly October afternoon as my partner and I traipsed in for a warming lunch. As you’d expect from a restaurant so close to the harbour, the menu leans quite heavily towards fish, but you’ll also find plenty to satisfy meat-eaters.

Specials on the day naturally included Poole mussels in a white wine, cream, garlic and shallot sauce. I plumped for the roast beef and Stilton baguette accompanied by a hearty pint of ale. The portions were enormous–I was expecting thin slices of beef, but what I received were gloriously thick steaks of beef. The Stilton cheese was melted to perfection and created a deliciously warming lunchtime treat.

My two bulging steak baguettes were accompanied by a generous mound of tasty mixed leaf salad.

My partner tucked into a wild mushroom risotto. This was also an incredible sight – a huge and heavy dish practically overflowing with risotto.

The portion was so generous that I happily helped out towards the latter stages of our lunch. Our bill – including one beer and a glass of red wine – came to a very reasonable £22.95.