WHEN you overhear diners pleading with the waiter for the recipe of the meal they’ve eaten, you know a restaurant must be on to a winner.

This was the scene in Signature Spice in Bournemouth one recent Saturday night.

The restaurant has only been open for a few weeks but is quite clearly gathering a major reputation fast.

We noticed two couples come in for a takeaway and then decide to stay and dine in, apparently taken with the cool, clean, contemporary surroundings.

The genuinely warm but not over-the-top welcome from the staff, including the owner, might also have had something to do with it.

It is in an excellent location at the corner of Columbia Road and Redhill Drive, within walking distance of a huge, residential population in the immediate area. Which means it is perfect for locals to visit, have a meal and a few drinks and then walk home without worrying about driving.

It seems the owner is a business graduate from Bournemouth University and his lessons have been well learned.

My starter was the Jinga Pathia on Puri, king prawns, slightly hot, sweet and sour – deliciously succulent.

My guest opted for the Batak Tikka – again, a succulent portion of mouthwatering duck, marinated and then barbecued and served with salad. Both dishes were served with their own small dish of tangy, zingy sauce which was superb.

I had asked for a recommendation and taking the decision out of my hands was the right one. The Signature Lamb Shank was sensational, cooked in herbs and a delicate blend of spices.

The meat fell away and was exquisitely tender. My guest was equally pleased with her choice, the Goan Tamari Prawns, king prawns cooked with coconut, sliced raw mango and chopped curry leaves.

Not surprisingly we mixed and matched (well it would have been rude not to) and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s meals.

The side dishes were excellent too, but a special mention goes to the saag panir, cooked spinach with homemade Indian cottage cheese and herbs. The menu is extensive and even a brief glance shows a whole range of original and innovative ideas.

The restaurant has a lovely atmosphere with fresh, clean, white decor and plenty of space between tables. The service too is faultless, attentive yet discreet.

As for the diners who wanted the recipe, I am sure their pleas were unsuccessful. And quite rightly so.

No-one wants to give away their best secrets.

This is an independent review by a reporter without the cooperation of the establishment.

My Signature Spice bill:

  • Jinga Pathia £4.75
  • Batak Tikka  £5.75
  • Lamb Shank £10.75
  • Goan Prawns  £10.95
  • Saag Panir  £3.75
  • Pilau Rice   £2.45
  • Peshwari Nan £2.40
  • TOTAL:   £40.80

The ratings board:

  • Location ****
  • Atmosphere ****
  • Value for money ****
  • Quality of food *****
  • Service ****
  • Comfort ****
  • Family friendly ***
  • Menu choice ****
  • Overall rating ****