Food & Drink

Published: June 14, 2022 | Updated: June 15, 2022

Revealed: Popular pub’s bold new look after its eight-week closure and an £800,000 makeover

The central bar area at the entrance of the newly refurbished The Cliff in Canford Cliffs, Poole. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

A popular pub and restaurant has unveiled its bold new look after being closed for eight weeks for an £800,000 makeover.

The Cliff in Canford Cliffs, Poole, fully reopens to the public this Saturday, June 18.

And early indications suggest the refurbishment will go down well with customers of the Mitchells & Butlers-operated pub.

Ian McQuade, General Manager, said: “The first thing I thought when I saw it was that the locals were going to hate it because it’s such a big change.

“But we’ve given a few of them a sneak preview and they absolutely love it. I’ve had no negative feedback.

“They’ve just walked in and said: ‘Wow it looks so comfortable, so fresh, so new and it’s obvious a lot of hard work has gone into it’.

“Of course, there will be someone who comes in and says ‘I don’t like it, I want my old stool back’ but it’s really a case of keeping up with the times.”

Still remembered by many as The Nightjar before changing its name to The Cliff after a change of ownership, the pub in Ravine Road closed on April 19 for work to begin.

The main change has been moving the toilets from the far corner of the previous restaurant to the side of the building.

Ian said: “It means we now have the full length of the restaurant, opening out onto the gardens.

“But even though the restaurant is opened up, it’s much more snug.

“It seems like three smaller areas now rather than one wide open restaurant.

“The other big change is the general appearance.

“When you came in before it was very old and traditional.

“Now it’s gone high-end and resembles walking into a wine bar or cocktail bar in London.

“We’ve kept a slight seaside theme – if you look twice many things resemble a shell – but the concentration has been on making it so vibrant with a big ‘Wow’ factor.”

The new decor has elements nodding to the underwater gods and goddesses from Greek mythology with the new bar front featuring a 3D tile in sea green.

The interior space of the pub has been completely revamped, with fixed seating, wine walls and fabric screens offering diners a more intimate feel.

The outside area has also undergone a large-scale renovation.

Fixed seating now runs the full length of the garden, with feature cushions and throws

The number of covers in the restaurant has increased from 77 to around 120 with a further 100 covers outside.

Around 20 people can also be accommodated in the central bar area.

Upon reopening, The Cliff will have a brand-new menu under the direction of Semavi Halilov, Head Chef, who has been with the pub for five years.

Ian, who was previously Assistant General Manager and has been at The Cliff since 2016, said the menu particularly focused on the growing trend of people sharing food.

A range of small plates designed for sharing included dishes such as Asian-inspired Bao Buns, Chipotle Sticky Chicken and King Oyster Mushrooms.

He said: “We’re really trying to encourage people to have a much more social aspect to their dining experience.

“The starters, or small plates as we now call them, are presented on a sharing board.

“Sharing is a lot more popular now.

“We’ve always had sharing platters but I think that’s quite an old style way of doing things.

“That stopped with Covid because it was all about keeping yourself to yourself so we’re really trying to rebuild that.

“These days you don’t need to sit down and have a set three course meal in a restaurant.

“You can sit in the bar with five of your friends and just order, order and order until you’ve had enough.”

An extra 20 staff have been taken on, boosting front of house/kitchen numbers to about 35, with a further 15 likely to be employed for the summer.

The Cliff is one of three Premium Country Pubs operated by Mitchells & Butlers in Dorset.

The company, formed when two Midlands families came together in 1898, also has The Willett Arms in Wimborne and The Riverside in Tuckton.

Ian, pictured, said: “We’re a flagship site for the brand.

“My Head Chef and myself have always been the ones to train other managers coming into the company.

“We’re probably the most dramatic change they’ve done.

“Even the contractors and builders who’ve come in have said ‘we’ve done this before but not to this extent’.

“The people we’ve recruited – and we’ve done some training sessions with them over the last week – are a really good bunch of people.

“We’ve done our rotas, we know where everyone is going to be and now it’s a case of going with it now.

“It’s going to be a busy kitchen and a busy front of house but really exciting.”