Monday, August 4, 2008

2 Pompey Pubs

The Golden Hind
384 Copnor Rd
Portsmouth, PO3 5EN
023 92662444

The West Town Hotel
52 Station Rd
Hayling Island, PO11 0EL

023 92463703

We spent the weekend in Pompey AKA Portsmouth, a harbour city on the south coast. There was talk of a BBQ on the Saturday evening but the weather was too changeable. Instead we visited a local pub called 'The Golden Hind'. We'd been there once before and to my mind it was one of the nicer establishments in the area.

We arrived about 6pm to find a fairly quiet atmosphere. The carvery looked like it hadn't been open long so we picked a nice table in the middle of the pub, got the drinks in and started the queue. I was a little hesitant at leaving my bag unattended, but my fears weren't shared - 'This isn't London', they said with a chuckle. Having eaten quite early we were all famished and the aroma of the roasts was making my mouth water. There was a choice of Gammon, Beef or Turkey dinners for under 5 pounds a pop. Ridiculous when compared to most London versions, where even good ole Toby Carvery will set you back nearly 8 pounds.

As the Veggie was only having vegetables (much preferable to any vegetarian choice, which is usually puff pastry with something unidentifiable inside), one of our party asked for her 'meat allowance'. This was readily agreed to and she received his yorkshire allowance in return. This meant a huge pile of beef (6 slices) for him and 2 yorkshires for her.

I was next and also chose beef as the roast looked lovely and crisp on the outside and nice and pink as he cut it. 3 generous slices later I was offered a yorkshire (yes please) and stuffing (no thank you) and then was given my plate to add whatever veg I wanted. The best thing for big eaters is that you return for second or even three helpings of the vegetable selection. A definite bargain as they were all pretty delicious. I added; baby peas, cauliflower cheese (nice and strongly flavoured, mash potatoes, green beans, carrots and roast potatoes. The only criticism I heard was that the first batch of potatoes were a bit overdone, but I rather like them that way (I sudder at the thought of hard spuds) and as they were still fluffy inside I had no complaints.

All was silent as were tucked into our bountiful feast. As usual the Veggie's eyes were a bit bigger than her belly, but it certainly wasn't the largest pile of roasty I've seen her eat. She was certainly surpassed by 'don't have a cow man' (who very nearly did), and the 14 roast potatoes he put away. Crikey.
I washed my dinner down with a lager shandy and we all had a look at the dessert menu. We played the 'Are you having-I won't if you don't' pudding game for a bit before deciding we were all too stuffed.

For the 3 of us who were returning to the house this meant we could pop out for 'Ben and Jerry's 'wiches ' later on. If you've never had one, what are you waiting for? Anything B&J has got to be good right? I mean screw Haagen Daaz, ice cream should make you feel like a kid again not some pervy body-licking creep. Anyway the 'Wich is a choc chip cookie sandwich filled with vanilla and choc ice cream. The cookies are soft and chewy and you can bite into it without getting teeth freeze, plus you can hold it like a sandwich and gosh darn its yummy...

On the subject of B&Js my favourite flavour has got to be Phish Food - but I can't wait to try the new Baked Alaska!

What's your favourite ice cream flavour?

Anyway, back to Pompey. The next day we were due to have lunch at 'The West Town' on Hayling Island, which is just off Portsmouth and can be driven to. Now I was dreading this because in contrast to 'The Golden Hind', 'The West Town' had only ever given me bad experiences whether there for a private party or Sunday lunch. Unfortunately it was also a real local and had family connections so there was no chance of going anywhere else.

To give a few examples of the pub at its 'finest' - once someone ordered a steak, which was too tough and when it came back its accompanying salad looked very much like it had been grilled! Last time I had scampi there there was no scampi in the breadcrumbs just air. The veggie selection is like juggling with knives, usually meaning the safest option is chosen (how can you mess up veggie lasagna?). One of our party always brings his own salad cream and 'only trusts the salad'. I tended to go for something deep fried but steered clear of meat as it was the kind of place you just instinctively felt funny about...

So, you can see why I didn't have very high hopes for the meal. Well, spin me sideways and call me Suzy! I was wrong! This particular meal was the best I have had there. Easily a 6 rather than the usual 4 out of 10. And most of our party felt the same. I went for broke and had scampi (better the devil...), ok it wasn't the nicest I've ever had but it had something that looked and tasted like scampi in it. The fries were tasty if carrying too much salt and the salad looked passable. I was a little wary of the pot of tartar sauce but it was fine. The prawn salad was also nice, the ham salad and chips passed muster and I didn't hear any moans about the liver, onions and bacon or steak and chips.

Unfortunately, there always has to be one - the Veggie went for the safe option, but what she had was more like 'random veg in a watery sauce, covered in so much cheese that it overwhelmed the thin pasta and everything else. I couldn't have eaten it. But her garlic bread was nice. I don't think she is ever going to win there. She should have just gone for the mushroom crumble!

I actually found that the waitress we had was a lot friendly and obviously more experienced than we had had before, so that was also a plus. The Veggie found her a bit smug but I thought she was ok.

This time round we all decided to have desserts. There were a good selection but I knew I wanted the orange and lemon sponge as I'd had it before and thought it was ok. Orders were put in; sorbet for the Veggie with a strawberry sundae, apple and caramel pancake stack and strawberries and cream amongst those on the list.

My sponge was actually lovely once I'd got over the poor presentation (seriously how long does it take to wipe round the edges?). The moist sponge sat in a cream citrus sauce and went well with my choice of vanilla ice cream. It was yummy.

The visit was enhanced by the pub's swanky new jukebox which had a cracking search facility. You could even list songs by the day you were born or when a certain famous event occurred. The songs selection was great too. I selected 'Fascination' by Alphabeat for 70p.

So, I know where to go when I want a great carvery in Pompey, and where I would go for a drink (definitely 'The Golden Hind') but for a cosy sunday atmosphere and good desserts 'The West Town' just about managed to pull it off this time around.

Check out my recipe book picks...