The Lord Palmerston pub, formerly the Chicago Rock Café and now in its fourth year, is a rather more plush type of Wetherspoon.
On Southsea’s Palmerston Road – where else? – it is the seventh JDW house to be found in the city.
The pub has a genteel feel during the day, with night times more sassy. Shoppers were out in force the day I visited, getting out of the stormy, wet weather.
The vast pub is smartly kitted out with burgundy walls, wall lamps with burgundy shades, chandeliers, woodwork, glass panelling and a plethora of Southsea scenes from yesteryear.
Although Palmerston, MP for Isle of Wight’s Newport before taking on the mantle of prime minister in the mid 1850s, had no direct link to Southsea, you’ll find his portrait hanging here near the gaming machines.
Sit at one of the banquettes, centre tables or at ones on the deck, or at the front of the pub with its more casual sofas.
The menu is a collection of the tried and tested at bargain prices.
You don’t come here for quality, but for quantity, and with luck, some quality may filter through. There are steaks, burgers, pasta, salads, wraps and paninis.
Calories are helpfully marked on each entry, but this didn’t deter most people seated near my table. Their appetites were undimmed even after the Christmas excesses.
It’s enough to put you off your food, those mega calorie counts – 1,262 for a full pork rack of ribs with an extra 869 for chips and coleslaw.
There are a few under-500 calorie options: pasta pomodoro, chicken Caesar, sweet chilli egg noodles and spicy coated king prawns.
Just don’t have any sides - those onion rings are 285 cals.
Pub classics include battered cod and chips (1,258 cal: £6.40); sausages and mash (721 cal: £5.97), a club sandwich with chicken breast, bacon, cheese, tomato, mayo and lettuce coming in at 750 cal. Add 398 cals for chips.
Pricing ranges from £3.50 for soup to £11.29 for a mixed grill. Arrive in your running shoes for a pre and post high cal meal run around the esplanade.
Come for breakfast before noon to fortify yourself for the sales or that run and be rewarded with an excellent porridge with either berries or bananas and honey.
Cooked with plenty of milk, the jumbo oats were scrumptious.
A full English followed, JWD going down the Noah’s Ark principle: two eggs, two bacon rashers, two sausages, two slices of toast, two butter pats. Plus beans, half a tomato, one mushroom, four hash browns of the packet type.
One egg was runny (yummy), the other hard. The mushroom was greasy as were the hash browns. The tomato was tasteless.
The bacon and bread topped the quality list. Filter coffee, lukewarm and weak, was a reminder of how far coffee has moved on.
Service takes place at the till, not at table, but the tables were cleared quickly. An on-view kitchen area was stacked up with dirties, not a good sight for diners.
If you’re on the outlook for cheap and cheerful grub, this will suit.
But if you’re looking for a fabulous cup of coffee, go around the corner to Southsea Coffee Company on Osborne Road.
My bill came to under £9.
The Lord Palmerston, 84 – 90 Palmerston Road, Southsea, PO5 3PT (023) 9272 8000. Open Monday – Sunday 8am – 11pm.
Disabled access: Fine.
How to get there: Palmerston Road is between Osborne Road and Clarence Parade, and is mostly pedestrianised.
Park on Clarence Parade (paid parking).
FOOD Three Stars (Out of Five)
SERVICE Three Stars (Out of Five)
ATMOSPHERE Three Stars (Out of Five)