Newcomer The Chambers takes its name from barristers’ and solicitors’ rooms which form a set, an association of legal eagles who are all self-employed.
Owners of the new restaurant have chosen to link the name to the area – Southsea – which is awash with chambers. They have also gone down the route of placing it in times past when lawyers smoked pipes and drank from brandy balloons. Unwisely, a leather chaise longue, a table and a large glass-encased cake stand dominate the entrance, making it a squeeze to get in the place. There are as many dining tables as humanly possible, some more high tables by the L-shaped bar in this first part as well as a non-functional fireplace.
A long, narrow corridor separates the entrance’s seating with the second identikit part.
The menu is all things to all people, starting with breakfast from 8am to champagne and oysters on Fridays to polish off the week in style. Dual-priced Light Meals and Starters, a sign that they’re keeping up with welcome trends, include smoked haddock fish cakes with poached egg and Hollandaise sauce; chicken liver parfait; goat’s cheese with marinated beetroot, red wine dressing and mixed leaves; moules marinière and smoked salmon with capers.
Stop with this or carry on to the grill or fish, pasta and salads. There’s seared tuna with salsa verde; sea bream with prawn; crab and herb risotto; fish pie; sirloin steak; pork fillet with sage; lamb rump with redcurrant jus and Chambers beef burger with bacon, cheese and chutney. And, members of the jury, prices are friendly, starting at £4.50 for soup, £9.50 for the tuna, £10.50 for the burger, rising to £19.95 for fillet steak.
Effusive service is peppered with ‘no problem, no problem’. After finding out who the chef is – Danny Carter, who’s done the rounds in Southsea to great effect – I ordered with confidence.
I chose goat’s cheese to kick-start the meal followed by seared scallops with black pudding and sauce gribiche. The first dish was just fine, the cheese hot and more-ish, the salad a pleasing top notch one. But the beetroot would have benefited from being warm to enhance its earthy flavour. I do wonder at the round of cheese, this area home to excellent local goat varieties, but the menu apparently avoiding local and seasonal.
Danny is ace with scallops, his undoubted expertise undimmed in his new move to The Chambers. But sauce gribiche, for the uninitiated, is one of gherkins, hard-boiled egg, onion, olive oil, vinegar and parsley. Hijacked in recent times by bottled mayonnaise merchants, the real gribiche taste has been mugged. There was also far too much of it, as it’s a mistake to place it on the entire disk of black pudding, the latter not warm enough. Like the furniture, less is more.
Desserts appear to be bought-in apart from a 20-minute Tarte Tatin, and take pride of place by the door. Perfect for those interested in taking tea at The Chambers or one of its excellent coffees – an espresso was tops – they go less well with the menu.
The test is, as ever, would I return? Yes, definitely as The Chambers is a welcome, appealing haven for the area. My bill came to just under £20, which included a decent Sauvignon Blanc served in an excellent glass.
The Chambers, 22 Landport Terrace, Southsea, PO1 2RG
(023) 9281 8270. (Open 8am – 11 pm every day)
FOOD: Four (out of Five)
Disabled access: It could probably fit very slim wheelchairs only. Pushchairs would not be a good idea.
How to get there: The restaurant is just north on Landport Terrace, by the Museum Road and Elm Grove junction.