The Invincible pub, hard by The Hard down a side street opposite Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, was, apparently, a bit of a dive.
The Portsmouth Pub Company thought it worth resurrecting and opened its newly-refurbished doors last November. Food was rolled out last month.
Not that the management, the owners of Milton’s Old House at Home and other venues, has been slow. Finding their feet, post-modernisation, is a sensible step to gauge the market.
They’ve decorated with the tried and tested: high and low tables, sofas, a dining area, grey-painted tongue and groove, shelving with a smattering of ‘old’ books and cringe-making wording on many of the beige walls. ‘A bottle of wine contains all the philosophy than all the books in the world’ and ‘This place runs best on love, laughter and lots of beer’, setting my teeth on edge. However, the lovely, sincere barman-cum-everything-to-everyone is reason enough to grin and bear the naffness.
The current offerings – a more refined dining experience is imminent – is pretty limited but none the worse for this. Large menus usually equal a microwave on speed.
They are trying to do something different. Burgers run from springbok to kangaroo; lamb to steak and wild boar, chicken and pork with honey and ginger. Sandwich fillings include prawn, crayfish and avocado. You can also order local sausages and frittata. Prices? A whopping £9.95 for a burger; sandwiches £5.95 and other dishes £6.95 to £9.95. But, if quality, it’s worth it.
Six young men swopping stories is an oddity these days. Why? Mobiles were not touched and there was no swearing or posturing. Instead they – gasp – talked to each other over fish and chips, burgers and a pint – refreshing after boorish behaviour by older men the previous evening when I dropped in to case the joint and misogyny was the theme.
My wild boar burger with excellent fat, soft-within chips, tomato relish and a notable creamy coleslaw, was an attractive dish of luscious brioche bun holding tasty, quality beef tomato, red onion and salad leaves. The meat was a let-down: fatty and a small disk in the large bun. Pork and fattiness suit me, but to this degree, the meal dims. But applause please for trying differing flavours. Getting them right is another hurdle as well as cost – £3 too high for a burger unless it’s top drawer.
‘Totally tempting to the tastebuds,’ another phrase to lose, describes the desserts – very sweet judging by chocolate brownies with white chocolate chunks and caramel sauce or sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce and ice cream – all £4.95.
No doubt this place – home to many beers, ciders and wines – will take off. I have the confidence it will, and with invincibility. My bill came to £12.40.
The Invincible, 6 Wickham Street, Old Portsmouth, PO1 3EF. Open: midday-5pm for food only, drinks until late.
Disabled access: fine.
How to get there: follow the B2154 once in Portsmouth along Queen Street towards The Hard. Wickham Street is on the left next to a large public car park. The pub is on the corner. On-street limited parking. No garden.