If I told you that we’d be eating in a restaurant inspired by cricket legend Sir Ian Botham, what would you imagine?
When the news that Beefy’s restaurant at the Hilton at the Ageas Bowl had been reopened after a relaunch, I was curious.
I’ve lived through the days of sports bars being trendy. You know the places – walls adorned with posters and pieces of tacky signed memorabilia dotted about the place.
There was a small part of me that thought Beefy’s was going to be a crass 1990s/Noughties experience.
Thankfully, Beefy’s is a million miles away from that. It’s sleek, sophisticated and beautiful.
Yes there are a few pictures of Sir Ian on the walls, but they are tastefully hung by the bar.
And it’s not only named after the venture’s major shareholder – he’s had a hand in designing it and its menu, plus I hear that he’s a frequent eater there.
Set at the back of the hotel, Beefy’s overlooks the cricket ground and has a large terrace which would be wonderful to sit and relax on in the summer. No wonder Sir Ian’s a regular – it is the home of Hampshire cricket after all.
The 171-bed hotel opened in May 2015 and has two restaurants, Beefy’s getting a relaunch earlier this year to turn it into a ‘British tapas bar and brasserie restaurant, with a passion for the countryside at its heart’.
The place is fairly busy. It’s a weekday night, so the hotel has a slight corporate hospitality feel, with a fair proportion of men in suits dining solo.
I’m there for a catch-up with an old friend and it’s pleasantly relaxing, with friendly service from the array of different waiters and waitresses who seemingly take it in turns to serve us.
We’re both driving so stick to the soft drinks, although the wine menu looks extensive, varied and very tempting.
The menu is packed with steaks, living up to the restaurant’s name, and even offers a dry aged 28 oz cote de beouf for two to share for £65.
No such indulgence for me tonight, as my guest is a vegetarian. So instead I pick the cutlet and confit belly of lamb, which comes with grape mustard mash, shaved Berkswell and minted pan jus (£13.50). My guest goes for the only veggie option of King Edward dumplings, served with wild mushroom ragout, garlic and thyme (£11.80).
We add on side dishes of tenderstem and sprout tops, with toasted hazelnuts (£3.95) and honey roasted heritage carrots with crumbed feta (£3.95).
For starter I order pan-fried scallops, which come with baby gem, bacon and peas (£9.50) and my friend has broad beans on toast, Yorkshire fettle and beetroot pickle (£6.50).
The food is exquisite, well presented and simply divine. The scallops were delicious, not too overpowering, with the wonderful pea accompaniment.
The lamb was melt-in-the-mouth brilliant, with the mint just adding just the finest flavour. Our desserts – Yorkshire rhubarb fool with honey biscotti (£6.95) and a chocolate pave with crushed hazelnuts and vanilla ice-cream (£6.95) – are equally to die for.
This is food you’d find at a top city restaurant. Who knew that Sir Ian Botham was such a foodie?
Yes, the bill was a bit more than what you’d want to be spending every week, but the experience was worth it. This would be an ideal place for that special occasion, a wedding anniversary or birthday.
And while you’re there, why not make the most of the wine menu and check in for a night too? This is a hidden gem, just a 20-minute drive from Portsmouth. Definitely worth splashing out.
(023) 8202 7097
(ratings out of 5)