Gosport’s Royal Clarence Yard rightly deserves its Heritage Award and being on the shortlist for the University of Portsmouth’s Solent Design Awards.
Its red brick buildings include the Royal Navy’s past Slaughter House and North Stores, demonstrating that past naval architects designed beautiful, solid structures of character despite their simple use to supply victuals to the RN.
Now stylish homes and business opportunities have been developed and REDS, a new restaurant, has been housed in one of these.
The REDS website has quite a boast, saying: ‘The style of the Kings Road with the mystique of Moscow.’ Quite something to live up to.
Having lived for years on the Kings Road, this Chelsea girl disputes this premise. And as for Moscow, the mystique remains firmly in the Russian capital and not in Gosport, neither décor nor menu bearing any resemblance to the onion domes and Red Square of the vodka capital of the world.
But the owners gloss over this by coating everything in sight with non-too subtle use of red, red and more red. Chairs, sofas, the bows on all pictures are red, plus there’s a red drinks trolley, red paper napkins, a huge red star mounted on silver and even a red coffee machine.
The music? Not a balalaika or stirring Soviet marching song to be heard. CDs are more UK ballad-pop.
The menu has a few nods to Russian dishes, Beef Stroganoff and Pelmeny, pork meatballs wrapped in pastry and, bizarrely, a burger with tomato, gherkin and chips under the banner of Hearty Russian Classics.
But the emphasis is on British dishes including a wild mushroom filo parcel; hot, smoky chicken terrine; crevettes tossed in chilli butter; smoked salmon with avocado ream and steamed mussels with white wine.
Continue, maybe, with beef fillet with beetroot puree, fondant potato, confit of shallot, glazed pear and Madeira jus; oven-baked cod with fennel puree, pickled fennel, Parma ham, samphire and sauce vierge; chicken Supreme; cannon of lamb or a pea risotto with Parmesan crisps and roast tomato.
Those are dishes from a set menu, but there are plenty of other single-priced dishes including king prawn skewers; platter of houmus with vegetables; Caesar Salad; steak and roasted vegetable salad and other dishes. Prices range from £3.50 for the houmus, £10.25 for a Caesar Salad and £21.50 for two courses, £24.50 for three.
My choice, the beef fillet, had not been introduced to a hot-enough pan for the meat to form that must-have crust to give it flavour. The unseasoned meat is rather tasteless, as was the beetroot and Madeira jus. The fondant potato and onions were the best part of the dish.
That very English of desserts, the Eton Mess, was next up. The meringue was fine but crème Chantilly is not just poured cream as it was here. It’s sweetened whipped cream, so just call it cream. A glass of house red wine was a soft mouthful. And the service? Excellent.
So what’s with the red theme? It falls between two ‘are we British or Russian?’ stools. The owners should go with their convictions and go, like a stick of Blackpool rock, all the way. Or simply add white and blue for the British effect. My bill came to £25.50 not including service.
Disabled access: Fine. Large space for wheelchair access and use.
How to get there: Follow the signs to Gosport’s Weevil Lane on the main road, turning left. Continue and park in the communal car park then head towards the water. REDS is on the right.
REDS, 7 Salt Meat Lane, Royal Clarence Marina, Gosport PO12 1GL. (023) 9258 4699