Gosport isn’t exactly awash with good eating places. Whether pubs, restaurants or cafes, they don’t exactly shout out that this is a must-visit destination.
But if you’re a local, you might plan on visiting Pebbles, ‘the fish and wine bar by the water’s edge’ in Stokes Bay.
Hard by the sailing club, Pebbles shines like a welcoming beacon, urging seafarers and landlubbers alike to visit. Or so we are led to believe if reading the website’s wording of ‘freshly-caught fish and seafood from the local market, modern cooking with a passion for taste and variation.’
The small-but-perfectly-formed smart bistro, right on the beach by a sign commemorating Canadian-British military co-operation during World War Two, exudes warmth and promise. Its pine-clad square interior extols the sea’s virtues with its metal fish artefacts and unusual round fish tank.
The welcome is genuine, staff charming and helpful. Music, a mix of light opera arias, jazz and timeless pop classics, is subdued.
The menu, chalked up on blackboards, is true to the website’s promise with all mains around the £11 mark and lots of fish offered. Choose from grilled swordfish with jerk seasoning; plaice goujons; smoked haddock and prawns with a cheesy sauce; Thai king prawn curry; fish pie; beer-battered cod or haddock. Non-fish choices include piri-piri chicken and the Pebbles chilli burger. The menu also goes down the tapas route with meatballs; tempura; potato wedges with salsa; prawn parcels; whitebait; calamari strips; bread and olives.
The Friday Fish Fry Night at £10.50 offers more beer-battered fish, but veers off course with battered sausages, a new one on me. There’s also half a roasted chicken and, for those who are in a retro frame of mind, spam fritters. Hmmm. Where did that ‘modern cooking’ go to? And just where is the local catch of sea bream, mackerel, dabs, pollock?
When I asked about my breaded goujons, it turned out they were cooked from frozen. I suspected my battered haddock with chips and salad may have been the same. Served on a vast square plate, the rather overcooked but nicely-battered fish was pleasant enough. The floury chips could be improved on, ketchup needed to liven them up a tad. A vibrantly fresh salad came without a dressing, so was left.
For dessert, the selection included chocolate lumpy bumpy and rocky road cheesecake. But they looked like the sort of thing I could buy at a supermarket. At over £5, they didn’t offer value for money or pleasure, so I declined.
I reckon Pebbles could really go places if it offered only seasonal, locally-caught food with a top-up of non-local fish. Where are the oysters, Selsey crab, line-caught sea bass and mackerel simply cooked and presented? This type of restaurant is virtually non-existent locally, even in Portsmouth.
My bill came to £15.10, not including a tip but a glass of okay Sauvignon.
Pebbles, Stokes Bay Road, Gosport PO12 2BL
(023) 92 510789
Open: Noon–2.30pm Tues-Sat and noon-4pm Sun, plus 6pm-9.30pm Wed-Sat
Food: Three (out of five)
Disabled access: Fine
How to get there: Take the A32 toward Gosport from Fareham. Turn right on Whitworth Road, then on to Angelsea Road for Stokes Bay Road, Pebbles is by the Stokes Bay Sailing Club entrance. Paying car park until 6pm.