The Piranha Bar and Restaurant, to be found on the Sparkes Yard marina at the far end of Hayling Island, exhorts us to ‘soak up the superb ambience at stunning 60-seater restaurant.’
Its website says there’s a ‘superb range of fresh seafood’, possibly the largest on the south coast.
Finding the place, until recently called Marina Jaks, is a tricky manoeuvre through the myriad housing around these parts. Would it be worth the trip? The wood-clad low building with views over Chichester Harbour and the marina has an air of neglect. The entrance, with its dirty, worn mat and cheap sauce bottles, doesn’t suggest a ‘superb ambience’.
The rather bare restaurant-cum-bar has no atmosphere and also looks rather uncared-for. The toilets and doorway are in need of not only a lick of paint but some elbow grease. So much for ‘stunning.’
High-backed faux leather seating around wooden tables are on the left, or sit in the bar with its leather sofas or outside on the terrace.
Loud music, more suited to a nightclub, blares out. High-heeled staff, dressed more for town than a marina, click loudly over the floorboards. Although very pleasant, they don’t offer the two-course lunch meal deal at £11 but hand out the very expensive a la carte menu.
The ‘steak and seafood’ restaurant’s starters include prawns with a sweet chilli sauce and a tomato and basil soup (£5.95). Mains include a smoked haddock, smoked salmon and prawn crumble; cod and chips with charred lemon; and a very odd-sounding vegetarian dish, mushroom-stuffed goat’s cheese with apricots. Also on the list are steaks (£14 to £34) and lobster and crab (£25 to £65).
I started with moules marinières (£7.95), delivered in a typical for-effect French domed pot. The differing-sized mussels, many of them overcooked and topped with raw onion chunks and strips, had a sour, not fresh cream-based sauce. A spoon was not forthcoming and slices of an elderly baguette had to be used instead. The dish was abandoned.
I chose the Dover sole from the specials list – it seemed a steal at £13.25 for this usually very expensive fish. The very small sole was given several large slits to accommodate an overpowering garlic butter. It lay on top of wildly overcooked broccoli and new potatoes.
Desserts, scribbled over a past list on a messy board, included pannacotta and crème brûlée.
Attention to detail is sorely lacking here, however pleasant and charming the staff are. The kitchen was woefully slow in getting out dishes for just five people, the total number of customers when I visited at lunchtime.
We waited well over half-an-hour for any food, with no bread, nibbles or excuses offered.
Is Piranha worth the detour? Not in my book, but if you’re a starving sailor with stunning patience, an undiscerning palate and deep pockets, this will suit. But ‘stunning’? I don’t think so. My bill came to £25, not including service but a glass of indifferent white wine.
Piranha Bar and Restaurant, 33 Wittering Road, Hayling Island PO11 9SR
(023) 9246 9459
Open: from noon-3pm and 6pm-9.30pm for food (10am on Fri-Sat) but open all day.
Food: Two (out of Five)
Disabled access: Fine. Large space inside and out for wheelchairs.
How to get there: Take the A27 to Hayling, then the A3023 towards the seafront, Sandy Point and Wittering Road until seeing brown signs to Sparkes Marina.