Spice Island Inn, Old Portsmouth | Restaurant review
When it comes to paying a visit to any of the historic pubs in Old Portsmouth you are treating yourself to some of the best views in the city.
And nothing else really comes close to the ideal location of the Spice Island Inn which overlooks the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour between Portsmouth and Gosport affording a picture-perfect vista to The Spinnaker Tower.
It is also a delicious slice of Portsmouth history as it used to be three smugglers’ inns used during the 18th century. In fact the name of the pub comes from the fact it was one of the first places spices from Jamaica landed.
The views and the history are what initially tempts my friend and I to venture to the Spice Island Inn one chilly Sunday lunchtime for a roast dinner – that, and the promise of a proper vegetarian roast for me.
We were told on the phone we didn’t need to book in advance and on arrival we pick out a prime window seat allowing us to enjoy the views without having to face the cold.
There's plenty of choice on the menu from trendy sharing dishes such as steak skewers, halloumi trays and bao buns, as well as more traditional fare such as burgers, fish and chips and pies. However, we already have our hearts set on roast dinners.
As a Greene King venue it's an order-at-the-bar situation and luckily it isn't too busy so we are able to place our orders quickly.
My friend opts for the half roast chicken (£10.69) and I choose the only vegetarian alternative of a nut roast wellington (£9.99). The staff are friendly and get our drinks ready for us at the bar.
There are other choices for the Sunday lunch including roast beef, lamb rump and roast sirloin beef which all come with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, cauliflower cheese, seasonal vegetables and gravy.
Or that's what it says on the menu at least. My friend's roast chicken arrives – after a fairly short wait – with all the sides as promised. But mine is placed on the table without any gravy.
I ask the waitress if there is any gravy that I can have and am told they don't do vegetarian gravy. I then ask if they have any way of making some and I’m told no again.
After that I resign myself to the fact I will be eating quite a dry roast lunch. This is a shame because the nut roast wellington is delicious, with a surprisingly tasty filling encased in flaky pastry. I use some of the cauliflower cheese sauce to try to make it less dry, however, there isn't enough for the potatoes and Yorkshire pudding as well.
The sides and vegetables – carrots, cabbage and runner beans – are fairly tasty but nothing to write home about.
Luckily, as a meat eater, my friend has gravy with his meal. He enjoys the chicken although he mentions that half the meat is dry and the other half is overly moist. But he manages to eat it all – as do I with my meal.
We are both rather full and content with our dinners however we cannot resist the offering of desserts. I order the chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream (£4.19) and he chooses the sticky toffee pudding with custard (£4.99).
It only takes a few bites for me to realise my eyes were bigger than my belly. The cake is also extremely rich so I only manage half of it. My friend demolishes the sticky toffee pudding with no regrets.
We are grateful afterwards that we have a bit of a walk to get back having consumed what feels like our body weight in traditional Sunday lunch fare.
However, I think we were both more impressed with the view and the venue than the food itself, but with a view like that it’s got a lot to live up to.