American diner tries too hard to impress

JAGS@119, Southsea
JAGS@119, Southsea
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Carol takes a step back in time to visit the 1950s-themed JAGS@119.

JAGS@119 took over from Big Ernie’s on Elm Grove and the trying-hard-to-be 1950s’ American diner seems desperate to fly that all-American flag with its décor and menu.

A finned half Thunderbird sticks out from the wall above the small bar with a Marilyn Monroe-type figure sitting pretty in it. Marilyn appears again in a blown-up still, sharing the wall with Elvis and Paul Newman playing pool with a jaunty cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

The banquette tables are red and white in the two-tier space which is decorated with bowling artefacts and the hits of yesteryear belt out across the restaurant.

The 1950s’ theme on the quirky menu tries to emulate the style of the era with burgers, ribs, pancakes and milkshakes. JAGS also adds a whole slew of deep-fried stuff including calamari and mozzarella sticks with chipotle salsa for starters.

JAGS@119 ‘custom blends ultra premium beef daily on the premises’ for its three sizes of burgers served with onion rings, chips, sweet potato chips or jacket potatoes accompanied by either coleslaw or salad.

There are Monterey Jack smoked cheese and maple syrup bacon burgers, five- bean burgers, a rather vile-sounding one with peanut butter and pineapple or a chilli burger with, oddly, cheddar. Alternatively you can just have all the fillings for nearly £20 while other burgers range from £7.95 – £10.95.

Steaks can climb to £29.50, a hot dog £8.95. Mac and cheese is another nail in the obesity coffin here as are pancakes. Jags is definitely not for light eaters.

As someone who spent their teen years in North America – where I became a fan of the hamburger – I had to try a premium burger. I chose chips, salad and a beer to go with it and then waited 25 minutes for the food with no-one else in the restaurant.

Oh dear. Oh dear. The burger – the simplest kind on the menu, just meat with no cheese, peanut butter or pineapple – was made with ruthlessly over-processed meat which tasted like plastic and was inedible.

To make a good burger all you do is buy some good ground mince, maybe a mix of sirloin and chuck, season it, add some sautéed onion, shape into patties and grill. End of story. Some people add egg but you don’t over-process it to lose the texture of the meat.

The sweetish bun is wrong here too and just where are those genuine burger essentials; pickled gherkins, tomato, onion rings and lettuce ? Gem lettuce is a no-no. as were the sauces on offer, all sugar-laden, over-smoked BBQ and cheap mayonnaise. At least the chips were good but the the salad was dull and there were none of the billed onion rings. Two bites in and the burger was left.

The charming waitress, a law student, came by to see how I was enjoying the jags version. ‘Oh, yes, we make them here, the meat is fresh from the butcher’s daily. Oh, you don’t like it? No, it’s not over-processed.’

No attempt was made to remove the burger from the bill so I paid and left, taking a hunk of the processed meat to my butcher to examine which turned out to be an eyebrow raising no-no in his book too.

Trying too hard both in style and content is JAGS’ signature dish. Genuine on either count? I’m afraid not.

My bill came to just more than £10.



119 Elm Grove,



Call: (023) 9287 6088

FOOD 1/5



Open: 9am – 11pm all week.

Disabled access: Steps up to one dining area and toilets.

How to get there: Elm Grove is a continuation of Kings Road going east to Albert Road, the restaurant is on the left going east with on-street parking available.