Even the most grizzled gastronome should want to learn things, and the Dish Detective is first in line to pick up knowledge from toilet walls.
But while normally it’s new terms of abuse and dodgy phone numbers, this week the DD (who has spent many years in Portsmouth) learned from a poster about Southsea’s history – and discovered it was originally Croxton Town.
We were, appropriately enough, in Croxton’s in Palmerston Road – it was a poster, not a bizarre graffiti-based version of the Open University but, if you will, Croxton’s is a lesson in how to run a modern bar and restaurant – or kitchen and tap house as they style themselves.
It’s in the former convenience shop and post office in Palmerston Road; but even regular former customers will struggle to see the building’s recent past, except for the ramp at the front. Inside is up-to-the-minute decor – wooden tables, lots of black and white, and at first glance a place that you might put down as another student/hipster hotspot.
But when you look around you see a proper cross-section of Southsea – sorry Croxton Town – life. We piled through the door for an early Sunday lunch with a hungry toddler in tow, and were delighted to bag the last remaining unreserved table – a very good omen.
Next to us were a couple of respectable ladies out with a dog for lunch. The other way was a table celebrating a 50th birthday. There was a table of cool kids with the mandatory elaborate tattoos, and there was also a group out for a family meal. In short, it’s exactly the mixed-bag (in a good way) clientele a decent local pub or restaurant should attract. Optimistically, we turned to the menu.
Given it was Sunday, and the internet said nice things about their roasts, there was only one way to go. Well two – beef and lamb – but you get the drift.
Both roasts (£13.95) were excellent. Tender, not-too-thinly and not-too-thickly cut meat, spot-on roast carrots and parsnips, perfect potatoes, and a rather lovely mustard-flecked cauliflower gratin, plus your usual vegetables.
One slight area for improvement? The Yorkshire puddings, while a match for many a pub meal, could be better – but the Dish Detective is picky, given a family history that could see us qualify to play cricket for Yorkshire if we were a) interested and more pertinently b) any good. We therefore automatically think that we make the best Yorkshires on earth.
A nice touch was some baby watercress leaves scattered over the meal. While the long-in-the-tooth DD moans about the effect of the Instagram generation and the hoops that some restaurant owners feel they have to jump through to make their dinners look good with a filter, in this case it looked nice and was actually a bit of a taste revelation as well. Who knew watercress, roast spuds and gravy could be a thing? We didn’t.
Elsewhere on the menu, the roast meat sandwiches (£8.45) looked appetising for a return visit, and looking around, there were a reasonable number of people opting for a burger (£10.95). It looked as if they had made a satisfying choice.
So bravo to Croxton’s. It’s hard to muscle in on an area like Southsea, with its already large array of pubs, bars and restaurants. Croxton’s may be a blend of all three, but is more than holding its own. Given that it was a Sunday lunch with the baby, we didn’t hammer the bar, but a pint of Unbarred brewery’s pale ale, at a relatively sedate 3.9 per cent, was a gentle fruity and well-kept accompaniment.
They also have a ‘house beer’ on, called Shant. You can be forgiven for living in Portsmouth and not knowing the history of Croxton Town, but you need to up your game if you don’t get that joke.
Croxton’s, Palmerston Road, Southsea
Tel: (023) 9281 6641
Ratings (out of five)