FOOD REVIEW: Fancy fish and chip bar was not the plaice I dreamed it would be

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Social media setting false expectations is not breaking news, but when it came to The Fisherman’s Kitchen, Southsea, it did break my heart a little.

I was following the Clarendon Road eatery’s progress before it even opened its doors last summer.

Crab burger at The Fisherman's Kitchen

Crab burger at The Fisherman's Kitchen

My nose would get so close to the screen I could almost smell the scent of salt and vinegar coming from its Instagram page.

If it wasn’t for the fact it would have given the Dish Detective game away, I would have happily walked in there last weekend waving cheerleader pom-poms – that is how much I wanted it to be brilliant.

It came deliciously close, in fact if I’d ordered the cockle popcorn (£4.50) and the sea bass in ginger beer and coriander batter (£9.70 with unlimited chips) with a side of the beautifully fresh pea puree (£1.50) I might have back-flipped out of pure happiness.

Honestly, that stunning sea bass with the subtle hint of spice and impossibly light batter was in a league of its own and the cockles were both fun and flavoursome.

But that's not what I ordered. 

And no matter how large that beautiful sea bass was, it can’t carry four people’s expectations and three not so-jazz-hands main courses on its own.

Instead, I now sadly know how wasabi mayo can kill off a much-desired soft shell crab burger (£12.50 with unlimited chips).

It just never stood a chance.

A simple swap of the sauce and it could have been brilliant, but crab needs the spotlight shining on it and the wasabi just stole the show.

Plus, I can now say I’ve played, and lost, raw chip roulette.

Don’t get me wrong, the 'unlimited' idea is great in principle especially when thinking of catering for a family.

However too much of a not-really-great-thing, well, just isn’t great.

That said, there were so many positives. The staff were as bright and jolly as the blissful weather outside, the setting managed to toe the delicate line between chic and chippy and the ‘no straw’ policy will please the planet.

The food menu was also clearly put together with care boasting lots of choice without an overwhelming number of options.

From the Malaysian seafood curry (£13.50) and West Sussex halloumi burger, to the fish bap and seafood scraps – all tastes are sure to find something to whet their appetite.

What’s more, despite there not being any on offer during our visit I know from having stalked them online for months that there’s regular loaded chips ‘specials’ which have included the likes of roasted beef rump and garlic mayo, prawn cocktail and beer braised chilli nacho toppings.

There are local ales, an open kitchen set-up and takeaway options too.

Do you see what I mean?

There was so much promise, and yet we found ourselves sitting in front of Solent mackerel fillets, which despite being a favourite of my husband, managed to miss the mark.

Meanwhile the salmon fishcakes (£8.50) were perfectly pleasant – nicer than nice, but nothing brilliant.

The only real criticism of the tasty locally-foraged sea herb and pickle salad that accompanied it is that there was so much of it I could have made a nest and bedded down for the night.

Perhaps it was an off-day or we visited just after a rush, I don’t know. All that is certain is our visit didn’t live up to the hype.

But I am not giving up on that pom-pom, back-flipping feeling just yet, or on the population of soft shelled crab. 

The Fisherman's Kitchen, Clarendon Road, Southsea (023) 9275 6556

Ratings (out of five)

Food 3

Value 4

Ambience 4

Child-friendly 4