On this particular sunny Monday evening, the Dish Detective and their companion decided to wander down the bustling streets of Southsea to dine at a bar and kitchen based on ‘restaurant row’ – Osborne Road – the Rocka Restaurant.
Having no previous knowledge of the setting, DD and their companion trotted along not knowing what to expect. Having peeked at the menu a few hours earlier, we could see there was no shortage of options.
From seafood and pasta to burgers and meat, DD and their companion were left questioning where Rocka had been hiding all this time, just a stone's throw away from the seafront and Palmerston Road.
The selection stunned us into silence for a few minutes and left us seriously debating whether to order it all and live on left-overs for the rest of week. It didn't help that we were both particularly hungry on this occasion.
Inside the décor is delicate, the bar offers beachy vibes and the water feature in the corner gives the place an exotic feel.
To start, DD indulged and went for the Rocka-Style Mussels (£6.45), pan-fried with fresh garlic, chilli oil, white wine in a tomato sauce, and a coke (£2.95).
My companion ordered crispy Halloumi Fries (£5.95) served with sweet chilli sauce alongside a fresh lemonade (£3.95) presented delightfully in a mason jar, garnished with mint and lemon.
A generous portion, the mussels were presented with an air of decadence on a wooden plaque with a finger bowl for dignity. The shellfish were full of flavour, as was the thick sauce mopped up by two slices of the crusty ciabatta.
Despite wiping the bowl clean, I managed to make room to pinch a stick of halloumi from my companion which was fried to perfection – with just the right amount of grease to taste good, but not enough that I felt the food guilt creep in.
The attentive waitress checked several times to ask if we were enjoying our meals or we needed anything else. Our mains followed swiftly after our plates were cleared.
Sticking to a theme of shellfish, DD plumped for the Soft-Shell Crab Bun (£16.95), crab tempura, Rocka slaw, harissa aioli, lettuce, tomato, fresh coriander, spring onion and chilli in a soft brioche bun. The explosion of flavours crammed between two halves of a bun was truly impressive and absolutely delicious.
My companion chose a meal which I too had considered, Frutti di Mare (£15.95). A mix of al dente linguine, pan-fried salmon, seabass, calamari, prawns and mussels with fresh garlic, chilli and coriander all cooked in a rosé wine and tomato sauce. Seafood heaven. They gave top marks and didn’t leave a morsel.
Fantastic food, warming atmosphere and wonderful service, DD will be back.
Ratings (Out of 5):