King Street Tavern, Southsea | Restaurant review

Hidden away in Southsea is a joint so unassuming that when the Dish Detective saw the mighty portion sizes it came as a shock.

By Dish Detective
Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 6:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 6:25 pm
Dish detective King Street Tavern food. Half rack of ribs with house pickles, crunchy slaw and barbecue corn and pepper salsa at the King Street Tavern, Southsea.

King Street Tavern, the back-street boozer in the heart of Southsea, has just been named a Good Food Award winner for the third year running – so it was a no-brainer.

Particularly as this accreditation means it’s apparently one of the best places to eat in the country.

We had to see if its grub matched up. And DD was not disappointed.

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King Street Tavern, Southsea Pictured: GV outside of the King Street Tavern, Portsmouth on 4 November 2020. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Decorated in old school soul and R’n’B artist posters, and olde worlde furnishings, the tavern is a cranny through which you can be transported back in time.

The modern menu brings to life a contemporary twist – an American diner Smith and Western feel combined with portions so big DD may as well have been the next in line for a Man v Food challenge.

While seated just beyond the bar, one of the obvious focal points of this traditional pub is a serving hatch located directly behind it.

As if by some kind of illusion hot plates piled high with one of their seducing meals appeared through the hole in the wall, presumably the kitchen was connected, but it was hidden from view.

The place seemed short-staffed on this mid-week night. It was almost full to the brim and only two people could be seen serving food and drinks.

But nonetheless DD’s kind server was wholly apologetic about the wait after forgetting our cutlery.

The only downside were the raucous groups seated towards the back of the establishment.

But alas, Christmas celebrations are getting earlier especially since Covid struck – understandably people are still making up for all that lost time.

We were handed a double-sided menu. It was huge. But the actual dishes appeared simple yet lavish in relation to the very reasonable pricing.

The mains are divided into five sections: smoker, sharer, cast iron, bit on the side and wings.

The most striking, the polar bear festive sharer at £25 was a meat-lover’s paradise if ever DD saw one.

It consists of smoked loin ribs, sliced brisket, burnt ends (flavourful meat cut from the ‘point’ half of a smoked brisket), glazed smoked turkey breast, glazed smoked ham, hog in a duvet and a festive bacon-wrapped meatloaf.

And it’s all served with an array of sides ranging from seasoned house fries to truffled mac ’n’ cheese.

Unfortunately DD and companion were not glutton enough to indulge. So DD opted for the tavern’s half rack of pork ribs (£14), smoked for three hours over beech and apple wood.

It included a chosen side of barbecue corn and pepper salsa.

The ribs? Immaculate in their tenderness.

The meat fell off the bone with the merest threat of a fork. It exceeded DD’s expectations… by a mile.

Even though a pinch more seasoning would have lifted this course to chef’s kiss perfection, the house BBQ sauce was the much-needed smoky blanket.

DD’s companion is a big carnivore, deliberated far too long but finally settled on the two items for £19 deal from the smoker section with a side of fries.

Along with the half rack of pork ribs came two smoked chicken legs also glazed in the house BBQ sauce.

Yet again, even though met by an outlandish portion, both cuts were demolished, before DD’s companion ended up in a meat sweat.

For dessert DD enjoyed a gooey chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and their companion dug into vanilla cheesecake (both £6).

A lot can be said for tucked-away traditional pubs like this.

It’s blatantly clear why it’s leaping from success to success.

We will return another night having made sure we have not eaten for 12 hours.


King Street Tavern (023) 9307 3568

Food: 5

Value: 5

Ambience: 3

Child friendly 3

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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