Restaurant review | Rapscallions, Southsea
Rapscallions in Southsea has perhaps been the most sought-after bar and kitchen since Dish Detective heard of its opening in August.
The Osborne Road venue – formerly the Wave Maiden pub – is run by the Swan family, who also own The Red Lion over-the-hill at Southwick, and general manager Fahren Smith.
Pirate-themed in every sense of the word, it boasts the ‘largest selection of rum in Portsmouth’.
And it’s no mean feat to bring to life gnarly captains of old and traditional ‘pirate’ grub with enough stylish décor to make it cool and not resemble a kid’s party.
However, step inside and you are transported to a whole new level of sensory experiences.
Adorning the walls upstairs are portraits of captains through history. There's Sir Francis Drake and the infamous Madame Cheng – a Chinese pirate leader from the 1800s.
The lighting is dark and moody; the tables, rustic and a bit worn-looking. Wooden beams bedeck the ceiling.
It’s like a galley on board a ship.
We are seated in the middle of the upstairs seating area, which we’d reserved because it was a lively Saturday night.
Every detail of the interior and food choice – even down to the playlist – had been well thought out and made to feel as scoundrel-like as possible.
We are thrilled to hear the likes of Fall Out Boy, Queen, The White Stripes, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Green Day rumbling through the speakers. It was apt, suiting the high-class pub food on offer.
This venue serves veggie risotto, ‘shipwrecked’ pies, ‘buccaneer’ burgers, a few simple fish dishes, and a plethora of vegetarian, vegan and non-veggie starters.
Our waitress Lily is friendly and attentive and arrives promptly to take our drinks order. These are a Captain Kidd cocktail (£11) and a Camden pale ale (£5.50) from the rustic fold out menu made from wooden planks.
A waiter appears with my drink in a ceramic barrel glass and to my surprise pulls out a lighter and sets fire to a piece of string attached to give the full effect of a gunpowder ‘explosion’.
For a few seconds my barrel of Havana white rum, sweet vermouth and chocolate liqueur is engulfed in flames.
There are seven other Captain Cocktails on the menu, each comprising different rums and named after pirates.
This one is described as a ‘sour cocktail for a sour death’. It’s more ‘this is going to go straight to my head, strong’ than sour, but it felt wrong not to try it.
With two ravenous diners it was hard not to go for the pirate hog roast. But after seeing the party on the next table with plates filled to the brim with pie and mash – it was a no-brainer.
DD asks for the steak and stilton pie (£14) which comes with whole grain mustard creamy mash, red cabbage and gravy.
DD’s companion opts for the Man-O-War burger (£13.50) made up of 8oz Wagyu beef – from cattle native to Japan, smoked bacon, salad and served with chips and coleslaw.
The pie is exquisite. The steak is succulent and falls apart easily, the stilton is subtle in flavour but just enough to bulk out the overall flavour. As for the pie crust – it’s crisp at the edges, and the right thickness to absorb the meat’s tantalising juices.
The burger gets a rave review from my companion too, and a clean plate. DD is too full to contemplate pudding but scanning the menu the Jaffa Cake dessert (£6) screams ‘try me’.
The sponge was springy with an orange zing – delicious; the chocolate icing just the right darkness to resemble a Jaffa Cake coating.
This was an immersive experience complete with a fantastically-delivered pirate theme. The food takes it to new heights. Dish Detective will be back in a heartbeat.
Tel: (023) 9279 4171
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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