Gin & Olive bar and restaurant, Southsea: Food review

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It’s not often Dish Detective gets to experience the finer things in life on a Tuesday night.

In fact, it feels rather sinful – opting for a luxurious dining experience, when we’ve got nothing to celebrate. But tonight we caved.

It would be rude not to come here, especially when a wall of carefully-selected gin bottles sits opposite the bar begging to be tried and tested.

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Located on Albert Road, Gin & Olive stands out amid a crowded market of trendy Southsea restaurants. We last reviewed it in 2019.

Grilled lamb cutlets served with garlic and rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables.Grilled lamb cutlets served with garlic and rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Grilled lamb cutlets served with garlic and rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

One of the great things about coming here is that it feels cosy, the lighting is soft, with bold machinery cogs lining one of the walls and a statement faux clock sits right in our eyeline.

There’s definitely a rustic Mediterranean vibe in here. The tables are close together too.

From the outside, it looks inviting and it feels like one of those places to visit once in a while just to escape the daily grind.

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Somewhere to just sit back, relax and take in surroundings that resemble a bar you may stop at for a ‘quick’ drink while on holiday, somewhere a lot more exotic than Portsmouth.

Outside of the Gin & Olive restaurant on Albert Road.Outside of the Gin & Olive restaurant on Albert Road.
Outside of the Gin & Olive restaurant on Albert Road.

However, it’s with much regret that DD has to report that the service was lousy.

On arriving, everything is fine. Nothing to write home about. But then the bad service begins.

We are guided to a table near the window which is pleasant, perfect for people watching, and the restaurant is building in atmosphere with a hubbub of couples and groups of friends chatting and laughing.

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We are both after a refreshing zing to quench our thirst, so this must be the ideal place – with its colour-coded menu of more than 60 gins, excellently presented cocktails and range of spirits and rums.

But perhaps this has been lost in translation with our server.

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The menu offers an ample selection of burgers, sharer boards, fish dishes, pasta and risotto and the premise of lamb cutlet with mint sauce leaves DD salivating at the thought.

Admittedly we can both understand why it takes time to choose from the glorious selection.

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However, it shouldn’t take 20 minutes before we are asked for our drink orders – and that’s after walking up to the bar to prompt a server to tend to our table.

We get the feeling that perhaps we’d been forgotten about altogether – even if it was a busy night. To start, we choose the artisan bread selection (£5).

It’s the perfect portion size and comes served with an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dipping sauce. DD has already indulged in a spit-roasted pineapple gin (also £5).

What strikes us is how well thought out the gin list is.

Some gins have a detailed back story behind them like the ‘Gin Ting passion fruit and mango’ gin from the fruity section of the menu.

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It’s made in Cornwall by a paddle boarder, it’s a charming touch, which neither of us have seen before.

It’s great that the gin is subtle enough to dodge the overwhelming hit of alcohol on the first sip, with the tangy, refreshing zing of pineapple seeping through.

After much deliberation, we both opt for the grilled lamb cutlets with garlic and rosemary potatoes and slow-roasted seasonal vegetables (£17).

We have also been asked if we’d like another drink. I opt for the piña colada (£9) which is creamy and moreish.

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However, both of us find ourselves gazing enviously at other people’s steak and stilton pies and ‘casual’ sharing platters while we await our food which felt like it took more than an hour to arrive.

Though the waiters are friendly, at the price we are paying we expect more attentive service.

We demolish the lamb, tender and juicy with rich flavours and well-balanced seasoning. The peppers are deliciously sweet. If it wasn’t for the slow service, we’d be back quickly to sample more gin and food.

Ratings (out of five):

Food: 4

Value: 3

Ambience: 3

Child-friendly: N/A

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