The historic Queens Hotel in Southsea: 'I tried Restaurant 1865's new seasonal menu and eating scotch eggs will never be the same again'
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It was my first foray into the new seasonal menu at Restaurant 1865 and it didn’t disappoint. The meat was rich and hearty, with a crisp crumb. The sauce (or remoulade to give its correct culinary terminology) added a zing. And, get this: the egg was still runny. I will never look at a supermarket-bought, late-night, snack-attack scotch egg in the same way again.
The seasonal menu maintains the Queens’ commitment to food life being local. I discovered this ethos at an Eat the Island networking event held at the hotel earlier in the year. Local food and drink producers, retailers and hospitality venues met to inspire each other, create joint
opportunities and celebrate the area’s vibrant food and drink culture.
The Queens was not just the host but an active participant as executive chef Simon Hartnett explained his love of using local produce whenever he can. As a child he was fascinated by food, spending his pocket money during family holidays in France on treats from food markets and helping out with the cooking at home while his mum worked long hours. And being ‘Pompey born and bred’ he knows his way around the local culinary delights.
This is dotted throughout the menu with meat from Southsea’s award-winning independent butcher Buckwells, fish from Brighton and Newhaven Fish - which runs the fish market on the Camber in Old Portsmouth - cream and duck eggs from the Isle of Wight and Old Winchester cheese made by the award-winning Lyburn cheesemaker.
I actually lied when I said that the Venison scotch egg (£9) was my first foray into the menu as by the time it arrived my dining partner and I had tried courgette fries (£5) and Rocquefort and red onion chutney cheese straws (£5) from the list of appetisers. The fries in particular, complete with lemon and chive aioli, were a treat, tasty and moreish. My only word of warning is there is no skimping on portion sizes so go careful if you already have an eye on the desserts…
My companion chose the scallops (£11) for her starter and I’ve never seen any so deep in size. That did not mean a lack of taste or tenderness and, although you wouldn’t have thought that masala sauce and bhaji was a good companion, she was in heaven with this winning taste
The menu gives just the right amount of choice: offering a great selection of dishes, without being overwhelming. For chef Simon, autumn and winter means hearty root vegetables and braised dishes. Planning for the new season began back in July and the final creation was a team effort, delivering a balance of flavours with the best available produce.
Among the other choices for starters were roast butternut soup (£7), honey and cider glazed pig cheeks (£9), beetroot and Fort Gin cured salmon (£8) and Old Winchester and truffle double-baked souffle (£10).
For mains, the ox cheek bourguignon (£21) was screaming out to me but I had recently dined on something similar so instead went for the chicken breast (£21), having been largely tempted by the accompaniments of chicken and mushroom pie with wild mushroom ketchup. I wasn’t disappointed. The breast was tender and well-seasoned and the pie was delicious.
Buckwells ribeye (£26) was served with a rich peppercorn sauce and triple-cooked chips, while other options included pork belly, black pudding and scallop (£26), as well as traditional fish and chips (£18.50) and the tempting Queens Burger (£16).
By this time we were both full and in need of a brisk walk along the seafront. But it’s rude to turn down sticky toffee pudding and vanilla ice cream (£8), right? And so we both succumbed. Generous slices arrived and not a trace of the pudding, toffee sauce or ice cream remained in either of our bowls by the time coffee arrived.
We could have chosen the alternatives of 1970s throwback knickerbocker glory (£8), creme brulee (£7.50) or tiramisu (£8).
It is great to see the Queens returning to its former glory and placing itself back at the heart of Southsea. And Simon’s love of food, and joy in what he and the team creates, is such a large part of what the hotel is all about.
Restaurant 1865 has a stylish look and feel but without losing its harmony with the hotel’s Victorian character. You can sample it’s a la carte menu, or other guests around us were indulging in lavish afternoon tea treats. It provides a ‘home away from home’ dining experience, which will create a warm glow to carry you through the long winter months ahead.