The Seagull pub, Portchester, Hungry Horse: Food Review

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‘As a youth, I used to weep in butcher’s shops.’

It is not beneath The Dish Detective to misuse a quote from a 35-year-old cult film on this or indeed any other day of the week.

And so it came to pass that Uncle Monty from Withnail and I came to mind when we were looking through the menu at the Seagull. Monty couldn’t bear to ‘touch meat until it's cooked’ - here we were torn between tears of joy and tears of apprehension just looking at the amount of meat on offer. It was wonderful or terrifying - take your pick.

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The DD’s previous experience of a Hungry Horse chain was elsewhere in the country, and involved being introduced to the terrifying ‘surf n’ turf n’ cluck’ - a dish designed for those who find two types of meat on one plate just not enough. What would we find today? And so, with this background we went deliberately feeling hungry. What could be on a ‘big plate’ selection nowadays? Would it give us the meat sweats?

The burger sizzler combo - a double bacon cheeseburger, chicken wings and a rump steak with barbecue sauce on a skillet of onions and peppersThe burger sizzler combo - a double bacon cheeseburger, chicken wings and a rump steak with barbecue sauce on a skillet of onions and peppers
The burger sizzler combo - a double bacon cheeseburger, chicken wings and a rump steak with barbecue sauce on a skillet of onions and peppers

The answer is…. Yes. My goodness the Hungry Horse’s reputation is well-founded. The amount of food on the plates is astonishing - one meal could feed two people, easily, and that’s before you even get into the addictive game of count the calories. A note on the back of the menu explains an adult needs about 2,000 calories a day… so prepare to last for about 30 hours on a crispy chicken sandwich (2,506kcal), consisting of fried chicken, two garlic ciabatta slices, onion rings, chips, cheese sauce and god knows what else. Or the crown of burgers - six slider buns and chips coming in at 2,546kcal.

I go for a burger sizzler combo, comparatively restrained at 2,203kcal but including a double bacon cheeseburger, chicken wings and a steak. And chips. And a corn on the cob, of course.

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But is it any good? Well… it’s OK. Given that the whole thing costs £12.99 - the same price as a single burger in many pubs these days, it’s clear that we’re not expecting grass-reared beef from a local farm, hand crafted into artisan burgers. That’s not what we’re here for today.

The crispy chicken ranch burgerThe crispy chicken ranch burger
The crispy chicken ranch burger

The burger is decent, the bacon good. The chips are serviceable (and how many thousands of chips a day must that kitchen whack out?!?) The chicken wings are nothing to write home about - they are small and scrawny, and the steak, while providing a bit of theatre on a sizzling skillet is….. really not good. It’s leathery and chewy in all the wrong ways.

We can’t finish the plateful. Despite trying, it really is too much.

Our companion has gone for a crispy chicken ranch burger (£10.19), which is another enormous plateful also including chicken burgers, cheese slices, bacon, a hash brown, more chicken, salad, chips and onion rings. A pub food machine, even they don’t make it through to every last one of the 2,250kcals, but they give it a good go - but their burger gets the seal of approval.

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Both of us are glad that neither meal contains Vimto - which pops up at various points of the menu in chutneys - nor the incomprehensible chipuffalo, whatever that may be. Maybe next time.

The Seagull, PortchesterThe Seagull, Portchester
The Seagull, Portchester

The Seagull itself is a welcoming place - we go on a Monday and a quiz night is in full flow - most of the questions sound reasonable and there’s a round that involves making and throwing paper aeroplanes - making excellent use of a spacious pub.

For the hell of it, and just because we fancy a complete calorie/belly blowout, we order puddings. A sticky toffee and bourbon pudding (£4.99) and a millionaire's cheesecake (£5.79) are bought-in but tasty. The cheesecake is mouthful after mouthful of sugar rush, quite in keeping with the rest of the meal. We roll out into the night, happy to breathe cool air into my bloated body, and wake up with meat sweats in the middle of the night. But what a happy - if decadent - way to spend an evening. Don’t go there if you’re on a diet.

The Seagull, Cornaway Lane, Portchester PO16 9DB

Tel: 01329 237015


Food: 3

Value: 5

Ambience: 4

Child-friendly: 4

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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