In my mind there are two categories when it comes to eating fish and seafood outside the comfort of your own home. There is the local chippy round the corner from your nan and your meal is either breaded or battered and comes with a can of coke.
Or there is your upmarket oysters and caviar type affair which can usually be found in London or airport lounges.
But The Briny on Clarence Esplanade seems to be middle ground for cuisine of the sea.
Previously it was traditional chippy Rocksbys, you could wander in dressed in flip flops and a T-shirt over your still-damp swimming costume, chow down on battered cod and chips and no one would have batted an eyelid.
But following a New England-style makeover you may want to dress up a little more for the occasion.
But don’t get me wrong, this is not somewhere that makes you feel out of place. The waiters are dressed in shirts and jeans, which suits the laid back yet chic vibe.
My companion and I pay a visit on a wet and windy Sunday evening. We are glad we booked ahead as every table is full.
We order a glass of rose each and some char-grilled garlic flatbreads with taramasalata and peruse the menus.
The flatbreads feel like grown up garlic bread – my dining pal and I are very much on board with it.
Oysters (three for £10) are on the menu from the seafood bar if slipping cold gelatinous objects down your throat is your sort of thing, but we skip past that head and for the main restaurant menu.
It is split into small plates and large plates, which seems to suit the mixture of diners. Some are enjoying two-course meals while others are happy to share dishes with friends over a bottle of wine and a catch up.
We choose to have a large plate each, although the Kentucky fried Romsey trout with chilli slaw (£7) sounds appealing for another visit.
I opt for the mussels in a local ale and cream sauce with celeriac and apple (£8). It is a favourite dish of mine so I am intrigued to see how it measures up. I also add fries (£4) as there really is nothing better than dunking a chip into that creamy sauce.
My dining companion chooses beer battered fish and chips with curry sauce (£13).
Overall we are disappointed by the menu and feel that for a seafood restaurant – which could not be closer to the sea – it is somewhat lacking.
Other than cod (£16), not battered in this case but paired with crispy pork belly, and seared halibut with cockles (£23) the rest of the menu is meat or vegetarian options.
Of course, there needs to be some variety but we think a few more fish dishes wouldn’t go amiss.
And perhaps something a bit more out there than cod.
Our food arrives pretty quickly considering how busy it is and the waiters are very attentive, but not pushy.
I have never had apple on mussels before but it adds a nice crunch.
Unfortunately the sauce is too salty to dip my chips in.
One of the most important things for a seafood restaurant is not to over-salt but perhaps the chef’s hand slipped a little while seasoning my plate.
My friend reports that while her battered fish is nice, it is just that.
Overall we feel underwhelmed. But we have heard plenty of good things from other diners who were delighted – and and it has only been open a few months.
Another visit could be on the cards but we hope a few more dishes swim onto the menu before then.
The Briny, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea
Ratings (out of five)