Tucked away in Anchorage Road, The News discovered a hidden gem when it was invited to the newly-opened Chester’s Carvery and Steakhouse for a roast dinner and a coke last week.
Any remnants of the former Compass Rose pub have been stripped away by new multi-millionaire owner Mark Smith, who has transformed the space into a modern, welcoming environment which offers one of the biggest wine selections in the UK.
The pub is also the first in the country to only take card payments, streamlining the process for both customer and employee.
Serial entrepreneur and businessman Mark is relishing his first pub venture, having spent years working in the financial sector amongst many other roles.
He said: ‘It’s so fulfilling because I’m out on the frontline with my team, seeing them progress, meeting the customers and basking in the whole experience.’
Mark backs his team fully and believes that his staff, and great produce, are the key to a successful business.
He said: ‘It’s important for people, at a young age, to learn the value of hard work.
‘I’ve trained my team in wine tasting, food pairing, how to hold trays — you name it.
‘A couple of my employees now own shares in the business. I want them to see how their hard work helps the company to grow.’
The staff members are a real mix of talents, from highly-skilled graduates to those who have worked in Michelin star restaurants.
Head chef Jamie Fegan was a local schoolboy and formerly worked for Land Rover BAR during Americas Cup.
Since opening 10 days ago, the kitchen has served hundreds of roasts to hungry punters. The roast potatoes are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the beef is perfectly pink and the gravy is rich, thick and filling.
Every last detail is well-thought out, including the slices of fresh lemon and strawberry floating in my ice cold coke.
Mark said: ‘Each evening a team member comes in to start the gravy — which takes a good 12 hours to make.
‘We butcher all of the meat ourselves in the kitchen and it’s top quality produce. Everything is made in house and from scratch.’
Behind the bar, the shelves are lined with a mix of affordable wines and spirits amongst more high-end offerings, including a vast amount of reds, whites, gins, whiskeys, champagnes and even a bottle of Louis XIII Remy Martin cognac, of which there are only a small number in the UK. Customers really are spoiled for choice.
After 5.30pm each day, the carvery transforms into a steak restaurant.
Mark enlisted the help of 15-year-old Alistair Taylor, from Milton Cross School to design the company website.
Alistair was inspired by a speech Mark had given at the school, an event initiated by the Education Business Partnership.
Mark said: ‘I gave Alistair the opportunity and the result is better than most seasoned professionals could have done.
‘I’m a firm believer in giving young people a chance, it helps their talents to shine through.’
The knowledgeable and informative team go above and beyond to offer customers a welcoming experience.
It’s no surprise that the positive reviews have been rolling in for Chester’s, which is named after Mark’s beloved black Labrador.
Mark added: ‘Sadly, we lost Chester in March. He loved pubs and steak, so it seemed only right to name it after him.’
Eventually, Mark plans to open Chester’s pubs throughout the south. He added:
‘This has been a labour of love for me. I’m a Portsmouth boy. The city is steeped in history and I’m proud to be a part of it.’