Carol Godsmark reviews Meat and Barrel, Southsea

Meat and Barrel,Palmerston Road, Southsea.
Meat and Barrel,Palmerston Road, Southsea.
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Those enterprising people behind Belle Isle’s restaurants in Southsea and Chichester plus the Victorious Festival and various music and beer festivals, have taken the plunge by opening another restaurant, Meat and Barrel.

It’s in Palmerston Road, Southsea, and occupies the site of the old, unlamented – to my mind – Bamboo Bar & Restaurant.

They’ve taken the large, barn-like space by the scruff of the neck and returned it to its natural state – original brick and steelwork – but sensibly kept the parquet flooring.

Industrial lights and a neon one shouting Southsea Burger Club add to its minimalist charms as does a fabulous tiled wall behind the bar boasting a large beefy animal marked with edible cuts. A large tiled barrel and hanging wine bottles complete that back wall picture.

Seating includes button leather sofas and, as one Facebook reviewer comments, likens the many chairs and tables to a school room. Yes, it does look like that place of learning we associate with this retro look, but have the teachers, ie the management, got the gist of what brings a place up to speed?

Those in love with craft beers may relish their choice here – 18 or so alongside six cask ales – some local. Look out for draught ciders too and an extensive range of bourbons and gins.

The short (hurrah) menu will not cause you to scramble for an explanatory description or dictionary. Several burgers join T-bone steak; bangers; rabbit stew; stout-braised pigs’ cheeks; ribs; marmalade-baked ham and spatchcock chicken. Prices range from £6.50 or more for a burger, £13 for the stew and £22 for the T-bone. Throw in £3 or £4 for chips and you have a relatively pricey burger or other dish. But it’s not pricey if it’s good.

Vegetarians get a look-in with a veggie burger (squash, tomato, watercress); vegetable stroganoff and salads, fritto misto is the fish option.

Lunchtimes (Monday-Friday until 4pm) offer ham and cheese grill; a meaty ploughman’s; duck egg on toast, Swedish hash and a few other dishes.

I ordered a simple hamburger plus some skinny fries. The large, perfectly cooked meat, encased in a bulky bun with tomato, gherkin, mustard and lettuce, was terrific and did the trick in spades. Excellent meat, served pink (hurrah again) – was only let down by the non-classic brioche bun.

I would cross town for one of these burgers, certainly the best I’ve had in this neck of the woods.

Skinny chips – enough for two in their smart box and even sufficient for the woman (usually) in your party who doesn’t order them but pinches yours – were decently, non-greasily deep-fried and seasoned in salt and pepper.

A New York cheesecake followed which was disgraceful. Two bites and it was pushed aside. Why spoil a good time with this gloop?

Not so the keg ale. Punk IPA from Scotland was spiky, hoppy and moreish – another reason to visit M&B alongside the burger. The staff were a very good third reason: uniformly helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.

Teachers, aka management, please ditch the cheesecake and you’ve got another winner on your hands.

My bill came to £17.75, that disgraceful pud, a highway robbery fiver.

FOOD ***




Meat and Barrel, 112 Palmerston Road, Southsea, PO5 3PT (023) 9217 6291. Open 11.30am – 11pm (Mon-Thurs), midnight (Fri-Sat) and 10 pm (Sun).

Disabled access: big space, especially for wheelchairs

Palmerston Road is off Clarence Parade, the restaurant on the left. On-street parking (best on the parade).