Carol Godsmark reviews: Coast to Coast, Gunwharf Quays

Coast to Coast, Gunwharf Quays. Picture: Allan Hutchings (13852-902)
Coast to Coast, Gunwharf Quays. Picture: Allan Hutchings (13852-902)
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The map above the long mirrored bar gives the game away in the newest restaurant in Gunwharf Quays – Coast to Coast.

Opened in January, this newish chain is a cousin of Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito, Giraffe and many others.

Most of the seating in the two-floor restaurant is in booths, as it would be in a conventional American diner. There’s good lighting and stylish dark wood adds to the smartness but, despite all the hammering home of all things American, the feel is far from the real deal.

Let’s face it, transporting one culture to another country rarely works, and the result is a crossbreed. Is this a good or a bad thing? Does it matter? Coast to Coast slathers its Americanism on with the proverbial trowel.

The website states that ‘Coast to Coast American restaurant and bar has been created by a team of people who genuinely love good quality food, drinks and good times! No doubt you’re thinking, well doesn’t everybody want that? So our solution was simple – let’s do it ourselves, the result is Coast to Coast. When it’s cooked well using fabulous ingredients, nothing beats authentic American food.’

But is it authentic? The paltry pap I was served isn’t and there’s no ‘quality’ or ‘fabulous’ ingredients. The chain offers nothing out of the ordinary on its familiar menu, which begs the question: does the British public really need yet more high street identikit food?

The Restaurant Group should have upgraded typically American food to higher heights, not used cheap ingredients poorly sourced, cooked and presented.

The menu covers wraps; burgers; pasta; calzone; pizza; steaks; burgers; fajitas; ribs; shakes; ice creams; brownie sundae. To differentiate itself from the many others, it has to deliver, satisfy and give value for money.

Starters are a hefty price – £4.95 to £7.45 – and include calamari; ribs; ice bucket prawns; whitebait. A Maryland Chicken was flabby and unpleasant.

Wraps include Cajun, pulled pork, chicken Caesar (£8.95-£9.95). Burgers are Classic, Monterey Jack cheese; chicken; veggie; Buffalo Blue, mostly a whopping £11.95.

Pizzas (Denver Feast, Boston Blue et al) are around £9.95; Grills and Thrills (ribeye) at £22.95; Piri Piri Chicken skewers, £14.95; pasta and salad (lasagne, Caesar, spaghetti) from £8.95. Sides are expensive (battered onion rings and sweet potato chips, both £3.95).

My Monterey Jack burger bore little resemblance to the genuine article. There was tough, tasteless meat, unripe tasteless tomato, two thin slivers of red onion and a bun the size and taste of a doorstopper.

If I hadn’t seen something shiny on the top I would not have guessed cheese had made an appearance. It tasted of precisely nothing. You can get the whole deal cheaper and tastier elsewhere.

Only the Brooklyn lager, a revival of pre-prohibition beer flown all the way from New York, had any taste at all. Thank you Brooklyn! And thank you, staff, all good and attentive despite the long wait.

Gunwharf’s captive audience has plenty of choice and food like this just won’t do for me. My bill came to £15.20, not including a tip. Coast to Coast needs to try harder, aim higher and cut the hype.

Coast to Coast, Boulevard Building, Gunwharf Quays, PO1 3TZ (023)9282 4865.

Open 9am–11pm (10.30pm Sundays).

Disabled access: The toilets are upstairs.

How to get there: Follow the brown signs to Gunwharf Quays and park in the large car park. The restaurant is on the east side of the Quays next to the Customs House pub.

FOOD: One Stars (Out of Five)

SERVICE: Three Stars