Over the years the phrase ‘pub grub’ has come to mean a range of different things.
Firstly, there’s the realm of the Wetherspoon’s meal, the cost-effective alternative to the higher-priced restaurant dishes where you can feast yourself on a Full English and a pint, and still have plenty of change from your tenner.
And then there’s the roast dinner carvery, the fish and chips and the pie of the day, the traditional pub dishes which are favourites with families out for a Sunday treat.
But in recent years, the need to stay afloat amid rising costs and competition from supermarkets and restaurants has forced pubs and bars to expand their food offering.
For three decades the Wine Vaults has been one of Southsea’s most popular watering holes.
And like many of the city’s pubs it is now as keen to promote its range of dishes as well as a selection of beverages.
The first thing you notice when you walk in is the sound. Or lack of it
On a Monday lunchtime I headed to the three-floor, four-bar Albert Road pub to see if its food matched the quality of its nightlife.
It might sound obvious, but the first thing you notice when you walk in is the sound. Or lack of it.
In an arguably refreshing change from the live bands and hustle and bustle of a Friday or Saturday evening, enter on a weekday and your food will be accompanied with a side order of mild acoustic melodies.
I found a place to sit near the bar and perused the large A3 menu in front of me.
While some of the traditional ‘pub grub’ dishes do live on – the battered cod and chips, and the 35-day-old 8oz sirloin steak noted – there is plenty of choice even for lunchtime eaters.
I opted for one of the menu’s more ‘gourmet’ options, the pork and chorizo burger (£10), and the poor barmaid was happy to cater to my not-so-necessary needs.
‘Can I have the burger, but without lettuce or gherkin?’ I inquired.
‘Of course, is that because of an allergy or preference?’ she replied.
The truth is it’s preference. I’m just a fussy eater, but it was nice of her to ask.
In my experience of burger dining – and the Dish Detective is a big fan of the traditional bun and meat combo – a pork and chorizo mix has always tasted rather tough and lacking in flavour.
This time though I experimented by adding brie to my order (£1.50), to give an extra dimension to my burger as well as compensate for the two elements I had disregarded.
When it arrived I was far from disappointed.
Although the brie gave the burger its own taste, the flavours of the pork and chorizo both shone on their own.
It was served with a bowl of chips, which were crispy and well-cooked.
As an extra treat I decided to look over the options for dessert and being a great chocolate lover my eyes immediately fixed on the chocolate brownie, served with Laverstoke vanilla ice cream.
After ordering my second pint of Coca Cola (might be in a pub, but some of us are self-designated drivers) I paid £6 for my second course.
The price might have been slightly north of what I would expect to pay for a dessert, but the brownie was definitely worth it.
The highlight was the small pieces of biscuit at the bottom which gave it a surprising crunch, with the only drawback being that I wish there had been more of it.
It turns out that the Wine Vaults isn’t just a night-time drinking and loud live music establishment.
Why not pay a visit to Albert Road during the day and enjoy the delicious dishes this pub has to offer?
THE WINE VAULTS, ALBERT ROAD, SOUTHSEA
Tel: (023) 9286 4712
(ratings out of five)