THE Dish Detective has very fine tastes and part of that includes an expensive bottle of red wine with a well-cooked piece of steak.
With fine tastes come high standards, and our expectations were strong when we opted to try another of Port Solent’s successful eateries, Hot Rock.
Set on the first floor next to the marina, the restaurant initially strikes you as a typical steak house.
But within seconds of stepping inside, you realise it’s a completely new culinary experience.
For starters – please excuse the joke – your food and drinks are ordered not through your waiter or waitress but instead via electronic tablet.
In a world where technology seems to control us every minute of the day it is perhaps not surprising that the phenomenon should extend to restaurant dining.
The idea is quirky – as diners you are expected to slice pieces off the meat
The device itself is simple to use. Like ordering from the likes of JustEat or Deliveroo, you can choose from a variety of meat and steak options, or salad and vegetarian dishes.
For the little ones, there’s even an option to load up games and quizzes to help pass the time while adults chat.
But for all the advanced technology, it’s difficult to avoid the thought that it all takes away the human element of your meal.
Although you can call staff over to ask questions, there isn’t the same opportunity to chat and get to know your waiter for the evening as you might elsewhere.
So, for the real starters I chose the brie in breadcrumbs, which produced a crispy and soft flavour that worked well.
The accompanying cranberry sauce had a particularly sweet taste, which made for a delicious starter overall.
Clinging desperately to the last remnants of summer, my partner and I chose fruity mocktails to accompany our meal – both refreshing though the mint flavouring in one tasted more artificial than the real thing.
As you’d expect from a steak house, the highlight of the meal is always going to be the main course.
In fairness to Hot Rock, the restaurant doesn’t do things by the status quo.
Rather than having your steak cooked in the kitchen for you, your meat is lightly cooked on both sides, and then placed on a piece of slab rock which has been heated to to 250C.
When your food arrives, the first thing you notice is the smoke rising from it.
There are occasions when your waiter tells you to mind the hot plate and you decide to touch it anyway, but that’s not really an option here.
The idea is quirky – as diners you are expected to slice pieces off the meat, and then cook it as much as you want before eating it accompanied with one of three flavoured butters.
Although it would be good to have more advice on how long to cook the meat for, it is a fairly simple process and clearly proves popular with diners.
Where we felt the food was let down was the flavour. For such a big piece of meat – we ordered lamb and a sirloin steak – neither seemed to have been seasoned much beforehand.
A similar observation could be made about the butters. As good a variety as there was, none seemed to radically change the flavour of the meat and at times it looked like they were there simply to melt and flavour the rock below.
There is good value to be had at Hot Rock – for a restaurant specialising in cuts of steak we paid just north of £45 for two starters, two main courses and drinks.
The place is a meat lover’s paradise and must be applauded for its modern take on restaurant dining.
But you definitely get what you pay for on price, and could use some improvement to make it one of the city’s best.
RATINGS (out of five)
Tel: (023) 9237 2540