Restaurant 69 in Southsea’s Castle Road morphed into, coincidentally, Restaurant 69 in Palmerston Road, the owners choosing a site with the same number.
Whereas the former 69 was a narrow establishment, the new one has space galore on four different levels. You enter via two glass folding doors, left open to the elements even on a cold February day to attract punters.
I decided not to linger in the bar with the cold wind blowing in, although the pretty tables willed me to sit at one of them. A lounge area in view of the bar and a small restaurant space upstairs overlooking the bar are joined by a smarter dining area upstairs, negotiated by a spiral wrought iron staircase.
Décor is glitz meets smart sober. Staff seem disconcerted to have a customer at first, with no menus to be found despite three tables occupying the first upper level.
Finally some battered pages (‘menus are at the printers’ I am told) were found and I was shown to an upstairs table. On one of three menus was pate served with freshly-toasted ciabatta; crispy fried confit of duck leg with an Oriental salad; moules marinières with cream and butter and potato and leek soup.
These could be followed with prime rib of beef, red onion chutney and wild mushrooms; maize-fed chicken wrapped in bacon with Japanese breadcrumbs; American home-style beefburger griddled with bacon, Swiss cheese and handcut chips; linguini with a wild mushroom and carbonara sauce and a lozenge of fresh salmon flash-cooked with a crisp skin, served with a saffron and Hispanic sauce.
My rectangle (not lozenge) of salmon was draped over a bed of vegetables. The staff member didn’t know what the Hispanic sauce was and lamely said it was saffron. What? On the same plate?
Just the saffron one emerged from the kitchen, a strong glaze which needed to be rethought. However, the salmon was sensitively cooked, the new halved sautéd potatoes and broccoli excellent. But the flabby carrots were less than sparkling. Those starters start at £3.69, the mains at £8.69 to £12.69. Note the 69 theme.
Puds – all home-made, I’m told with pride – included a cheesecake, crème brûlée, croissant stuffed with chocolate and ice cream and a sugar pudding with dates – my choice. All desserts at £4.69. Turns out the sugar pudding is a sponge cake made with molasses and dates. I couldn’t detect any dates and it was verging on the stale, but the ice cream was acceptable.
Despite my niggles, the heart is squarely in the right place here. They just need to tighten up the service and the kitchen. My bill came to £18.38, not including service but with a glass of wine.
Restaurant 69, 69 Palmerston Road, Southsea PO5 3PP
(023) 9281 5498
Open: From 11am-late every day
Food: Three stars (out of five)
Service: Three stars
Atmosphere: Four stars
Disabled access: Stairs to restaurant area, but wheelchair-friendly in bar and other seating.
How to get there: Palmerston Road is off Clarence Parade and the restaurant, if coming from the seafront, is on the right going towards Osborne Road. Parking is on-street.