The Briny, on Southsea Esplanade is part of the Tenth Hole family/dynasty. They also have The Canteen and Abarbistro. Although I’ve been to all of the places, they aren’t ones I frequently visit, so I wasn’t sure if I’d like The Briny. However, it far exceeded our expectations. Being by the sea one would expect to find at least one good seafood restaurant in Portsmouth and I think, hallelujah, it’s finally here! The Briny was once Roxby’s, near the Rock Gardens. It’s had an excellent refurbishment and looks great both inside and out.
Alongside the front of the restaurant with the sea views are mainly tables for four – I didn’t see any for two. There are several tall tables, another couple of tables have rattan chairs around it – of which I’m not keen as they seemed quite low down and you have to lean forward to reach the table, although they do look nice – and up at the bar are tall white wicker stools. The kitchen is ‘open’ so you can see the food being cooked. Hanging from the ceiling are large ‘lantern’ style lights with light sacking around them (they look really good), little white lights and plants in macrame holders. It’s been very tastefully decorated and they haven’t gone overboard with the seaside theme.
We had booked ahead for 7pm but arrived about 20 minutes early, which wasn’t a problem for them. We were sat at a table for two, my seat being part of a long upholstered bench/banquette seat. At the beginning two of the three tables alongside ours had only a couple of people on each but the chap nearest to me had restless leg syndrome so I could feel that through the bench seat.
The place was full and buzzing on an early Saturday evening with all sorts of people, couples and families both young and old.
The service was very good indeed, the staff were very friendly and told us the specials of the day. We ordered a drink each, Geoff a local beer and myself a glass of Hambledon sparkling wine, which is also very local.
For starters I went for the crevettes. These were served with pickled cucumber and mayo, bread and unspreadable butter. The crevettes had to be peeled but this is what I wanted. Not many places serve them like this and I find there’s something very therapeutic about sitting there shelling them. They seemed very fresh, not that I’m an expert on them but they were delicious. I’d definitely go for those next time too.
Geoff had the glazed pig cheek starter, gooseberry, elderflower & apple, smoked eel. He loved it, he said it was very lean and tender and it had his favourite fruit in it, gooseberries!
We both decided to have the dish from the ‘specials’ menu, hake with chorizo, charred sweetcorn, mange tout. This was absolutely beautifully cooked, fresh and tender, it just fell apart. I initially gave all my chorizos to Geoff as I don’t eat a lot of meat but the ones I had kept and ate went so well with the fish I had to ask for most of them back again, oops. It was one of those dishes that I just didn’t want to end.
It took a while before we were given the dessert menu, the order taken and for it to arrive. This didn’t go unnoticed by us nor the waiting staff. Not that we were in a hurry mind. It was quickly put right without us having to say a word. A waitress came over to apologise and kindly asked if we’d like a complementary drink. I almost quickly said an Espresso Martini please before she finished off with ‘tea or coffee’ but really it wasn’t a problem so we both accepted a coffee.
Chilled Thai rice pudding White chocolate panna cotta
For dessert Geoff had the chilled Thai rice pudding and I the panna cotta. We both agreed that the desserts were the weakest of the courses. They weren’t bad, but they could have been a lot better. My panna cotta wasn’t quite the right consistency, not that smooth creamy texture that panna cotta should have. It wasn’t very sweet either and I didn’t really enjoy it. It was presented well, so too the rice pudding but I think next time I would decline a dessert, especially priced at £8 each!
The only downside to our evening really (apart from the desserts) was where we’d been placed. I think perhaps we’d been ‘squeezed’ in (as there was a long pause on the telephone when I called to book) or they thought we might be finished by the time the big family party of around 10 or 12 people came to sit beside us. The space between me and the next person was only a bottoms width which was taken up by several people at different times to chat to family members. They weren’t the quietest bunch and they kept getting up to have a fag outside or for other unknown reasons. Thankfully it wasn’t supposed to be a romantic meal for the two of us. It was a bit intrusive to say the least and I hate having my personal space invaded. We almost re-allocated to another table but thought seeing as we only had our dessert and coffees to have we didn’t bother.
We took a look around and noticed that there weren’t many tables for two, the ones we did see were mainly the tall ones. The place can get quite loud and of course, the louder it becomes, people start shouting and it gets progressively louder.
These were minor niggles really, before the group came along we were quite happy. We would definitely return as we really enjoyed our meal and the service.
I went back! I returned a couple of weeks later with a friend. We were sat at a table for four beside the window so we had a view of the sea – although it was evening time and raining, but still…
It was quite full for a Wednesday evening and funnily enough my friend mentioned to me about the acoustics, again it was quite loud.
We had the same lovely waitress – the bill says our server was ‘April’, so thank you April, you were fab again. We asked her several questions, including who supplies the bread and the ice cream? The bread is from local Bread Addiction and the ice cream, Mooka in Petersfield, again, relatively local, (the chef even came out to show us the ice cream tub).
As before there were two specials of the day, one was trout I think, I forget the other. The menu may have changed slightly to the one pictured further up the post because Loretta chose the hake – which she asked for well done – and this time it came with octopus – she’s used to eating that. When it arrived we were both sat there peering at it really closely for a while searching for the octopus when the waitress came along with a little pot and apologised saying that the chef had forgotten it. Loretta thought that both the hake and the octopus were a little bland with not enough seasoning.
I chose the seared halibut with cockles (how brave am I getting? Not brave enough for octopus though), cauliflower (before the national shortage luckily/apparently), sea vegetables (samphire) and shellfish & fizz sauce. It was amazing again! I thoroughly enjoyed it and I have no complaints.
I’d told Loretta that Geoff and I didn’t think much of our desserts on our last visit so suggested that we share one. What a very, very stupid idea that was! We chose the dark chocolate delice, hazlenut brittle, salted caramel gelato.
Funnily enough I’d ordered a chocolate delice dessert at Table 22 in Wickham (review shortly) only a few days before and it wasn’t half as good as this one AND it was missing, yes, missing! the brittle! (even though it was on the description and a photo on Instagram). I told the waiter about the missing brittle but he didn’t seem bothered by it and just mumbled about mentioning it to the chef.
Anyway, The Briny’s delice was superb. Underneath the creamy milk chocolate was a dark chocolate base and the brittle was amazing! I almost suggested that we order another.
What I would have liked to have seen (and nowhere else seems to do this) is perhaps some very small taster-size dishes available for those of us who are relatively new to seafood and who just stick with ‘safe’ choices such as cod. I don’t want to shell out (sorry, pun very much intended) on things I’m not sure I’m going to like such as cockles, mussels, oysters etc.,
Living so close to the sea I used to go over to the Eastern Road shore and find winkles and cockles which my mother used to cook. I remember getting the winkle out of it’s shell with a pin. The cockles were very different to the ones I had at the Briny, cooked differently I guess and perhaps with vinegar on them.
A taster plate with a small selection of different items, cockles, winkles, a crevette, a bit of octopus, a scallop, a mussel or two and an oyster perhaps would be a great idea and not a large one to share as I never find anyone to share that sort of thing with me. I’ve still yet to try a plate of moules (Huis also in Southsea have several different moules dishes cooked in different sauces). Just a suggestion…
I enjoyed both my visits to the Briny and really look forward to returning soon. The staff were excellent, friendly and very helpful. The food was well presented, fresh and tasty although as I mentioned, the desserts on our first visit were disappointing but the second made up for them.
Ambience 7 – mainly because of the loudness
Quality – 8
Value – 7
Overall – 8/10
Living life, loving fish