What a great way to start my Southsea Food Tour than with one of my favourite places to eat – The Chambers.
I have eaten here previously when I first moved to Portsmouth to celebrate me leaving home and living by myself. Then, I had the three course set menu for £25 which is a bargain considering a main alone can cost you around £16.95.
This time, six months later, I booked a table for 8pm on a Wednesday to take advantage of their 2 courses for £15 deal. I arrived ten minutes early so my partner and I bought a few drinks to pass the time – a large glass of cool, White Zinfandel and a rum and coke. We sat on the leather sofas at the front of the restaurant where we took in the impressive decor.
On the wall hung a few taxidermy deer heads and a large, gold-framed mirror with Tiffany styled lamps and chandeliers, that gave a warm and accommodating feel to the lounge. Wood patterned wallpaper lined the walls and dotted around were a few cabinets which seemed to hold books but were just printed pages. I feel like having real hardbacks such as old copies of Shakespeare or Homer’s Odyssey would add another edge of elegance to the decor but that is me, a writing student, being picky. I wonder if anyone else really noticed this anyway?
Last time I visited I believed the front lounge of the restaurant was all they had however I recently watched their video tour which proved otherwise. Apparently there was another room for dining, a conservatory, a second floor and even a roof terrace! I didn’t believe this and politely asked a member of staff to be shown around. Surprisingly, they agreed and continued to surprise me with more rooms ordained with antique style decor and grandeur.
The second dining room was similar to the lounge with more cabinets of fake books, red carpet yet no more taxidermy. I quite liked staring at a hanging animal when I ate; it made me feel like I was at a upmarket restaurant in London or a country pub. However, that might be a bit different if I was a vegan or vegetarian. Just something to consider if you are.
The conservatory was busy but I could still take a good look at the orange lighting and a Greek style sculpture which stood proudly in the centre. Upstairs was empty, most likely as it was a weekday, yet the decor was just as beautiful. Large old fashioned trunks towered next to me and on the walls and ceiling, was renaissance styled artwork which really was the cherry on top of the impressive cake. But there was still more, Just pass the tables and chairs was the roof terrace or what I call it – smoker’s heaven.
There were a few rattan sofas and chairs with large and very comfy looking cushions as well as these cone like ashtrays which were on stands. They definitely beat the glass ash trays in pubs everyone steals for sure. A large, fake tree stood behind them which had small flowers on its branches, little lights that glowed a soft white, giving a fairy tale finish. Right there and then, I was so tempted to take up smoking again just so I could spend all night there.
However, I still have some willpower left and we went back downstairs to wait. We were sat at our table at 8.15pm because it wasn’t ready yet. This was confusing as I booked in advance and the specified table was empty when we walked in. However, I didn’t mind too much because it gave me more time to drink wine and 15 minutes to wait was worth what was to come.
As I read the menu with a watering mouth The Supremes’ Baby Love was playing which didn’t really fit the atmosphere. I feel like some soft jazz or sax would suit better but that is just me. Some people might think nothing else would be better for the gold mirrors, deer heads and chandeliers than 60’s pop.
In the end my partner and I settled for a starter and a main. He ordered the fishcakes to start whereas I went for the game pate. We both settled on the lamb shank for our main. I have had and enjoyed the 8oz Sirloin steak before yet this time I wanted a bit of change and not a £5 supplement added to my bill.
In good time the starters were placed before us and just as quick, I had already taken a bite out of my partner’s fishcake. To see if it was poisoned of course! It wasn’t but instead fluffy and flavoursome. However, my choice of pate was far better and it was he who ended up having food envy.
The presentation of the pate was a piece of art with a garnish of salad, mustard dressing and a few blackberries. I was later told that the pheasant and rabbit in my starter was fresh and local and the flavour of each bite was proof of that. Toast accompanied it along with sweet apricot chutney.
I started eating in a very refined manner; gently smearing the pate onto the bread then adding the chutney and salad, making sure I stuck my pinky out as I held my knife. Yet a few bites in I was enjoying it too much and soon found myself covered in crumbs with dressing smeared all over my lips.
Note to self – bring a bib next time.
The staff didn’t seem to mind and were friendly and smiley when they took the plates away. I chatted with the manager briefly before the main was served asking him how long they had been open and if they had any future plans.
“Three and a half years,” he replied “we’re trying new things this year, we are going to do a summer set menu to bring in more flavour and colour.” Like a child at Christmas I was excited and couldn’t wait to see what goodies Santa Claus would give me. Although this time it wouldn’t be a satsuma it would be prawns…
The lamb shank was probably the best or second to best lamb I’ve had in my life. I pulled on the bone and the meat slid off effortlessly. It was tender, like all lamb should be, and was complimented brilliantly with the rich red wine gravy (or jus if you want to be posh). In terms of veg there were only a few carrots and some mash. I would have preferred more. Not because I like my veg but to satisfy my mother’s voice in my head. “Eat your veg, it’s the best bit.” No mother, the lamb is.
Sadly, I couldn’t finish it all and therefore there was no room for dessert for me. The choice was a mango and passion fruit cheesecake, Eton Mess, cheese platter or a warm chocolate brownie with salted caramel sauce and ice cream. Good thing I had no room. Imagine the challenge I would have trying to pick from those.
If I did have one it would have taken the price to just over £20 which is still cheaper than the set menu on any other day. You may like to know on my previous visit I had the Eton Mess which was awesome. A bit sour in places with the sauce yet I like it that way. Maybe next time I’ll skip starter and try the brownie, see which is better…
The bill came to just over £40, with drinks, which for the quality of food and atmosphere, is worth it. The Chambers is expensive when you order off the normal menu yet when it comes to deals you would be an idiot to not at least try it. Sometimes the service is slow yet it’s nothing to worry about and regardless, the staff are still cheerful and happy to help.
The Chambers is a beautiful restaurant, perfect for special occasions or even just a little treat to get you over the weekday hump.