The Southsea Food Tour – A Taste of Monty’s

When I first saw the advert for this special tasting event at Monty’s, I knew I was going to go. 7 courses with 7 cocktails, how could I refuse? It was the perfect opportunity to review this tucked away restaurant and cocktail bar as well as treating myself after a long, hard week.

Monty’s has only been open a year and serves English style cuisine, using local suppliers for both food, drink and décor. But that isn’t what makes Monty’s so special. They change their menu every month and that is something unique to this little place on Castle Road. It’s nothing special to have a seasonal menu but monthly? That’s quite impressive.

This ‘A Taste of Monty’s’ event is the first of its kind since their opening yet it is certainly not the last. At £60 per person, it’s great value especially when you consider you are getting 7, high-quality courses and cocktails.

The inside is decadent. The tables were laid with thick tablecloths and polished cutlery. The chairs had a crushed velvet exterior, the bar was marble effect and the lighting consistent of an ambient mix of fairy lights, tealights and candelabras. It is beautiful however it is small, very small. Walking in, on a busy day, you have to push past chairs and people. The seating is fairly limited too so make sure to book in advance.

I was called the day before, by who I believe is the manager, to confirm our booking. He was friendly and helpful, warning me about the broken card machine. I really appreciated this as not only did it show care and attention but also saved me the embarrassment of when my card would get declined.

“Please come for 6.30pm for canapes and aperitifs and then we shall start the night at 7 pm.” He told me.

The next day I did as he asked but there were no canapes or aperitifs so I found myself sat down, waiting for it to start. A drink was given to me early on but I found out this was the first cocktail listed on the menu; so what was the point of arriving early?

Maybe they said that to ensure everyone arrived on time and they would have a smooth start. Good idea but punctual people like me were left waiting around, fiddling with the cutlery on the table.

The staff were very formal and polite, dressed in smart shirts and grey bowties. The bartender was helpful and continued to tell me the ingredients of each cocktail. One server kept ensuring I had enough to drink throughout the whole night. Although I did feel a bit cheeky ordering tap water rather than sparkling or fresh spring.

Soon enough our first course was placed in front of us.

‘Sandwiches’ – Chicken and Lettuce, LBLT, Cheese and Pickle with Lady Luck Cocktail

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I wouldn’t call them sandwiches, more like dainty layered crackers. Three of them were placed on a slate board in front of me. The one I had first was the Goats cheese biscuit with homemade pickle. It melted in my mouth and the pickle was sweet, complementing the cheese flavour perfectly. The next was a tiny layering of chicken and lettuce, just smaller than a dice. All in one, I had gobbled it up and enjoyed it just as much as the first. The last morsel was the lamb, bacon, lettuce and tomato. The layers were precise and bursting with flavour. The tomato was soaked in tea to bring out the taste and the lamb was rich and meaty. It was a shame that I had eaten them in three swift bites but it was impressive how each left a lasting impression on me. I wanted to approach the manager like Oliver Twist and beg, “more please sir!”

The cocktail was made of prosecco, gin, syrup and blueberries and was served in a tall, elegant glass. It was a good mix of dry and sweet and gave me a taste of what was to come. The best way to start the evening…

Summer is Coming –  Salad of asparagus feta, pea, watercress and burnt cucumber mayonnaise with Goodbye Spring Cocktail

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The presentation of the salad was done with the utmost care and precision. Peas were dotted here and there with slices of asparagus and chunks of feta cheese. Purple flowers were on top to garnish with squirts of the burnt cucumber mayonnaise to line the edges. As someone who has always hated peas, I wasn’t too fond of this course, but I can still say that it gave me a very clear and fresh palate afterwards. The cocktail, made with cucumber, gin and sparkling water, was the ultimate partner for this spring-themed main. It was fragrant and gave me images of sitting on a freshly cut lawn somewhere with the sun gently beating down.

Parfait spiced pears, savoury granola with Pearshaped cocktail

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The parfait was served in an espresso cup with a singular crouton on the side. The drink came in a large patterned tumbler with plenty of ice and a dried apple slice. This was made with cherry brandy, pear vodka, cloudy apple juice and an egg white. The parfait was beautiful. The granola gave a slight crunch on top and underneath was creamy and sweet. The flavour lasted on my tongue so, even after each mouthful, the pleasure could still be experienced. More than one crouton would have been appreciated as, although the parfait was gorgeous, it was far better when it had more substance to it.

Cod with brassicas, cured fillet, broccoli fondant and puree, pickled cauliflower and purple potato with Violet Supernova

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The Violet Supernova came before the cod, made of Midori lemon liqueur, orange liqueur and prosecco in a large martini glass with an orange to garnish. Unlike the name suggests, the drink was deep green in colour. It was very sweet and syrupy although after a few sips I had to put it down. Why? I foolishly didn’t eat much all day to prepare myself for the 7 courses. In hindsight, I should have eaten anyway with the amount of cocktails I was drinking so, when the cod came out, I was relieved. It was a thick fillet that fell apart. It was beautiful and juicy and worked well with the broccoli puree. The cauliflower was also nice and so was the purple potato. I have never eaten one before but it wasn’t too different from the ordinary potatoes in my fridge. At least it looked nice. Classiness out of the window, I ate it all up in a desperate attempt to soak up the alcohol in my stomach.

Belly of Pork, braised for 1 day, rolled ham hock, teabagged prunes, celeriac puree and pickled apple with Smoked Cigar cocktail

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The pork was tender and abundant with flavour and was probably the best I have tasted. I ate it with the pickled apple and quickly went onto the ham hock, wrapped in cabbage. It too was devoured in seconds. It was by far the tastiest course and it was good to finally have some substance in me. I left the teabagged prunes as I wasn’t too sure what the chef had done to them. The cocktail, mainly whiskey based, wasn’t to my liking as I’m not too fond of anything over 40% and my head had started to go dizzy. Even though the cocktails had half the alcohol in them as normal, I still think that maybe a tasting size would have been better, rather than 7 large glasses.

Although, others didn’t seem to mind so much so maybe it’s my fault for being such a lightweight.

Crossover, goats cheese pannacotta, rhubarb, hazelnut crumble with a Hazelnut martini

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Now time for dessert. Once again the presentation was impeccable with neatly arranged rhubarb, a dollop of pannacotta and pink flowers. But this was one concoction I couldn’t get behind. The courses before were all brilliant, with an explosion of flavours that complemented one another to perfection. It was as if the chef had formed some sort of mathematical equation to make the ultimate taste palette. But this time, sorry Monty’s, I wasn’t won over. Other people seemed to enjoy it but cheese and rhubarb don’t mix, not in my opinion anyway. I managed a mouthful and another but I couldn’t go on. I tried to wash it down with the martini made of hazelnut liqueur, vodka and syrup but that wasn’t for me either. I can’t stand nuts. I did try. I thanked the waiter anyway and stuck to my glass of ice cold water, excited for the final course.

Lemon Meringue Pie with salted caramel with Rhubarb Sours cocktail

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Now we’re talking. A gooey yellow dome sat in the middle of the plate with three baby meringues stuck on top. Next to it was a pile of salted caramel sprinkles with strawberries, just begging to be eaten. Well how could I refuse? The ‘pie’ or sticky lump had an unbelievable tangy lemon flavour. The meringue and caramel gave a worthwhile texture and sweetness to it – the perfect blend of fluffy, crunchy, sweet and sour. Once again the cocktail finished the course with rhubarb, ginger gin, lime and sugar. It was a drink that mimicked the dessert’s tanginess and sweetness, ending the night on a fantastic, lasting note.

Gourmet food has never been to my liking for obvious reasons. The courses are too small, sometimes the flavours don’t complement one another and there is always one ingredient that doesn’t seem to fit. Yet Monty’s overcame all those issues. Sure there were a few courses that didn’t take my fancy and there was too much alcohol for food, but it didn’t take away the magic from the evening.

Monty’s is a beautiful place to go and the tasting session was still an experience. The flavours flourished on my tongue like nothing else and the staff made me feel warm and welcome. Just next time, I should eat a little beforehand.

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