“ Address: 69 Castle Road / Southsea PO5 3AY / Hants „
Angry Aly's is situated on Southsea's Castle Road, a narrow street that leads down to Southsea Common. I must have walked past the restaurant many a time but never seriously thought about going there, probably because the window is filled with jewellery so it doesn't really look like an eatery. However, one of my old school friends decided to have a major birthday dinner there and I was invited. She sent menus out along with the invitations, and we were asked to choose a starter, main course and dessert about two weeks before the date of the dinner.
There is a choice of five starters, ranging from mozzarella and tomato salad (£3.25) to green lip mussels in a garlic and cream sauce (£3.50). Main courses include fillet steak with creamy peppered sauce (£14.50) and Greek lamb oven cooked in foil with garlic and oregano (£11.50). For vegetarians there is just one dish, stuffed peppers with couscous, vegetables and seasonings (£8.95). Fish of the day was either trout or sea bass, and there are other daily specials but I didn't see the board showing these. All main dishes are served with herb potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables.
Desserts feature cream caramel, chocolate gateau, ice cream with warm black cherry and apple crumble with custard (all at £3.50). There is also Angry's special surprise ice cream (£3.95).
I chose mackerel pâté for my starter (£3.50; Brussels pâté was another choice). For my main course I decided on chicken breast filled with feta and spinach in a cream sauce (£9.95). Had I been ordering on the night, I might have gone for the trout, but there was no way of knowing in advance what the fish of the day would be. I don't usually have three courses when I eat out, so I wanted a dessert that wouldn't be too filling. I picked the ice cream with warm black cherry.
When I arrived on the night I walked through the front area, where there are a couple of small tables, past the bar and through to the dining room at the back. I was surprised, as I regularly visit a tea room on the same street that doesn't have a large back room. There were, I think, twenty-six people that evening, and small tables had been put together to form three long ones. I have to say that it was a very tight squeeze for people who needed to get through the two parallel tables when everyone was seated, and that was the way to the toilets! There was a showcase of handbags in one corner of the room and one of jewellery at the far end of the opposite wall. About half a dozen quite large art prints decorated the walls. Ceiling fans were turned on once we had all sat down.
The restaurant appears to be run by a couple and a teenager that I presume is their son, plus a barmaid. They managed very efficiently to serve our party, and apart from a rare steak being brought out that nobody claimed, everyone got exactly what they had ordered. Bottles of red and white wine, the white in a cooler, were already in place on each table. A lady at my table asked if they had any rose, and there was just one bottle, which she seemed happy with. I sampled the red, a Shiraz, and it was very palatable indeed. Most of the guests were staunch fans of real ale, and Angry Aly's does serve bottled real ales. Pepper and salt were to hand, and there were small vases of artificial flowers as well as battery-operated tealights. Napkins were good linen ones.
The starters began to appear, and the tomato and mozzarella salad did look appetising. My mackerel pâté was served on a small shell-shaped dish and came with three small slices of French bread. The pate had a very good flavour, but the man sitting next to me seemed to think the consistency should have been a little firmer. Extra bread was offered to a lady who was having the salad, and a small dish of butter was brought.
Main dishes took a while to be served, not surprisingly considering the number of guests. The lamb seemed to be the most popular choice, and it came still wrapped in foil. I wasn't aware of anyone having fish or stuffed peppers. My chicken came in plenty of sauce. The vegetables were quite an unusual mixture: cauliflower cheese, peas with carrots, and hot beetroot. The potatoes were sautéed cubes. We were able to help ourselves to these accompaniments from the various dishes, and there was plenty to go round. My chicken was extremely tender and was filled with spinach; the sauce and feta cheese gave it plenty of flavour. Apart from a small piece of cauliflower that wasn't quite cooked, the vegetables were very good and I was impressed by the variety. Those having lamb seemed full of praise too, but I wasn't sitting near enough to anyone having steak to hear comments.
I was certainly glad that I hadn't ordered a stodgy dessert as I was almost full after the main course. Most guests seemed to have chosen cream caramel and they enjoyed it. The ice cream surprise looked like a knickerbocker glory, and I was amazed that anyone could have found room for it. My dessert was three scoops of vanilla ice cream in an oval dish with warm cherries in sauce on either side. I loved the way that the cherries started to melt the ice cream, although they soon cooled down. I couldn't manage to finish it all, but I had the cherries and almost half the ice cream. Birthday cake came soon after, and I wrapped my slice up and took it home! A friend of mine ordered coffee; it looked very good, but I can't sleep if I drink it in the evening.
There are just two toilets, one for ladies and for men, with washbasins in them. The ladies has a huge, full-length mirror decorated with butterflies. It isn't the most modern place and there was only an ordinary towel for drying hands, but there was plenty of tissue and soap.
My friend and I were the first to leave not long after 11pm, and there were still quite a few people in the bar area then. I don't know how busy the restaurant usually gets. I wouldn't make any comment on atmosphere as this was not a typical evening. I could at times hear music playing, but to be honest the conversation of twenty-odd guests drowned it out. Service was polite and efficient. The menu is rather restricted, but the food was so good that I would be tempted to go back and perhaps try the fish of the day next time. Parking is available on Castle Road and also beside the common, just a few yards away. This is not one of Southsea's main streets, but it isn't far from the common, the seafront and the shopping precinct. If you want a change from the usual chain restaurants, Angry Aly's is worth a visit. Anyone interested in unusual handbags and jewellery might also like to have a look.