“ Address: 12 Clarendon Road / Southsea / PO5 2EE / Hampshire / England „
Although situated just round the corner from Southsea's main shopping precinct, Oddballs restaurant and wine bar had somehow eluded us for almost ten years. I was meeting one of my sons for Sunday lunch and was determined to try somewhere new, and Oddballs seemed to be the obvious choice, especially since it offers a reasonably priced, varied menu.
We arrived just after 12.30pm and were told that we could choose any table we liked, apart from one that was reserved. We picked a small table by a window, and menus and a wine list were brought straight away. Soft drinks were not listed, but the waiter reeled off a list and we both chose cranberry juice (£2).
We decided to skip starters, but there was a good choice available from, for example, a vegetarian soup of the day (£3.95), warm salad of chorizo, bacon and mushrooms with parmesan and balsamic dressing (£4.75), or toasted garlic focaccia (£2.95).
Main courses ranged from pasta of the day (£6.95), salmon and spinach fish cakes with salad (£7.95), spinach, tomato and pine nut tart with new potato and spinach salad and kalamata olive oil dressing (£7.95) to wild boar sausages with creamy mashed potato and port wine jus (£7.95). I was very tempted by the fish cakes, but roast beef and chicken were on offer too since it was Sunday. I hadn't had a roast for so long that I opted for the chicken (£8.95) and so did my son.
It was roughly half an hour before our food was served, but we were not in any hurry. We each had three good size pieces of chicken breast, one of which was wrapped in streaky bacon. As well as this there was stuffing, a mini Yorkshire pudding (which I hadn't expected with chicken), several small roast potatoes and plenty of gravy. A dish of vegetables to share was served separately; this consisted of cabbage, broccoli, leeks, one cauliflower floret, a couple of slices of carrot and one large slice of courgette. The waitress asked if we would like cranberry sauce, and we said yes.
We both agreed that it was an excellent roast. The was a generous amount of chicken, and it was very tender. The roast potatoes were very crisp and crunchy on the outside but still soft inside. I appreciated the variety of vegetables, and they certainly were not overcooked. The gravy and stuffing were both delicious. I had no complaints about the Yorkshire pudding, but I just couldn't finish it.
If you have the Sunday roast you can have two courses for £10.95, so the idea of dessert did seem tempting. The problem was that neither of us really had any room left. We did look at the menu, which tried to entice us with three scoops or ice cream or sorbet (£3.95), cheese and biscuits with red onion chutney and grapes (£5.25), or various other desserts including cheesecake, chocolate brownie, fruit sponge pudding with custard or raspberry crème brulee with shortbread (all at £4.50). We managed to resist all of these, however. Instead, my son ordered a brandy (£3) and I decided on a cappucino (£2.35) having studied the various coffees listed on a board at the bar. I am not easily pleased where coffee is concerned, but this cappucino turned out to be a particularly good one.
Our bill came to £27.25, so with a tip added it worked out at £15 each for an excellent roast and two drinks. For those with larger appetites, there is a set menu at £12.95 for two courses or £15.95 for three. A board on the wall advertised Saturday lunch at £5 for dish, which surprised me as restaurants offering special deals usually exclude Saturdays.
A couple of weeks later four of us visited Oddballs at around 4.30 on Saturday afternoon and were pleased to find that the £5 a dish offer was available until 5pm. We each ordered a glass of fruit juice and chose from a varied list of main courses. The pan-fried liver was off, but none of us would have wanted that anyway. Pasta of the day was linguine with chicken, bacon and mushrooms. I decided on chicken caesar salad with crispy pancetta, one of my sons went for chilli beef nachos with cheese and jalapenos, the other opted for roasted vegetables in pitta bread with hummus and salad, and his partner chose deep fried hake in beer batter with home-made chips.
We didn't have such a long wait this time as we had had on the Sunday. All of us enjoyed what we had ordered, although the roasted vegetables (courgette, aubergine, onion, pepper and tomato) weren't very filling, and another dip was substituted for the hummus. My salad included anchovies as well as the crispy pancetta, and a small serving of salad came with the fish and chips. It was very good value at £5 a head.
Not having overspent on the main course, we decided we would have dessert this time. Two ordered a chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce, one was unable to resist the temptation of vanilla and chocolate cheesecake, and I picked cassis sorbet as the lightest option. All of these were beautifully presented with a strawberry, another unidentified small fruit, and a dusting of icing sugar. They were delicious too. My sorbet had one or two whole blackcurrants inside and came with a sprinkling of grated chocolate to complement the fruit flavour. The sorbet was £3.75 whilst the other desserts were £4.50 each. Our total bill came to just over £47, not including service.
I would gladly return to Oddballsagain one day, and my son felt it would be the ideal place to bring his partner's family, especially since the menu offers a good varied choice. The atmosphere of the place is welcoming and relaxed. We liked the combination of the open brickwork and the deep pink walls, although I think a few prints or paintings would improve the décor as at the moment there are rather too many blackboards around. The chairs are rather an odd assortment of old wooden ones, so if you like extra comfort you might not be impressed. Two or three large plants intertwine with fairy lights, and the main lighting is very soft, coming from wall lights rather than from the ceiling. If the music were any louder it might disrupt conversation, but as it was I did not find it objectionable.
The waiter and waitress dress very casually but are welcoming, polite and efficient. They asked us both during and after our meal if everything was to our satisfaction. I have to admit that the restaurant was not particularly busy at the time of our visit, but I had the feeling that they were out to please in whatever way they could.
There are three steps up to the toilets, which would obviously not suit anyone in a wheelchair. There were also two or three tables in that raised area, but a carved wooden screen made the door to the toilets more discreet. The ladies was not luxuriously decorated but it was perfectly clean.
I did notice a couple of highchairs, so babies are presumably welcome. Whilst we were there an elderly lady was having lunch on her own. I got the impression that she was a regular customer and the waiting staff were certainly being very friendly towards her.
Oddballs may not be the smartest or most stylish restaurant in the area, but neither is it the most expensive. It is very close to Southsea's Palmerston Road shopping precinct and just a few minutes' walk from the Southsea Castle area of the seafront. I would recommend it to families, couples or single people looking for a welcoming atmosphere, a varied menu and reasonable prices. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.
12 Clarendon Road
Tel. 023 9275 5291
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Offering an eclectic menu.