“ Address: 140 Elm Grove / Southsea / Portsmouth / Hampshire PO5 1LR / England „
It was perhaps surprising with my love of eating out that, after more than a year of moving back to Southsea, I still had not visited the Italian restaurant Rosita's on Elm Grove. Surprising as, apart from an uninspiring-looking Indian restaurant, Rosita's is actually my nearest, being less than five minutes' walk from my home. I quite often go out for a meal with a friend on a Monday evening, and on this particular occasion she did not feel like venturing very far as she had just returned from a walking weekend in Devon. Rosita's seemed like the most sensible plan.
The restaurant has recently been refurbished, the old bay window with the red canopies having been replaced by a flat front made entirely of glass, which I feel has detracted somewhat from its individual character. The red canopies still exist above the first-floor windows. We got there at about 7.40pm, and a party of four were at a table by the window when we arrived. Two or three other couples came in while we were there, as well as one man collecting a take-away order which he had phoned for, and one couple who came in to make a take-away order and were given a waiting time of fifteen minutes during which they were able to have a drink.
The interior décor of Rosita's is rather pretty, and with its artificial but delicate flowers, chandeliers and twinkling fairy lights I wasn't surprised to learn later that it is owned by a Chinese company that also runs a Chinese restaurant called Tin Tin near Portsmouth harbour. The deep red and cream of the walls are echoed in the high-backed red chairs, the light wood tables without tablecloths and the deep red fabric napkins. The floor is tiled in light brown. Background music varies from James Brown's 'Papa's got a Brand New Bag' to James Blunt's 'You're Beautiful', but is not loud enough to ruin your attempts at conversation.
There was just one waitress serving on that particular evening, and I wondered if the man seated at the bar throughout our stay was her boyfriend although she certainly did not let him distract her from her duties. She brought us menus straight away and we each ordered a glass of house red wine at £2.60. The wine soon arrived and we began to look through the choice of pizzas and risottos. The friend I was with eats only fish and vegetarian food whilst I myself am not much of a red-meat eater, but there were starters and main courses to suit every taste. We were enticed by the offer of two courses for £14, in particular the stuffed mushrooms and chicken or vegetarian risotto, but I was facing the back of the restaurant and having a good look at the specials board offering a main course of pan-fried sea bass with asparagus, crushed new potatoes and wholegrain mustard at £11.95. There were also two starters on the board, a chicken liver pate with onion marmalade or mouth-watering strips of duck cooked with plums and red wine, each at around £3.95. In the end we both decided on the sea bass since it was a special, concluding that if we were impressed by the food we could come back another evening and sample the two-course option.
A note at the bottom of the specials board states that "all food is freshly prepared and cooked - thank you for your patience". There was a wait of perhaps twenty to twenty-five minutes before our main courses were served, and this was of course on a relatively quiet evening. We were not in a hurry, and I would rather wait a while than have something warmed up in a microwave and brought to the table almost immediately. When the sea bass did arrive, it was beautifully served with criss-crossing asparagus and the fish itself in the centre on top of the potatoes. A rather sweet brown coulis was drizzled over the entire plate. We both made approving comments as we started to eat, appreciating the addition of the mustard to the taste of the sea bass and potatoes. It was only half a fish, admittedly, but my friend commented that she had not long ago had a similar meal at a wine bar in Chichester where it was again half a fish at a price of around £15. The waitress came after a few minutes to ask if everything was to our satisfaction, and we had no complaints to make.
This particular main course was not as filling as a pizza or risotto might be, so we decided on this occasion to have a look at the dessert menu. The menu was in the form of a small blackboard and easel that the waitress carried over to our table, so it may be that it changes every day. All the desserts were priced at £3.95, which I thought very reasonable as Cafe Rouge for example charge £4.75 or £4.95 for most of theirs. My friend ordered a Crème Brulee and I chose Tiramisu. There wasn't a long wait for these, and the strawberry on the side of each plate was a nice touch. I seem to have got used to the taste of supermarket tiramisus and something seemed slightly lacking in this one; I would say that the flavour of the coffee and the alcohol were both milder, but I am not an expert and it may be that Rosita's was actually more authentic. There were alternate layers of sponge and cream, two of each, which again differs from the supermarket varieties. My friend enjoyed her Crème Brulee, but did comment that not the whole of the surface was as crisp as it should be. We both felt that the main course had the edge over the desserts.
Our bill came to £36.60 excluding service, which does seem very reasonable, especially for me as the restaurant is so close to home that I have no travel expenses. We could not fault the service, which was polite, friendly and efficient. I have heard that Rositas is very crowded at weekends and it might be advisable to make a reservation. There are one or two parking spaces right outside the restaurant, but I cannot comment on how easy it is to find them vacant. As I mentioned, there is a takeaway service; you can telephone your order then collect it, or come in and place your order, waiting on the premises.
I would say that Rosie's Vineyard (situated on the same street) is somewhat superior to Rosita's but also slightly more expensive. I prefer the 'rough and ready' style of Rosie's, but that is purely personal taste and many people will say they like the fact that Rosita's has a prettier and cleaner style of décor. I certainly would enjoy visiting Rosita's again and trying a risotto or pizza; if I were particularly hungry I would probably go for a stuffed mushroom starter rather than a dessert next time.
Rosita's is very close to the King's Theatre and would be an ideal place for a pre-theatre dinner. It is about half a mile from Palmerston Road shopping precinct, and just under a mile from Southsea seafront. The restaurant is open every day from 5.30pm - 10pm. Private functions can be organised at lunchtimes.
140 Elm Grove
Tel. 023 9282 9425
Also posted on Ciao under my username denella.
Enjoy authentic European and Italian cuisine in an inviting atmosphere.