“ 69 Palmerston Rd / Southsea / PO5 3PP / Tel: 02392-876-678 „
Much as we enjoy having lunch at Coco's in Marmion Road, Southsea, sometimes you feel like a change. My son had had dinner once recently with his partner's family at Sur La Mer in Palmerston Road, and they had liked it so much that they went back again soon after. When I lived in Havant I sometimes chatted to an elderly gentleman at the bus stop who went to have lunch there every Friday, so I wondered what all the fuss was about. This particular Saturday I had suggested going to the Slug and Lettuce, but it was absolutely packed out at about 1.30pm, so it seemed to make sense to try Sur La Mer, just across the road. The name means 'On the Sea', but they are cheating a little here as it is actually about half a mile from the beach.
On entering we found that there was a choice of seating: either the booths alongside the bar, or conventional tables on a raised area towards the back of the restaurant. We opted for the latter, and a young waiter showed us to a table, indicating that there was a board on the back wall showing the day's specials. Prices for these were £7.50 for a main course, £8.50 for two courses, or £9.50 for three courses. We had seen a menu showing lunch options in the window, but as this was not offered we asked to see it when we ordered our drinks. The only fruit juice on offer was J2O, so I ordered the Apple and Raspberry flavour.
The main courses on the board did sound tempting: I'm not a great red meat eater, but there were chicken and salmon dishes too. We hadn't, however, intended to have a large meal and decided to order from the menu we had seen in the window. One of my sons chose the vegetarian croque monsieur - the traditional one is made with cheese and ham, but this one was cheese, mushroom and tomato. My other son went for ciabbatta with cheese and bacon, whilst I decided on fish soup. I'd never actually had it before; I quite fancied the sardines on toast, which I associate with childhood teatimes, but I chose the soup in the end.
Whilst we were waiting I began to feel that the music was rather loud and intrusive; it was dated soul music, not to my taste at all, blaring out of a loud speaker right at the back. I decided that if I were to return one day, the booths near the front of the restaurant would be a preferable place to sit. Looking around, the décor was also somewhat dated, but I did rather like the French and Italian posters. I imagine the general old-fashioned feel of the place would put some people off, but for me the fact that it was not crowded was a bonus.
There was a bit of a wait before the food arrived, but I think this is down to the fact that it is well prepared, not microwaved but more akin to good home cooking. The soup was mainly salmon, one of my favourite kinds of fish, with plenty of onion and celery into the bargain. I was surprised that it was actually quite spicy, but the bread helped to tone that down a little. I felt that I was having something particularly healthy and a little different from the norm. The vegetarian croque and the ciabbatta were also very much appreciated.
Before leaving I visited the ladies' toilets which were clean and well equipped - no complaints there.
Our bill came to just over £15 altogether, which seemed very reasonable for the standard of food. The waiter was a little inexperienced perhaps, but nevertheless polite. Two middle-aged waitresses spent most of their time behind the bar, but they thanked us as we were leaving and said goodbye very courteously.
I would definitely consider going to have dinner here one evening or going back for a main-course lunch one day. I just wish they would bring their music a little more up-to-date, or at least turn down the volume slightly. A lick of paint wouldn't come amiss either, but we really couldn't criticize the food in any way. What more can you ask?
Sur La Mer
69 Palmerston Road
Tel. 023 9287 6678