Having heard good reports on this place so thought it would be ideal for my sons birthday, big mistake! firstly ....Italian bar? no garlicky aroma? already suspect! ask for a Corona for the birthday boy? although on the list was not available........bottle of wine? bought to table 10 mins later had to go ask for the glasses and collect our-self from side table......my meal came out and was bland and not very Italian, at this point im getting a bit stressed but its my sons birthday so not making a fuss.....granddaughters pizza kids meal comes and was a triangle of pizza very much like the Iceland ones on top of that it was almost char-coaled, still trying tolerate it and be polite, but when i spotted sons girlfriend discreetly pointing out to him the hair in her half eaten pasta that was the last straw! I just had to complain to the waitress who complained to the chef who took the price of the hairy pasta and char coaled kids meal off the bill......the point was our meal was ruined and how they get away with thinking there Italian food/restaurant is beyond me.
My husband and I walked past shortly after we were engaged in Spring 2010, on our way to The Hole In The Wall. As a lover of Italian food, I had a look at the menu and found as a vegetarian, there were several dishes I would've struggled to choose from. Mike instantly wanted to try it as it is rare I find places I like as I am such a fussy eater!
It was when we walked in we realised the potential this restaurant had as a function venue. I loved it; wooden floors throughout and neutral walls, it had large canvases in the restaurant that you could stare at all day, as well as some iconic movie pictures. With the bar dividing the venue into part pub, part restaurant and a large garden on the side of the building, I instantly imagined this to be where our wedding reception would be. What surprised me was how quiet the place seemed.
We spoke to Steve, the Landlord and Head Chef, over a few visits and finally booked our wedding reception. We had asked for a 3 course meal for 40 people, wine and champagne provided, an evening buffet for all the evening guests, a DJ in the evening, an extended licence and also for the bar to be for guests only from 3pm all day - all of which he granted at a very reasonable, affordable price.
Over the months leading up to the wedding, we took friends there on numerous occasions, with tables of up to 10 people and we asked friends and relatives to go there without us and see how it was and every single response was positive. However, the fact it was quiet seemed to crop up often. It seemed to surprise everyone that Southsea hadn't caught on to this great little restaurant.
I am genuinely impressed with Steve's ability to run the business & plan events, and still to find the time to home cook a fresh menu served every day at a consistent level that so many other restaurants fail to provide.
When it came to our wedding day, the guests were blown away. 40 people had food and there were no problems or issues for anyone, despite some hard-to-please diners. Everyone's dishes came out on time, at the right temperature and cooked well. Compliments the food and staff is written throughout our guest book.
I could literally talk all day about what an amazing time we had at our wedding, but Steve and his team at the italian bar & grill made it a day to remember. It was perfect.
I also realise this review could seem completely biased. It was our wedding day, of course we had a good time.
As I mentioned before, we came here several times before booking. I used to work in pub management and I am overly critical to any place I go and I feel I may have been a harsher judge than most - and they still passed! The staff are friendly, and hard working, even when it is quiet, the food is home made & well priced, the toilets are in a good state all the time as is the venue. The only part that needs more work is the garden, but you can see that it is a work in progress each time you visit.
I have written this review as I know only too well how easy people find it to complain in the food and drink service industry, but how rare it is to find someone willing to take the time to praise a great food experience. Not just as a one off but as a table for two, tables of friends, up to an entire all day venue take-over for a wedding. The italian bar works on so many levels, i urge all the food loving people of Southsea and beyond to try it out!
To say this is a restaurant would be a lie, it is more a convoluted attempt at combining a pub and restaurant, which is ok, if the place could serve good food. We went on a monday, so yea it was obvioulsy quiet but man why was it so bad? Cant be that hard to make a pizza but it was burnt and there was some kind of problem in the kitchen I presume.Just save yourself some money and get a KFC over this sorry state of a place. Bring back the India Arms I say and some nice tables....
I wasn't filled with enthusiasm at the prospect of visiting Southsea's latest Italian restaurant, simply because it had taken the place of the Tiffin Room at the India Arms, considered by many to be the best local Indian restaurant. It seemed fair to give it a chance, however, so I met my son on Great Southsea Street early one Friday evening and we wandered down to give the Italian Bar and Grill a closer look.
This establishment is actually part pub and part restaurant. The menu is displayed in the pub window and at first did not encourage me. Alongside pasta, pizza and salads there was a section for burgers - not my kind of food and not what I had been expecting. We decided nevertheless that the prices looked reasonable and that we would probably find an appealing salad or pasta dish, so in we went.
The door leads into the bar area and I was surprised to see two bright red leather sofas that were a huge contrast to the old feel of the India Arms. A waitress led us through to the restaurant area on the left; as it was completely empty and just one table for six was reserved, she let us choose where we wanted to sit. We decided on a table for four by a window in one corner. It was a bit of a squeeze to get in and I felt that either the chairs were low or the table a little high, but I am only just over five feet tall. The tables looked quite striking with black tablecloths, a white runner down the middle and red napkins, although they reminded me more of the Egyptian flag than the Italian one. The chairs were stylish cane ones with high backs and wooden frames. I was not, however, so impressed by the general dÃ©cor of the room, a particularly large and high-ceilinged one. It is painted in brown and beige, and the walls are as yet bare apart from one large canvas depicting a shopping centre. So much more could be done with the large expanses of wall.
A waitress brought us menus and asked if we would like to order drinks. We both asked for fruit juice, but only orange and cranberry were on offer. I picked the cranberry and felt when it came that it was rather a small glass, but later I noticed on the bill that it was only 60p. My son decided on Appletiser, which was Â£1.50.
The waitress told us that the day's special was a chicken, mushroom and salami calzone. There is a good choice of starters around the four-pound mark, but we decided to go straight for a main course. My son had been considering a salad, but then we both thought we liked the sound of chicken pesto with either penne pasta or spaghetti (Â£7.95). Purely out of interest, I ran my glance through the selection of grills; I am not much of a red meat eater and didn't think I would find anything I liked. I was wrong, as I found one of my favourites: fillet of salmon served with a green salad, cherry tomatoes and a choice of French fries, cajun fries or jacket potato(Â£8.95). In the end we both decided on the salmon with French fries.
It was around fifteen to twenty minutes before our food was served, during which time the restaurant slowly began to get busy. The music had seemed quite loud when we first arrived but I had the impression that it was turned down somewhat as the place began to fill up. The party of six arrived at the table next to ours, but there was a decent space between our two tables and theirs was at right angles to ours, so it was perfectly possible to have a private conversation.
A waiter served our main course on rectangular plain white plates. He asked if we wanted any sauces but we declined. My son had at the time of ordering chosen a chilli and oil dressing for his salmon, but I was quite happy with a twist of lemon on mine. I can't say that it was the best salmon fillet I have ever had, but then neither was it the most expensive. The fries were very slender and crisp; the serving was too large for me, but my son had no trouble finishing his. I did enjoy the tomatoes and the green salad. The salad consisted mainly of lettuce plus slices of green pepper and onion, a little watercress, and a herb dressing. I dislike cucumber, so its absence was an advantage for me. We felt that it was perfectly good food for the price.
The waiter was prompt in clearing our plates away and indicated the dessert menu, strategically placed to one side of the table. All desserts are a reasonable Â£3.95 and include tiramisu, chocolate brownie, cheesecake and pecan pie. My son ordered pecan pie with neither the whipped cream nor the ice cream that could accompany it. I liked the idea of the fresh fruit in the berry sundae, and decided that I would have it without whipped cream, just with vanilla ice cream.
My son's pie was served on a small, square black plate whereas my sundae came in a tall glass for which the waiter rushed back with a long spoon. Had I fooled myself into thinking that this was a healthy option? It was made with alternate layers of blackberries and strawberries, ice cream and fresh blueberry sauce. I thought I would try to leave some of the ice cream, but as I tried to dig to the bottom of the glass to find the pieces of fruit, I found the ice cream melting and mixing in with it. It was gorgeous. My son was just telling me that he was enjoying his pecan pie as he tried to cut into the pastry crust and the larger remaining piece of pie shot onto the table! Perhaps the pastry was a little hard, but he still enjoyed the pie.
We didn't want coffee so we just asked for the bill. This took a little while to come, but when it did the waitress apologised that they were a little short staffed. It didn't matter to us as we weren't in a hurry. The total came to Â£27.90 - no reduction of course for ordering desserts without cream! My son paid by debit card for which there was an extra 50p charge, and we left a tip in cash.
I went to the ladies before leaving and noticed on the way that there is still a snooker table, just as there had been at the India Arms. The sofas in the inner areas are black, which I preferred to the garish red ones. I also saw that it is still possible to eat in the bar area, as we had done once when the Tiffin Room was full of nuns and priests. The toilets were perfectly clean and satisfactory, and I was pleased that there is still a full-length mirror in the ladies.
Service was efficient, polite and friendly if not overly professional. The menu is extensive, although I would have expected to see at least one risotto on an Italian menu. There is, however, enough variety to suit a range of tastes, including chicken dishes with a New York flavour and at least one Mexican dish.
If the weather is good you can sit in the garden area. It has apparently been refurbished, but I did not get chance to have a look at it. Roast is added to the menu on Sunday with a discounted price for children. Special student offers are displayed on the wall outside, between the two restaurant windows.
Whilst not being on a par with Rosie's Vineyard or Abarbistro (both little more than a stone's throw away), the Italian Bar and Grill offers good value and a refreshing change from the Italian chain restaurants of Portsmouth's nearby Gunwharf Quays. Although a little out of the way, it is actually only a few minutes' walk from Palmerston Road shopping precinct, Southsea common and the sea front. Nothing can replace our beloved Tiffin Room, but the Italian Bar is worth a visit, especially for a group of people with varying tastes who don't want to spend a fortune.
The Italian Bar and Grill
30-32 Great Southsea Street
Tel. 023 9275 3058
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