Tuesday, 6 February 2018

THE CORMORANT - 181 Castle Street, Portchester

The Portchester area was on our, "Yet to explore" list, so this week we decided to put that right with a trip to The Cormorant. It's somewhere I had never been, though Dad had visited several years back. So with the foodie revolution in full swing, we were interested to see what had developed in this new neck of the woods.

Upon arrival, the car park was busy, usually a good indication of what is in store. The pub is certainly of the large variety, and consequently was struggling to warm itself and its customers on this particularly cold day. We collected drinks and headed for a table in the window. On our way, we discovered the specials board, advertising pork casserole and bangers and mash, both at just under £10. This was a good sign, hearty winter food at a fair price. We took our seats and got stuck in to the menu proper. Our first expectations of good value were quickly blown out the water when we saw that garlic bread was priced up at a lofty £5 for two bloomer doorsteps. They would have to be almost literal doorsteps to justify that price tag. Other starters were on the steep side, averaging around £6. The mains were a mixed bag. There were plenty in the £10 - £12 bracket, but several that had crept in to dangerous town. This is all well and good if the food is outstanding, so we try not to judge cost until after the food event. There is also one more point I can't help mentioning about the menu. My earlier use of the word hearty was more by design than accident. It became clear quite early in our observations that there was a hearty theme afoot. The first item on the main menu was followed by that word, hearty. We just thought that maybe that was a particularly big meal. But low and behold, the second item was also followed by hearty, as was the third and the fourth. By then we were in a smiling bubble of confusion. Eventually, we came to a meal which was followed by, "Small or Hearty". It then became clear that some meals are available in different sizes. Ultimately, no menu should be subjected to that many hearty's.

Dad picked out the pork belly with mustard mash, while I, low on options, chose the fish and chips. This was available in small or hearty. I of course went for the hearty option at £12 something. As we waited, we commented on how busy the pub was. Certainly one of the busier pubs that we've visited of a lunch time. We then also deduced that, to the best of our knowledge, there aren't many other pubs in the area. We may be wrong, but perhaps if you fancy a pub lunch in Portchester, this is your only option.

Before long, the food was placed before us. One of the first things we noticed was the size of my chips, they were the largest species of chip we have encountered on our travels. Since I had chosen the hearty option, I was presented with two pieces of fish and a good pile of chips. Said chips were quite good. They were cooked all the way through, which can be a common floor with oversized chips. The batter on the fish was nice and crisp, though the fish inside was slightly overcooked. Dad's pork was neither wonderful nor terrible, although the promised crackling was poor. Far from being crisp and delicious, it was in places leathery and unpleasant. His mash wasn't bad, but his cauliflower was overcooked.

We had a pleasant enough lunch at The Cormorant, but it wasn't without floors. As already stated, it was a touch frosty and there were some minor issues with the food, and perhaps with the prices in places. It seems they are trying to do things properly here, but it's not quite coming off. It's what I would call standard pub food from a few years back. we would pay a tenor for it and wouldn't grumble, but as soon as you start raising prices, you also raise expectations, and the possibility of disappointment. Our most fundamental question when reviewing is, would we go back. Although we wouldn't roll on the floor and have a tantrum if a friend arranged to meet there for dinner, it wouldn't be near the top of our list of must revisit pubs.

Atmosphere          7
Service                 6
Food                    7
Value                   5
Verdict                 3.5*


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