Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Italian Bar and Grill - Portsmouth

Not the birthday meal the Grubgang had expected this month!

So our second outing of the year was Clair's choice (As it was Clair's Birthday!) and she decided on The Italian Bar & Grill in Great Southsea Road in Portsmouth.
Tucked away off Elm Grove and having been converted from an old pub the restaurant offers loads of legroom and is very spacious. The decor and atmosphere is nice, but this unfortunately is where the compliments mostly stop…
Unfortunately,  Clair felt it was a real let down and feel that the trip advisor reviews are very misleading, as this is where she had found out about the venue in the first place.

Peter felt the service was awful. With no rapport established by the waitresses, no eager to please attitude, and certainly no reason to tip. Dean felt that the service was also very slow and that the waitresses seemed more interested having a chat at the bar then serving their customers. Gemma did note that there was a little banter at the start of the evening, however as the night progressed it became non-existent. Whilst Dave thought the staff seemed friendly enough at first, but it seemed obvious that there was no ownership of their guests; we waited a long time to have our starters taken and when plates were cleared, only half were taken, the rest by a different waitress, and the bill was also wrong…

As for the food, Gemma’s starter didn’t arrive with everyone else, and when we queried it, they informed us she was waiting for a starter she didn’t order! When it did arrive it was just a bowl of prawn and crayfish on a few leaves and smothered in Marie Rose Sauce. Not the most intricate starter but we have certainly experienced better presentation elsewhere. There wasn’t even a slice of bread to go with it!

As for Mike his starter was the Chicken wings and he felt that they had far too much BBQ sauce on them, whilst Dave and Dean had nachos and felt they were nothing exciting. Yes it's hard to get a bowl of crisps and two dollops of sauce wrong, but they said they have definitely had better. There was however a good amount of chips, just not enough sauce. It seemed they were just lobbed in a bowl and sauce splattered on top.

Clair’s starter choice (Garlic Mushroom Crostini) was not too bad, although like the others she had certainly had far superior versions elsewhere.
It seems the only starter that the restaurant excelled on was Pete’s. The combination of Fresh Mussels with a chilli sauce and a chunk of ciabatta was lovely. It had a little kick that was not overpowering and really enhanced the mussels. He was also given a bowl to clean his fingers with, which was definitely needed after he had finished! There were also no closed shells and the portion size was perfect. So at least they got something right…

For her main course Gemma wanted the Lasagne and was a little disappointed that they didn't have any, so she opted for an old favourite of chicken and mushroom carbonara. She was offered penne or spaghetti (which wasn't shown on the menu so took her by surprise) and opted for spaghetti. It was described as being prepared in a double cream sauce… What arrived (when it finally did) looked like it had never even seen a sauce. It was mainly oil (grease possibly) and covered in melted cheese, which made us think it had been sat waiting a while under the lamps in the kitchen. The chicken was tough and overcooked (like leather!) and the amount of oil really put Gemma off the meal. It was not creamy at all and she ended up leaving half of it! This wasn’t even noticed by the staff when the plates were cleared!

As for Dave’s main it was frankly, just horrible. He had the I-Burger with a double patty (half pounder). He was expecting this to be home made. It was supposed to be smoked bacon, onion rings, BBQ and blue cheese sauces. All he could taste was the blue cheese, which there were masses of it (Far too much for the burger to be honest). The patties themselves were the same fare as found in any industrial estate burger van. There was a generous portion of French fries to go with it though. However it doesn't really make up for the fact that he ended up paying £11 for a burger that you can get in any DIY store car park for £3.50 minus the blue cheese and chips.
Mike also commented that his main of a spicy Bean burger was also not very nice.
The only dish that seemed to please was Pete’s… Although The Calzone was very tasty he did ask for no onions and unfortunately there was still some in it. Also the calzone was not wrapped properly and as such some of the sauce had spilled out of the side. It was cooked well though and the Cajun fires as a side were really nice.

So with all this combined together it was a good choice to move on from the restaurant to the local Ice Cream parlour Scoops for dessert.
So all in all, even though Peter had been to the restaurant before and had a far more pleasant experience, the speed of the service was ridiculously slow. The food was mediocre at best and teamed with the bill being wrong, we would certainly think twice about visiting again.

A nicely presented restaurant, but poor food and even worse service     

Marks out of 10.......................................................... 5 (Clair Maskell)

Friday, 21 February 2014

Yonkers American Restaurant, Portsmouth

                              An American treat....with a car on the wall!!

Our first Grubgang of the New Year was to Osbourne Road, where Dave had booked the smart looking Yonkers American restaurant for us to try.

When you enter, it is obvious that this is not like any other American diner that the gang have visited. There is a car mounted on the wall as well as many lovely pictures of New York. It has a clean, sophisticated feel! We were seated at a lovely round table, so everyone could join in conversations!

The starters were of good quality, with the gang trying the Ribs, Southern fried chicken and the fishcakes. Gemma highly recommended the fishcakes as being very good value for money, as they were packed with meat! Clair felt that the ribs were a better choice than the southern fried chicken as her little try of Pete's starter really got the mouth watering!

When it came to the main courses, there was a little mix up with the ladies burgers, meaning Clair had Gemma's Pulled pork burger instead of the special burger WITH pulled pork. A little confusing, yes, but still a mistake which should not have been made. That being said, the ladies did enjoy their mains. The patty for the special burger was a little dry, but the pulled park was fantastic. Mike was totally in awe over the sheer size of the burgers and was definitely filled up by his main!! Pete too was shocked to find his chicken burger was a beefburger WITH TWO chicken breasts and onion rings!!! We were definitely not being deprived of portion size!

And so to dessert. Well, it had to be the typical American choices....Pancakes, New York Cheesecake and Apple Pie! Pete asked for the "special Yonkers ice cream" which was listed on the menu, but turned out to be just the same as ordinary ice cream. There did seem to be a few issues on the menu as it turned out. The desserts went down a treat, however!

Overall, the staff were very attentive and polite. We were able to have a little banter with our waiter. Not so good that there were issues with the menu and our orders, but the general quality and presentation of the food was fantastic (if not quite wowing Clair this time) There was a little issue with waiting between the starter and main course, but this seemed to be because they wanted to serve our table at the same time as the other table which was being used at the same time as us. Toilets were clean (If a little confusing for Clair who ended up in the men's!)

It was unanimous that the gang would love to visit again in the future!!

Marks out of 10......................................  8 (Dave Graham)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Casa Brasil , Southampton

                                    A great first choice by Peter, Brazilian style!!
The Grubgang have been very fortunate to try some interesting foods from around the world by visiting restaurants in the South, but had yet to discover Brazilian food. Peter had his first ever choice since joining the Grubgang, so we set out towards Southampton to try out Casa Brasil, an all you can eat Brazilian restaurant full of vibrancy and flavours!

It would be wrong of me to neglect to set a little of the scene on this particular evening, it should be mentioned but not taken away from our overall score! We had been unfortunate to choose a night where thunderstorms had been predicted, and although the lightening was flashing around when we parked up, it was not raining. However, within seconds of leaving the car the heavens opened,  meaning that 6 very soggy and cold people entered the restaurant!! Not a great start for us all sat with soggy bottoms, but at the end of the day this was out of anyones control.

So, to the restaurant and meal itself. The concept is quite simple. You are seated at your table (or squeezed in on this occasion, not very pleasant for some of the gang!) and you are given a card. On this card one side is red, the other green. You place the green side up when you are ready to begin and the food is brought to your table. And when we say food, we! Plenty of it! The meats are brought round on skewers and offered to the table. We counted 14 different types of meat throughout the evening, from sirloin steak (which was a succulent favourite on the table) to Peters personal favourite and delicacy of chicken hearts. We were also offered a great palate cleanser of cinnamon rolled hot pineapple, which we all really loved!! Definitely a winter warmer there!

The side salads, rice, pasta, chips and other small delicacies are offered in the middle of the room, where people can visit as many times as they like to fill their plates. Unfortunately, many people were confused as to what each item was for the side dishes, as nothing was labelled. This could be an issue for people with allergies. What I believed to be a potato croquette turned out to be a banana fritter!! Not really my cup of tea!!

We were a little put off by the fact that despite booking, our table for 6 was a little cramped, with poor Gemma being stuck out on the end. With the loudness in the restaurant and her position, she was unable to hear a lot of the conversations going on within the group. There was also an issue with the bill. Upon phoning to book, Peter had enquired about a service charge, which he was told was not added to the bill. However, upon receiving the bill this was not to be the case, causing a little issue for us where the service charge had put the bill up quite considerably.

Gemma and Dave felt that the rice and cous cous was a little undercooked and Clair was disappointed the chips were also on the cold side, but other than this the food was fantastic and made for a lovely evening (despite the damp start!!)

Marks out of 10.................................. 7 (Peter Hall)