6 Waterside Restaurants & Pubs
I can always tell it’s Mothers Day. The daffodils are out, there’s warmth in the sun and my summer-long yearning to chiii-ll by water begins.
I’ve no preference over what kind of water. Riverside is heaven: a mellow stream, weeping willows and the occasional swan, but hum-huu… the sea is dreamy too, salty air blowing away those winter cobwebs, seagulls, yachts and platters of local seafood. And lucky me, because Hants is heaving with waterside eateries — be it river, estuary or crashing wave. So join me for a pint, or something fruity, and read on for my top waterside eateries.
The Master Builders, Bucklers Hard
Overlooking the Beaulieu River, it is difficult to imagine a more picturesque setting, and the fact that it’s positively dripping with maritime history only adds to the charm. On the menu we have local seafood, sharing platters, and pizza from the outdoor oven. Nurse a glass of something delightful and watch the yachts float past. Heaven.
hillbrookehotels.co.uk, SO42 7XB, 01590 616 253
The Boot Inn, Houghton
Set on the River Test, arguably the most famous fly fishing river in the world, The Boot is a proper pub with proper, home-made grub. Its menu is crammed with Hampshire ingredients including trout and John Robinson meat, as well as homemade pies, soups and bread. The garden sprawls down to the water, with an outdoor riverside grill open in the summer.
thebootinn-houghton.co.uk, SO20 6LH, 01794 388 310
The Jolly Sailor, Bursledon
This is the go-to pub for yachties moored up in Hamble Marina, there’s even a pontoon so you can arrive by water. We are, after all, deep in Howards Way country. I went last week sitting on the water-level terrace in spring’s early sunshine surrounded by the marina with boat-builders hammering away next door. Sipping cold wine and enjoying a creamy-rich, seafood chowder, I could have been in The Hamptons or South Africa’s Garden Route. The red-brick building has that raffish air of sailors, and smugglers, and salty goings-on in ye’ olden times; these days, though, the pub is relaxed but well turned-out. One quick note, this isn’t a place for small children and the access is tricky for those with mobility issues. The stairs from road-level are steep and sitting on the narrow outdoor terrace, it wouldn’t be entirely impossible for an errant toddler to plop overboard.
jollysailoroldbursledon.co.uk, SO31 8DN, 023 8040 5557
The Waterfront, Totland Bay, Isle of Wight
Bali right? Or possibly Ibiza? Cafe Del Mar? Er, no… we’re on the Isle of Wight a hop, skip and jumpity-jump from Gosport. The Waterfront boasts the best sunsets on Britain’s very own white isle. Visiting during the day? Have no fear, you’ll miss the sunset but enjoy watching swimmers and yachties from the open-sided restaurant that juts right onto the sea. Sip a cold Pinot Grigio and tuck into Mediterranean comfort food: think platefuls of seafood spaghetti, home-made, stone baked pizzas, locally caught crab and lobster plus fish and chips Fridays. In true Med style, children are very welcome and their menu is extensive.
waterfrontiow.com, PO39 0BQ, 01983 756 969
The Noisy Lobster, Avon Beach
Dorset, Hampshire… meh, what’s in a few metres? Yup, we’re moving into the West Country badlands here folks, but only by inches and by jove, is it worth it. Truth telling, the building isn’t the prettiest, but who gives a fig about architecture when you’re slap-bang on Avon Beach with stonking views of Mudeford and the Isle of Wight. On the menu we have locally-sourced seafood caught, mainly, by fishermen from Mudeford and Lymington: platters of scallops, mussels marinieres, crab and, when in season, local lobster… oh cripes, I’m salivating. Carnivores and vegetarians are of course catered for too. Anyone for espresso martinis on the sun deck?
noisylobster.co.uk, BH23 4AN, 01425 272 162
The Bridge Tavern, Old Portsmouth
Right on Old Portsmouth’s Camber Dock, The Bridge Tavern is the only surviving pub on East Street, once chokka with drinking-dens and salty ol’ seadogs tooting rum and singing shanties — the mind boggles. Still brimming with character but now spick, span and family friendly, the pub has a wonderful atmosphere and serves proper pub grub.
bridge-tavern-portsmouth.co.uk, PO1 2JJ, 023 92752992