The Briny, Southsea
The Briny is a little pocket of sensational seafood and chic styling. So, leave the bucket and spade at home and bring your appetite instead.
The city of Portsmouth was bubbling with excitement when the builders moved into a former chip shop on the seafront. Imagine everybody’s delight when it was no longer soggy chips in a paper bag and instead revealed as a proper luxe seafood eatery.
Smack bang on Southsea beach the restaurant, now called The Briny has one of the best views in the city. It overlooks the Solent and there’s also the chance to see Ryde peeking out on a clear day.
The restaurant is owned by the same family team behind other Pompey favourites such as The Canteen, Tenth Hole and aBar Bistro. Each of its outlets has its own unique character and vibe, all working in harmony with local suppliers and each earning a name as foodie hotspot in the city.
Looks can be deceiving and stepping into the foyer, you immediately clock this is not just any old fish bar.
The place is decked out with cool wicker furniture, driftwood-esque tables and both the furniture and walls are adorned with a colour palette of soothing greys and whites.
The bar (wonderfully stocked with local booze, no less) comes complete with summer-vibe bar stools and to the rear there are floor to ceiling glass doors, opening right out to the seafront and letting in plenty of light and all the picturesque scenery. It’s ideal for a spot for a sunny day of people watching.
You can tell that the interior has been carefully thought through and some of the furniture was actually shipped over from Oz. The overall effect is a beachy seaside vibe, complete with Byron Bay feels.
Although there’s a very distinct shoreline feel, we popped along on a Winter’s weeknight and found it a perennial spot. Busier than I would have expected for a school night, there was a low-level hum of diners, snuggly corners bathed in candlelight and groups of friends, along with couples, sitting back, drinking good wine and swapping conversation.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The food menu isn’t huge but it’s eclectic and full of adventurous choices along with safe bets. Menu highlights include a starter of Smoked Eel & Pork Pie (£7) and Lobster and Oxtail Cassoulet (£21), along with daily specials and Moules of the Day.
Drinks-wise, the wine list isn’t huge but as the owners also conveniently run Camber Wines. Armed with this knowledge, they know their plonk and with glasses topping out at a max of around £6, you’re guaranteed an excellent tipple to go with your meal.
I picked a Rag & Bone Riesling from Oz (£5.75) and my sister chose a Sileni Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand (£5.50), had it not been a school night I would have selected fab, local gin Mermaid, from the Island though.
Knowing our eyes are usually bigger than our bellies and the lustre of such a delicious looking menu, we opted to share a starter of Spicy King Prawns that came accompanied with Chinese Cabbage, puffed wild rice and cucumber (£9). There was a big “Ooooh!” as it came to the table and with good sized meaty prawns and a wonderful umami dressing, it was finished in record time with declarations of love for the addition of the crispy wild rice.
Mains proved trickier to choose from and there was going to be an element of food envy whatever we chose.
A purist, I went for the Moules of the Day which in this case was the Normandy classic – marinière – along with a huge chunk of wonderfully dense beer bread to mop up the sauce. A ginormous portion that could have easily fed two, I bravely soldiered on through the delicious mollusc morsels.
My sister was feeling brave and decided to take the plunge with the delightfully named, and certainly unique, Kentucky Fried Trout. Despite the fast-food connotations, this was pure class on a plate.
With two large pieces of flaky trout the batter was dark and crisp, sat atop of a mix of homemade slaw and plain yoghurt. The pairing raised my eyebrow, but on sneaking a taste the yoghurt balanced out the meatiness of the trout and sis declared it a triumph.
To counteract the buttery, fried mains we thought we’d be really good and order some vegetables in the form of tenderstem broccoli with brown crab and caper butter (£4) and erm… skin-on fries (hey, it’s a vegetable!). They were both delicious, the brown crab and caper butter was rich and added a sense of naughtiness to the greenery.
Although we were quite full, we courageously ordered a sharer from the dessert menu (in the name of journalism, of course). Options consisted of treacle tart with thyme mandarins (£8) and chilled Thai rice pudding (£7.50), but the lure of chocolate was too strong and we selected the dark chocolate marquise with blackberries, pistachio puree and frosted pistachios (£8.50). It came out looking incredibly beautiful and too good to eat… well, almost. It was rich and decadent, the frosted pistachios adding a brilliant crunch. Plates were cleared and promises to go to the gym were made.
OUT & ABOUT
Well, there is the small matter of the seafront. If you don’t fancy doing anything too taxing following your food, a stroll along the beach in either direction comes with fresh sea air and sights along the way.
In one direction, you can opt for a spot of seaside nostalgia by visiting the refurbished South Parade Pier. As well as being home to the Gaiety Bar which often has cracking cabaret, it comes with a dose of pop culture as The Who (yep, the band) once famously burned it down while fiming their rock opera Tommy.
In the other direction, you can see Southsea Castle, the spot where Henry VIII watched the Mary Rose sink to the bottom of the Solent (Oops!) and where there also happens to be a cheeky little Champagne bar in the Summer months.
If you head away from the seafront you can bimble along to Osborne and Palmerston roads. This makes up the shopping precinct of Southsea and while the big chain stores such as John Lewis and Debenhams have recently shut up shop, it’s been bolstered with a smattering of excellent independent shops and community outlets. If you fancy adding craft and learning into your trip, check out newly opened The Liberty Lounge where you can take classes in web design, macrame and even join the Grateful Hearts club for a spot of female empowerment.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Romantic dates, girly mates, seafood fiends and those in between. This place has bags of swag and food that is as good as it sounds.
Not for: While there are veggie and vegan options available (and different from the usual risotto. Hoorah!) there isn’t a huge selection so you may run the risk if you have a fussy plant-based eater with you. If you go in the peak of Summer it’s going to be busy as well, so one to watch out for.
The Damage: While the whole place feels slick and expensive the food is slick and inexpensive. You could easily have a three-course meal for two, with drinks for under £80.
The Briny, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, Portsmouth, Southsea PO5 3PG. Tel: 023 9282 6676