Restaurant 27 Portsmouth - Review
A couple of weeks ago I went on a getaway to Portsmouth and Southsea. It’s only one hour and a half by train from London’s Waterloo Station and it’s perfect for a day trip or a short weekend escapade. I loved spending an entire afternoon in Portsmouth Harbour, browsing around the esplanade, walking on the historic dockyard and watching the boats coming and leaving. There’s something fascinating about harbours, don’t you think? And I have always been jealous of people who live by the seaside. The thought of going to bed and listening to the waves late in the night, or waking up early in the morning for a run along the seashore… And having fresh fish for dinner every single day. Of course it had to do with food. My trips, my dreams, my thoughts are always about food.
The trip to Portsmouth was mainly about food too: a crab sandwich here, some fish and chips there, an ice cream by the pier. You know… the usual suspects. But there was something more to Portsmouth than a typical day by the seaside. And it all happened at Restaurant 27.
Not far from Portsmouth, in the old Southsea town, the small restaurant is hidden in an unassuming, newly refurbished family home. I was friendly greeted and accompanied to my table, and before I knew it a glass of English sparkling wine made its way straight to me. The seven course menu read equally unassuming: canapés; chicken, truffle, cauliflower; lemon sole & Jersey Royals… But there were clues. Like a cheeky ‘bean under toast’ pre-starter which had me envisaging that something exciting was about happen.
The canapés have gracefully set the scene: small bites of joy that opened my appetite and my imagination at the same time. And then, there it was: the ‘beans under toast’ pre-stater. Nothing like that ordinary piece of toast slathered with something that usually comes out of a tin. This one came in a small glass, and tasted similar – only, you know… better.
The ‘chicken, truffle, cauliflower’ starter was possibly the best chicken pie I ever had: juicy, flavourful chicken encrusted in the flakiest puff pastry and set on a light cauliflower foam. A shiny and intense chicken jus was there to round it all up. What a joy! This is the kind of pie that hugs you on a rainy evening, making all your worries go away and bringing a big smile on your face. This is seriously good cooking!
By the time I was heading to the main course section of the menu, I already knew that I’m in a fine place. But it was exactly the fish course that made it straight obvious: impeccably cooked lemon sole, melt-in-the-mouth Jersey Royal potato, slightly vinegary verjus cream and a perfectly crisp piece of leek. Of course, there are many ways in which one could cook and serve a piece of fish and a humble potato. But in fine dining restaurants the question is: how do you make it shine? How do you make it memorable? And I believe that Kevin Bingham, chef-patron at Restaurant 27 Portsmouth just found the answer: treat it with love and cook it to perfection.
For the glazed short ribs that followed I only have one word: yum! Oh sod it, here’s two words for it: very, very yum. Or was it three? Ok, I give up… you know what I mean. And I’m not even a short rib person.
The cheese course was – again – not what I expected. No cheese trolley. No biscuits. No quince jelly. Instead, I got a plate of whipped Blackstick blue cheese served with a black sourdough crisp, fig jam, honey, and rosemary roasted pine nuts. I can still remember each and every bite of this dish. It was sweet, and salty, and tangy, and earthy and everything a cheese dish should be. Although I can imagine and understand the amount of work and knowledge that went into it, it all seemed so natural and effortless. And above all: tasty. And frankly, as much as I love a cheese trolley, I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at it again with the same eyes, when I’ll see it on another menu. Because from now on, I will always hope to receive more. I will always look out for something extra.
The dessert was so good, I even forgot to take a picture of it. But I can give you a word of advice: start with the doughnut and end with that magnificent fennel ice cream. You can thank me later.
Restaurant 27 has just received a Michelin plate. A very well deserved and hard worked plate, which I honestly hope will turn into a star soon. The restaurant is currently open for dinner Wednesdays to Saturdays from 6:30 PM, and for lunch on Sundays from 12:00 PM.
27A South Parade, Portsmouth