There’s no shortage of obvious headlines for a trip to Pompey in November; half an hour spent in Fratton’s Spoons provided no end of witticisms, most unrepeatable. Always safest to use the tried-and-tested Joe Jackson one.
Wetherspoons seem to fall into two camps now. OAP and family dining (e.g. St Neots), and male dominated cheap boozers where you can escape from your wife (don’t judge me). The John Jacques was showing the Arsenal match to a crowd of 1664 drinkers on Sunday, the first time I’ve seen Premiership football in a standard Spoons.
The takehome points from a boisterous pub were; “Gary Anderson can’t check-out, that’s his problem” (something to do with darts rather than hotels apparently), and “Bournemouth are gonna score any minute” (they did, just as I left). There was also a vigorous argument over which county Farnham was in (“It’s ‘amshire, innit ?” “Nah, it’s Lunnon !”, and on and on). Pub Curmudgeon would have exploded with rage.
Fratton Road is the least gentrified of the city’s many ungentrified suburbs, replete with kebab shops, carpet centres, gaming arcades, and surprisingly great street art.
I’d left a bit of Cotleigh Buzzard (NBSS 3) undrunk as I needed to whizz off to the station. Once again getting my train times completely wrong (old age), I returned to it 15 minutes later, perhaps in the hope of hearing the resolution of the Great Farnham Debate. My untouched 1/3rd had improved, which may be a groundbreaking discovery. Or not.
My next tick, ten minutes up Fratton Road, looked incredible.
And shut. The Florist joins a long list of pubs to close before their GBG innings has really started. Please don’t say I should have looked on WhatPub first; it just makes me more depressed about the failings of the Guide.
Worth the walk for the exterior views, a view Fratton’s residents clearly don’t share given the wide berth they gave me as I took photos of their iconic pubs.
At least Telephone Street knows the value of urban architecture, displaying its 3rd prize for Best Dressed Street with pride. A shame then it was so awful, except in comparison with Gillingham or Anfield I suppose.
But the Beer Guide pub at the end of it was yet another Southsea gem. Rather like Norwich, but with less obsession with guest beers, the city is full of attractive corner pubs like the Rutland Arms, which offer little but comfortable seating, cheery locals, the Pogues on repeat and decent beer. My notes say Goodards (NBSS 3) – can that be right ?
We spent part (the best part) of our honeymoon in Southsea, but sadly my notes of beer scores from that trip haven’t survived three house moves. Virtually all the pubs look inviting, and seem to rotate in and out of the Beer Guide. It would be very difficult for the average pub tourist to guess the Guide entry.
You may well have predicted the arrival of the Wine Vaults in the new Guide though. With dozens of beers, quirky stylings and a bicycle in the window, how can it fail in a city crying out for craft ?
I disliked it intensely. Having praised Fullers for their craft makeovers in Acton and Westbourne Park, this place felt like a little slice of Twickenham. Which isn’t good. High tables full of empty Amstel glasses, wine-drinking hipsters blocking the way to the bar, screaming children, dull beer (Vibrant Forest, NBSS 2.5). “Scrumptious bar boards and Sunday Roasts” says WhatPub. Which says it all really.
The Wave Maiden shows Southsea how to do craft. This is like a weird mix of Tunbridge Wells Fuggles Beer Café and the Sheppey Inn, which is a huge compliment. Proper seating, two beers from the barrel (Siren NBSS 3.5), chatty staff, and a dish of cheesy chips and gravy that has shortened my life by 734 days. It’s the sort of food you get in the best German biergartens.
I can find little to fault with Southsea, which frankly is Portsmouth. If you make it past the Maiden you can take in the enduring joy of Portsmouth’s top road (Castle Street), and not just for its two Beer Guide regulars.
As the sign says;