The Castle Tavern
119 Somers Road
023 9281 7171
Actual Opening Hours: Mon-Wed 16:00 ’til 21:00; Thu Fri 16:00 ’til 22:00; Sat 14:00 ’til 23:00; Sun 13:00 ’til 22:00
The Castle Tavern has existed on this site since the late 19th century and the present building sports a pair of unusual crenellated towers on its east elevation. Once suffering from a poor reputation, the pub was closed by its present owner for three years, reopening at the tail end of 2014 following a high quality refurbishment. The interior is divided into two distinct drinking areas, to the left and right of the bar counter. Laminate flooring is laid throughout the pub and the walls are half-boarded. Furnishings consists of traditional tables and chairs, bar stools and armchairs. An area to the right of the bar includes upholstered bench seats. Among the wall decoration is a small collection of ships’ badges. A prominent carved message on the north wall reads Céad míle fáilte (Irish Gaelic for a hundred thousand welcomes), reflecting the licensee’s nationality. At the front of the pub is a pleasant patio area that is most welcome in summer.
The pub serves cask Marston’s Pedigree and a selection of keg beers and lagers including that brewery’s New World Pale Ale. A range of wines and spirits is also stocked.
Pub Owner: MJM Inns
Pub Operator: J F Molloy
Reviewed 26th February 2015
Colour photographs: (above) 22nd July 2007; (below, left to right) 14th August 2005; 13th July 2008; 18th February 1990.
27 Landport Terrace
023 9281 8270
Actual Opening Hours: Mon closed; Tue-Thu 12:00 ’til 15:00 & 16:30 ’til 23:00; Fri Sat 09:00 ’til 23:00; Sun 09:00 ’til 22:00
This smart lounge bar and restaurant stands close to Kings Road Junction, opposite Portsmouth University’s Ravelin Park. Consisting of a very comfortably furnished front bar, an upstairs restaurant, rear patio and roof garden (as well as pavement seating during warmer weather), the premises has the feel of an upmarket Victorian private club. Wood-panelled walls, large decorative mirrors, ornate chandeliers and well-stocked bookcases can all be found in abundance. The front room of the upstairs restaurant includes an open hearth and Grandfather clock among its features. Towards the rear, the walls and ceilings are partially covered with prints of Classical nudes.
As this website is primarily concerned with drinking, a wide range of roughly three dozen red, white and sparking wines are offered, along with a choice of twelve cocktails. A range of spirits is available as well as draught Peroni lager. Bottled beers consist of Wychwood Hobgoblin Gold and Ringwood Fortyniner (other bottles from the Martston’s stable may sometimes be available).
A small outside drinking area at the front of house is welcome in the summer months. The Chambers is well worth a visit, even if it’s purely to take in the sumptuous surroundings! Non-diners are welcome, though the house is first and foremost an eaterie.
Pub Owner/Operator: D J Inch
Reviewed 22nd August 2015
Photographed 9th March 2017
Portsdown Hill Road
023 9237 1803
Actual Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 11:00 ’til 23:00; Sun 12:00 ’til 22:30
Set high above the city in a commanding position with unrivalled views across Portsmouth, the Solent and the South Downs, the Churchillian was built in 1964 for Salisbury’s former Gibbs Mew brewery. Now owned by national pubco Enterprise Inns, the pub majors on food sales, though enjoys plenty of trade from passing drinkers, especially in summer months when people congregate outside on the south-facing terrace to take in the splendid panorama that rivals the view from any pub garden in the whole of the UK.
Inside, the pub consists of one large, single room, split between a raised area at the front of house, and a second to the left of the bar counter. The pub is mainly furnished with comfortable armchairs set around tables of varying size, as well as high tables with bar stools located closer to the bar counter. The pub is mainly boarded, with the exception of the area at the front of the bar counter, which is flagstoned. The choice of flooring material is certainly not the best option, as the comparitively low ceiling does mean that the pub becomes noisy at busier times. Dampening on the ceiling would improve things no end, though the interior designers appear to have missed this opportunity.
The interior walls and bar front are painted in pastel shades of blue and green. The walls are decorated with a collection of mainly black and white prints, many of which relate to Sir Winston Churchill and associated themes. A large mirror dominates the east wall of the dining area. One item that has been missing from the wall for many years is the framed letter from Sir Winston’s widow, Clementine, addressed to the former licensee of the pub, acknowledging her thanks for the naming of the pub after her husband. It’s hoped that this correspondence still survives somewhere safe.
Turning one’s attention to the drinks on offer, the bar counter sports six beer engines, which at the time of review had four pumps pressed into service, dispensing Sambrook’s Wandle, Purity Ubu, Caledonian Deuchars IPA and Sharp’s Doom Bar Bitter. The management welcomes ale recommendations/requests from customers, with a view to varying the range on offer. In addition to the cask ales sold, Meantime London IPA is available on keg, as well as a standard range of draft lager, cider and stout. The chill cabinets offer a small choice of internationally-brewed beers such as Vedett Blond, Lagunitas and Blue Moon. There is a good choice of wines and an adequate choice of spirits, though disappointingly no single malt whisky is offered.
Low-level piped music is played throughout the pub and there are no distractions from either gaming machines or televisions. Food is served all day (see website for details).
A first floor function room is available for private hire. Plenty of car parking is available at the rear of the pub, or at the front on Widley Walk.
Pub Owner: EI Group
Pub Operator: REL Churchillian Ltd
Reviewed 24th March 2017
Photographs: (top) 11th March 2007; (below, left-to-right) 11th March 2007, May 2001 (by Ray Scarfe).
118 London Road
023 9266 0743
Actual Opening Hours: Mon-Thu 10:00 ’til 23:00; Fri Sat 10:00 ’til 00:00; Sun 10:00 ’til 23:00
This prominent pub in North End’s shopping district was rebuilt in 1937 to a design by A E Cogswell. Until 2005, the interior consisted of two separate bars, with a central servery. It has since been opened up into what is now an overly-large single room.
The pub’s reputation suffered for a time, with the licence being revoked temporarily in 1991. In 1995 it underwent a major refit and had its name changed to the Town House – part of a nationwide chain owned by former national brewer Whitbread. By 2004 the pub had began to lose custom to the newly-opened Wetherspoon outlet nearby and it was then that the latest owner Greene King decided to refurbish the premises once more. Unfortunately the welcome refurbishment came at a cost – the loss of the pub’s traditional name in favour of a pointless, gimmicky and frankly childish one – the Mischief. Thankfully, Greene King appeared to see sense in the summer of 2010 by reinstating the pub’s original and historic name.
Further change came in the Spring of 2015 when Greene King once again spent a considerable sum of money carrying out another refit. Yet again the company saw fit to instigate a name change – this time by dropping the Gardens suffix and rechristening the pub simply the Clarence.
What we now have is a comfortably-furnished pub with a part-carpeted, part-boarded bar area and a mixture of banquette seating, traditional tables and chairs plus high tables with stools. A raised deck overlooks London Road, at the front of the pub, and is separated from the main floorspace by an attractive, metal balustrade.
At the rear of the pub is a raised games area, complete with two dart boards, a pool table, gaming machines and a jukebox. Dancefloor lighting is also installed in this area, for use on certain nights of the week. Sky Sports is shown throughout the pub.
A covered patio seating area is located at the rear of the building, together with a sizeable car park.
Cask ale was reintroduced at the Clarence following its latest refurbishment, with three beers now offered – Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and a changing seasonal ale from the GK stable. A range of keg beers, lagers and spirits is stocked, along with roughly two dozen wines. BrewDog Dead Pony Club ale is sold in bottles.
Food is served all day, with a comprehensive menu offering a good choice of meals, with main courses all being below £10.
Pub Owner/Operator: Greene King
Reviewed 31st January 2015 (updated 15th July 2015)
Photographs: (above) 29th November 2015 (below, left to right) 20th March 2011; 20th March 2011; 14th July 2007; 23rd January 2005; 14th February 1988.
The Coach & Horses
023 9266 0533
Actual Opening Hours: Mon-Sat: 11:30 ’til 23:00; Sun 12:00 ’til 22:30
One of Portsmouth’s most well-known buildings, the Coach & Horses stands at a major traffic junction, at the apex of two main roads. The imposing structure that is the present pub was built to a striking design by A E Cogswell in 1933 and replaced an earlier pub of the same name (as seen in the black and white photographs below). Built in Scottish Baronial style, the building features a hexagonal tower at its northwest corner and a crenellated parapet runs along the full length of the walls.
Up until the early 1990s the pub consisted of a large saloon bar, with dining area, plus a public bar accessed via a separate entrance. The public bar spent a short time throughout the mid ’90s branded as a Cheese & Ale House, with a good choice of cask ales and free peanuts. Now owned by the Spirit Group, it was originally a Portsmouth United Breweries house before being taken over by Brickwoods. In the ’70s it became part of the vast Whitbread empire.
Now knocked through into one very large, roughly U-shaped, bar room, the pub consists of numerous seating areas, with the rear given over to pub games such as darts and pool. A large wall-mounted television is affixed to the chimney breast and shows BT Sports. Here is one of a number of original fireplaces to be found around the pub. Furnishings are a mix of high stables and chairs, comfortable upholstered benches and more traditional seating, with the floor divided into carpeted, tiled and laminated areas. A raised deck is located in the area below the pub’s tower. A separate restaurant area makes up the eastern side of the pub. Wall decoration varies from pop art to prints of old Portsmouth.
An ATM is located at the end of the bar counter and there are plenty of gaming machines to play. The pub offers free pool on Monday evenings, a Thursday quiz and poker on Sundays. Outside is a decked area for al fresco drinking and there is plenty of car parking.
At the bar is a standard range of beers, wines and spirits, including two cask ales (Wells Bombardier and Fuller’s London Pride) as well as American Shipyard Pale Ale on keg.
Pub Owner/Operator: Greene King
Reviewed 31st January 2015
Colour photographs: (top) 14th August 2005; (below, clockwise from top left) 14th August 2005; 13th July 2008; 14th August 1988; June 1999 ( by Ray Scarfe); 1980 (by Ray Scarfe).
The Compass Rose
023 9269 1499
Actual Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 10:00 ’til 00:30
The Compass Rose was built during the 1980s as part of the large Anchorage Park estate that occupies the site of the former Portsmouth Airport. When opened it became one of only two Gibbs Mew pubs in Portsmouth, though the brewery has since ceased production and the pub is now part of national pubco Enterprise Inns’ portfolio. Now located adjacent to a Morrison supermarket, the pub recently underwent a comprehensive refurbishment following a short period of closure in 2014.
The very large, single bar is split into distinct areas, with a raised deck given over to dining – this being the only carpeted area of the pub. The main bar room is bare boarded, with a balustrade separating the bar counter from the remainder of the room. The pub is comfortably furnished, with armchairs, sofas and upholstered bench seats. A row of bar stools can be found opposite the counter. A dart board is located at the end of the bar and a pool table stands adjacent to the main entrance. Gaming machines are available and there are televisions showing either rolling news or Sky Sports. Maritime prints are displayed on the walls. There is a sizeable patio garden and plenty of car parking outside.
As far as drinks are concerned, up to three cask ales are served. Sharp’s Doom Bar Bitter and Atlantic were on offer at the time of this review. In addition, Guinness Dublin Porter and a number of keg beers and ciders is sold, plus a wide range of wines and spirits, including a choice of single malt whiskies. A comprehensive range of lunchtime and evening meals is available at reasonable prices (see website for details).
Pub Owner: EI Group
Pub Operator: A Kirby
Reviewed 19th January 2015
Photographs: (above) 19th February 2015; (below) 14th August 2005; 28th April 1991.
Actual Opening Hours: Mon-Thu 15:00 ’til 23:00; Fri Sat 12:00 ’til 23:30; Sun 12:00 ’til 20:30
Once one of six pubs that could be found around the sprawling Paulsgrove housing estate, the Cross Keys was opened in 1957 and is now the last remaining public house in the immediate area – the others having mostly been the victims of their deprived location. Frequented by a universally local clientele, the pub was run by Whitbread for many years and more recently was owned by Suffolk brewing giant Greene King. By 2014 it had been sold on to independent firm Hawthorne Leisure.
The pub remains a popular community local, though these days the lounge bar is disused, with only the right-hand public bar being available. Furnishings are traditional and there is a pool table toward the rear of the room. Darts is played and an internet-linked jukebox is provided. A covered smoking area is accessed via the rear of the the bar room. Live music is occasionally hosted.
The drinks range is rather limited, with a standard range of kegged lager, cider and Guinness, plus bottled Newcastle Brown Ale and Guinness Original. A small choice of wines and spirits is also stocked.
Pub Owner/Operator: Hawthorne Leisure
Reviewed 31st March 2016
Colour photographs: (above) 2nd December 2015; (below) 11th March 2007.