Actual Opening Hours: Mon closed; Tue 17:00 ’til 23:30; Wed Thu closed; Fri Sat 16:00 ’til 23:30; Sun closed.
Finally opened on 11th December 2016 after many years of delays, this street corner bar is an independently-run business, situated at the eastern end of Southsea’s prime drinking and dining district. Aimed at a varied clientele, from students to local residents, the premises consists of two rooms – one housing the bar counter and a second, larger
area on a raised deck which is home to the main seating area.
Furnishings consist of a mixture of red, vinyl-upholstered bench seats and bar stools set around tables of varying size, as well as traditionally upholstered chairs. The floors are partly carpeted, with the remainder being varnished boards. The walls are a light pastel green and presently without adornment, though plans are afoot to display framed collections of old beer mats around the pub. A jukebox is situated on the dividing wall within the larger seating area.
On the bar, a range of big-brand lagers and ciders is stocked, alongside one or two cask ales – these presently being Sharp’s Doom Bar Bitter and Dartmoor Jail Ale. A small selection of wines and spirits is also stocked (though no single malt whisky) and there is a selection of popular bottled drinks in the chill cabinets. It is hoped to increase the drinks range based on customer feedback, so visitors are encouraged to let the staff know if there is anything they would like to see regularly available. Students receive a 10% discount on production of a valid NUS card.
A free jukebox is available 6pm-8pm on Fridays and a disco and karaoke is held on Saturday evenings. Live music is also performed on occasion. Note limited opening hours (see above).
No food (with the exception of packaged bar snacks) is sold.
Pub Operator: S C Vaizey (Free House)
Reviewed 12th December 2016 (updated 15th March 2017)
Photographed 12th December 2016
Actual Opening Hours: Mon closed; Tue-Thu 12:00 ’til 23:00; Fri Sat 12:00 ’til 00:00; Sun 12:00 ’til 23:00
Starting life as the Marquis of Lorne and later the Old Free House in the 19th century, this pub was renamed in 1983. the Invincible is now a single storey building, tucked away behind The Hard, opposite the Historic Dockyard. The long, single L-shaped bar room is divided into different areas and in December 2014 underwent a sympathetic refurbishment which has seen a number of original fittings, such as the stained glass above and opposite the bar counter, restored. The pub is comfortably furnished and divided into two distinct areas. A large wall-mounted television can be found at the front of house, along with a dart board and pool table. Poker nights are hosted on Tuesdays at 7pm, a quiz is held at 8pm on Thursdays and karaoke is performed each Friday night.
A choice of up to three cask ales is sold, plus standard range of keg beers, wines and spirits. Food is served all day, including Sunday roasts (two for £9.90) from 12pm.
Pub Owner: EI Group
Pub Operator: S Hudson
Reviewed 15th January 2015 (updated 19th February 2017)
Colour photographs: (above) 1st January 2016; (below) 30th September 2006; 11th May 1989.
The Isambard Kingdom Brunel
2 Guildhall Walk
023 9229 5112
Actual Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 07:00 ’til 00:00
Housed in a former gas company’s ornate offices opposite the imposing Guildhall, this was J D Wetherspoon’s first pub to be opened in Portsmouth. Originally to be called the Apprentice Boy, the named was dropped through fear of offending the local Catholic community – political correctness gone mad? It opened simply as Wetherspoons in 1996 and proved an instant success. Now named the Isambard Kingdom Brunel after Portsmouth’s Victorian engineering genius, the pub is almost invariably busy.
The cavernous single bar features a series of load bearing pillars that run the length of the building. Sadly the shafts have been boxed in and obscured from view, though the ornate plasterwork of the capitals remain exposed. The bar has a carpeted floor, with a tiled area running along the length of the bar counter. Large illustrations depicting Brunel’s many achievements are displayed on the walls, along with various maritime prints. High tables and chairs stand in a uniform line opposite the bar and elsewhere are more traditional tables and chairs, plus a small number of booths roughly opposite the central bar counter. The window seats overlooking the square are a popular place to sit and watch the world go by. A raised area at the rear of the house is reserved for diners. Pavement seating is available during the summer months.
At the bar, a wide range of between eight and ten cask ales is available, plus two or three real ciders. A wide variety of other keg and bottled beers and ciders is stocked, plus plenty of wines and spirits. Food is served all day.
Gaming machines can be found throughout the pub and wall-mounted televisions generally show rolling news.
Pub Owner/Operator: J D Wetherspoon
Reviewed 29th January 2015
Photographs: (above) 15th July 2007; (below, left to right) 2004; 13th July 2008.
The Italian Bar & Grill
30/32 Great Southsea Street
023 9275 3058
Actual Opening Hours:
Mon 16:30 ’til 22:00; Tue closed; Wed Thu 16:30 ’til 21:00; Fri 16:300 ’til 22:00; Sat 12:00 ’til 22:00; Sun 12:00 ’til 21:00
This Grade II listed pub was built in 1901 to a design by A E Cogswell. The present structure was built to replace a pub of the same name. The original premises was owned by the Long’s Brewery before later transferring to Gale’s, for whom the replacement house was constructed. Years later the pub became one of a small estate operated by Bass Taverns in Portsmouth. The pub was also extended into the former Hooper’s fishmongers next door (as can be seen in the photographs below).
During the 1990s the pub suffered the unenviable fate of being turned into one of Mitchells & Butlers’ It’s A Scream bars and morphed into a student haunt. It consequently became run down and in much need of renovation. In February 2007 it was thankfully given a new lease of life, being returned to a smart, traditional pub with an empahasis on the Raj theme. The former Hooper’s part of the building housed the pub’s Tiffin restaurant, which specialized in southern Indian cuisine. Sadly, the company folded within two years and in July 2009 the pub reopened as the Italian Bar & Grill.
Now operated primarily as a restaurant, the house nevertheless has a large seating area available to non diners. The pub is bare boarded and traditionally furnished in the main bar area, with a separate rear seating area furnished with leather sofas, where an ornate, metal surround fireplace can be found, above which is hung a large portrait of actress Audrey Hepburn. Other framed prints with an Americana theme are displayed throughout the pub. Low level piped music is played. The left-hand room is given over to dining, where the culinary theme is Italian American cuisine.
Cask ales served are Greene King Old Golden Hen and Fuller’s London Pride. A selection of keg drinks are served and there is a large choice of wines and spirits.
The pub has a patio garden to the left of the building.
Pub Owner: EI Group
Pub Operator: Italian Bar & Grill Ltd
Reviewed 12th March 2015
Photographs: (above) 13th July 2009; (below, clockwise from top left) 13th July 2009; 18th March 2007; 18th March 2007; 18th March 2007; 30th September 2006; 11th May 1989; May 2003 (by Ray Scarfe); March 2002 (by Ray Scarfe).