On a sunny Saturday afternoon, DD had stupidly forgotten to book a table anywhere. The pub garden at the top-rated pub, The Coal Exchange was heaving. This was where we had originally wanted to go.
But with our plans scuppered, we hedged our bets with an establishment a few buildings along – JJ’s and Johnny’s Tap Room, which luckily had empty tables.
It wasn’t even DD’s idea this time, it was my companion who saw ‘Sunday Lunch’ (not on a Saturday), an enchanting specials board and a promising ambience emanating from inside.
Along the same street is The Blue Bell Inn, Fat Olives and sat right at the top overlooking the harbour is 36 on the Quay restaurant – all of the above are rated at least four stars on Google so there’s got to be some truth behind the rave reviews in this charming little town, right?!
My stomach is growling on entering the establishment, so when our waiter asks where we’d like to sit, I am too preoccupied wondering if there will be pub grub on this menu because I have my heart set on a slap-up burger and chips – or something of that nature. This place looks a bit too upmarket for that though.
We eventually mutter that we’d like to dine inside to the manager, who is cheerful and enjoying his shift – if he isn’t, he’s doing well to disguise it.
We are seated at a low table with comfy sofa chairs under a sunroof and flower garlands dangle from the ceiling. False vinyls decorate the fireplace beside us and kitsch red lamps line the ceiling.
It’s a good vibe. People are talking loudly, servers are friendly and smiling and it strikes me as a great place for a cocktail and a light lunch.
But this time I have other plans. I order a large cod and chips with mushy peas which comes with a pot of tartar sauce (£17).
My companion orders scampi and chips with peas and tartar sauce (£14). The batter is golden, crispy and flaky (but not too flaky) and the perfect medium between greasy enough to know you’re enjoying a treat but not enough to be chip shop guilt…
The cod meat is divine. It’s firm enough to prod my fork into without it disintegrating, but tender and flavoursome all the same.
This is the best tasting cod DD has eaten in a long time. All of it tastes fresh which is a big tick. It would be wrong to waste an opportunity to indulge in a weekend cocktail so DD orders a raspberry patch Prosecco (£10) which is refreshing, sweet and moreish, just to wash it all down. The service is great and though a little on the steep side for our budget, I think it was all worth it. Emsworth remains a stand-out culinary delight in the region and will be getting our custom again.