Traditional pubs sometimes seem few and far between, with high streets overtaken by chains and drinking holes out in the countryside a bit hit and miss – you never know what to expect when you step through the door if you’re not a local. So when my boyfriend and I went to see my sister and her boyfriend in Southampton, they suggested a nice pub for lunch and I was happy to trust their judgement.
The Ship Inn at Redbridge dates from 1654 and has been restored with original features and nods to the nautical theme – in a totally non-cheesy way. In the 19th century the pub was run by one Horatio Nelson – well, Horatio Nelson Smith to be exact. The website lists the pub landlords dating back to 1847 and the pub appears to have only changed hands 17 times during that time. The current hosts have run the pub since 2008 and seem to have created a popular, friendly pub.
The menu was particularly extensive for a pub (for a pub that isn’t a Wetherspoons, anyway) and it took me a while to decide what to have. I love fish and due to the nautical theme there were a lot of fish dishes, some quite unusual for a pub such as swordfish and red snapper. I was intrigued by the ‘seafood mariner’, £11.95, described as smoked salmon, hake, Pollock and prawns in a seafood sauce on a bed of rice noodles served with garlic bread. It seemed quite an eclectic combination and I had images of the seafood sauce being the pink kind you get from jars, but with the noodles being like a stir-fry. My sister was quite dubious about whether it would be very nice; she and her boyfriend ordered substantial baguettes and my boyfriend had a burger. When my dish arrived, we all agreed it didn’t look anything like we expected and actually looked better – and tasted really good. I would have described it as seafood pasta – the rice noodles reminded me more of linguini, and the seafood sauce was a creamy, delicately flavoured sauce with large chunks of the different fish. It was a fairly light dish which is probably why it came with garlic bread, but I’m never a huge fan of garlic bread and had already promised it to my boyfriend.
That meant we still had room for dessert – which I had been hoping as soon as I read the dessert section on the menu. Again, the Ship Inn really pushes the boat out. As well as typical desserts like sticky toffee pudding and apple pie, there was ‘the Ship’s cookie mountain’ – ice cream, cookie, chocolate sauce and chocolate flake – a four layer chocolate cake, millionaires’ ice cream cake and raspberry pavlova – but I was more interested in the sharing desserts. The Ship’s Wreck sounded good, with meringue, white chocolate buttons, ice cream, raspberries, raspberry sauce and chopped nuts, but my boyfriend doesn’t eat raspberries or nuts, so instead we had The Ship’s Chocoholic – ice cream, whipping cream, marshmallows, Dime bits, chocolate fudge cake, maltesers, chocolate buttons and chocolate sauce. And at £7.95 not bad at all – I’ve paid this much for a tiny individual dessert in London restaurants.
When it came to the table we were slack-jawed. Served in a giant glass – like those ‘whole bottle of wine in one glass’ ones you can get in novelty shops (I had one once, and wish I’d kept it now!) it was full of chocolate and full of calories. The ingredients were broadly layered, with the cake on the bottom, the ice cream in the middle and the cream on top. The other chocolate bits were all mixed in, but seemed to be in groupings – so you only got the dime bits if you ate from one side for instance. Even sharing with my boyfriend who loves this sort of pudding it was too much for us! I think if we ate here again – which I would be happy to – I would order a different dessert, one that is more ‘home made’ rather than simply assembled – but it was a great end to a very enjoyable meal.