[ad – gifted meal for purpose of review]
If you live in Southampton you’ve probably at least heard of the Southampton Harbour Hotel, if not had a little sneak peak around the area. I used to be part of a running club in Southampton (shout out SRC!) and there was a route that actually included running around the outskirts of the hotel grounds, which I’m sure the guests loved, and it always looked so fancy! I would also try and catch a glimpse of inside whilst I was running around, huffing and puffing to the point of tears and looking my absolute worst so I have to say, it was very nice to be invited there via Southampton Bloggers for a meal where I was able to redeem myself with a full face of make-up and a normal breathing rate.
If you’re not from round these here parts, the Southampton Harbour Hotel is a brand new development on the marina in a very nice part of Southampton, Ocean Village. The entire building is gorgeous inside and out, it looks and feels very fancy – you know the style, lots of glass and white and of course a huge decadent, spiral staircase. However, it’s also very open plan and with a beautifully chill vibe about the place – it’s decadent, but it doesn’t look down on you and make you feel like a peasant for entering which I very much like. Nice hotels and restaurants often seem to look down on young people (although I’m not as young as people think I am!) which always really annoys me, because young people often have more expendable income than many others so, please, be nice to us! Young locals are also the future of this city and I really feel like that this place has catered for the locals as well as being a luxury destination to visit and stay over night (we met a nice family in the lift who had come down from London with their kids!).
We don’t really have anything like this in Southampton and its been positioned and designed perfectly, and whilst it might not be my usual haunt, I do really appreciate having somewhere nice like this near-by for special occasions. I was invited with my partner to try out the new menu at HarBAR on 6th, which is their rooftop bar with a spectacular view of the city at night. Keeping in theme with the hotel, it’s stylishly put together and has a great mood – relaxing, dimly lit with families and couples chatting away. It’s a large space that curls round into an L shape, separating diners from the bar area where there are extra comfy booth seats and Sailor Jerry art on the walls.
The dress-code is smart-casual which I guess is a little open to interpretation but gives you an excuse to put a little bit of effort in, perfect for a candle-lit date night! I saw the menu before I visited so I can’t act like I was surprised at the lack of vegan and vegetarian options and I went in knowing that I was going to struggle but wanted to try it anyway and figured I could just probe with a few questions when I got there. Unfortunately, I got completely distracted by the fact neither my phone or my vlog camera would work – zig zags flying across the screen – not ideal when you’re there to evidence your experience, so I ended up panic-ordering off the menu without too many questions – thankfully I had my huge DSLR with me (always over-prepared) so I managed to get a few snaps. There are no vegetarian ‘starters’ on offer which is a shame, as it’s so easy to do even if it’s just a soup (the usual culprit!) but to have nothing available is a bit disappointing if you’re going with a three course fancy pants meal in your head. Luckily, the bites and sides section is full of veggie options (with nuts and olives available for vegan grazing) so we ordered a portion of tortilla chips with avocado, chilli and coriander and a helping of hummus with toasted focaccia bread to share between us as nibbles. They were both delicious but the hummus was to die for, the bread was amazing and you get a massive portion of hummus which is always a treat. I’d also like to point out that whilst there were no vegetarian options in the ‘starter’ segment, you could order the vegetarian mains as starter portions.
For our main meal, Simon went for a four cheese pizza and was very pleased with himself when it arrived. The pizza was massive and absolutely loaded with cheese and I didn’t notice until afterwards that apparently there is a vegan pizza option available if you ask your waiter for more info, it’s just not actually on the menu. The general dining menu has no vegan option for dinner but does have two vegetarian options; moroccan style tagine and gnocchi in a san manzano tomato sauce…Which for some people might be a pleasant surprise, but I’m actually not keen on gnocchi or tagine and sound like such a fuss-pot right now. I ordered the gnocchi and it was a huge portion, I probably could have ordered the smaller ‘starter’ portion and had it with a side or something to mix things up but Simon finished off my plate along with the pizza – standard Simon. I’m not a massive gnocchi fan but it was nice and everyone on Instagram loved it so that’s the main thing, right?!
We mulled over desserts for a while as they all looked lovely, none of them are labelled as vegetarian or otherwise so I just assumed they were all vegetarian and just none of them vegan but I probably should have checked as I’m pretty sure my cheesecake had a jelly topping, which I just peeled off and didn’t eat incase it was gelatine based which is quite likely. I’ve since seen the chocolate brownie and oh-my-god that is definitely what I’d recommend ordering just from looking at it alone, I’ll definitely be back here with my dad to investigate as he likes to think of himself as a brownie connoisseur. Simon had the banana split sundae, which he scoffed (obvs) and comes with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and maraschino cherries. I’m really mad at myself for not having the brownie.
Now the important part…the price! I was very pleasantly surprised by the prices. Our starters were only £4 each, which is actually cheaper than some basic chain restaurants and bars. Plus, the quality was higher and the taste absolutely delicious as well as not scrimping on the size. Some of the meat starters vary from £5 – £9 which is still inclusive of more affordable options and I spotted the shrimp tostadas which were huge and well worth the cost. The average main meals range around £8 – £12, excluding steaks which have a mark-up typical of nice restaurants like this, which is also quite affordable and isn’t going to lead to a heart attack when the bill comes. A three course meal here would actually work out the same or cheaper than most chain restaurants I can think of, which is absolutely insane when you consider how beautiful the location and surroundings are alongside the impeccably friendly service – when you catch someones eye across the room or in passing, they’ll always smile at you, which is a nice touch as a lot of places staff avoid eye contact in fear that you might ask for something! The desserts range from £4 – £6.50 (excluding local cheeses at £9.50) which is average around here and we finished our night with teas and coffees, as I was driving, served with a biscuit (as if we weren’t stuffed enough!) which was a lovely touch to wind down the evening.
All in all, the place is stunning and had a really chill vibe that you wouldn’t expect from somewhere that seems so ‘posh’, the vegan options are seriously lacking in comparison to the surrounding competition as everyone has massively stepped their game up after this years Veganuary campaign, with nothing but success to show for it. The menu is okay for vegetarian diners, though I would suggest that you ask a few more questions to double check so you know for sure! I’m not 100% whether the parmesan used is definitely vegetarian (after five years of working in hotels I know many chefs forget about this ingredient) and I’d check up on the desserts, too. My only criticism would be on the options for plant-based eaters and that the labelling of the menu could probably do with a little attention to detail, as some will avoid the restaurant altogether thinking there are fewer options than there actually is. However, this isn’t the sort of place you come just for the food this is a vibes place; perfect for dates, birthdays and special occasions and I think HarBAR on 6th is smashing it as a new arrival. They have absolutely everything else down to a tee and with a few improvements to the variety offered on the menu I think they could hold their place as a fierce competitor in the area for years to come. I’d love to return to try their Afternoon Tea as well as the Jetty Restaurant as they seem to cater for vegetarians and vegans much more openly!
This meal was complimentary for me and my partner (along with a couple drinks!) for the purpose of reviewing the new menu, all opinions are still, of course, my own and honest, and always will be.