Far from being all at sea, The Lightship offers elevated dining, with the added bonus of being onboard a charming old ship.

There’s a vague sense of movement as I finish my excellent Smoky Old Fashioned cocktail and it’s not from the alcohol. The restaurant has just risen a tiny amount from the belated effects of a large boat passing by, it’s rather charming.

The whole restaurant is charming. It is, as you might gather from the name, a 1940s converted lightship. When she was called the Mary Mouse 2, she guided ships off the coast of Portsmouth before being decommissioned, totally revamped and securely moored here in the Haslar Marina, Gosport with views over the Solent and the historic Portsmouth Harbour

Walking through the Marina toward The Lightship along the floating pontoon deck, admiring all the pretty yachts as the sun starts to go down, I rather expect a rather tatty place, all ‘character’ and poor food, but that is very much not the case. This is an extremely well-done refurb and the dining is fine.

We pause once onboard  to check out the open deck and bar areas, where locally sourced charcuterie, cheeses and fresh seafood are there to share in good weather, as well as the mighty lighthouse that rises up from the centre. Then it’s below decks to be seated in front of the window/portholes with a great view of Portsmouth’s landmark Spinnaker Tower across the water, as well as the criss-crossing Isle of Wight ferries.

Everything on board is bright and fresh, the retro-themed interior decor is modern and welcoming and  Head Chef Jamie Fegan’s compact menu reads well. Plenty of choice for meat and fish eaters, as well as one vegan starter and a vegetarian main.

The sea air on the walk from the Marina car park has made us both crave fish, doesn’t it always?  So, as we eat bread, we argue over who gets the crab ravioli starter (actually a raviolo) with lobster bisque and samphire, and I win.

It’s very good, the crab meat excellent and the bisque well flavoured and I always like the salty smack of samphire. The pasta is a little bit too thick, obviously chef doesn/t want the expensive raviolo disintegrating when cooked, but if the filling was a little bit looser he/she or  could probably safely go down a notch or two on the pasta rolling machine.

Not the case with P’s Rosary Goat’s Cheese Tortellini, (Rosary is a Salisbury cheese). Very delicate pasta parcels and well-stuffed with a creamy goat’s cheese that doesn’t overpower the tarragon cream and the asparagus. Nasturtium leaves on top don’t just look pretty, they add a distinct and pleasant peppery note.

With the cocktails drunk, we’re on a glass of red each, Vida Viento Merlot, Chili. Many wines come from local The Grange, with local beers and ales from PowderMonkey, gin from Mermaid Gin and rum from Solent Spirit. It’s worth noting that the bottle prices on all the wines show admirable restraint, no price gouging here.

As I said we’re fish-focused tonight so as the Spinnaker cycles through its light show we stow away the temptation of Lamb Rump with a wild garlic risotto, as well as Pig Cheeks, and splash out again.

For me the cod loin, a mighty good-sized portion, sat on a nicely rough pea puree, with tempura samphire, tangy tartar sauce and a crisp potato terrine, not the pea and vinegar terrine promised on the menu.

Still no matter, it works. Fine fish, although I do like a crisper skin, and while cod is one of the blander fish, give me hake for preference, the tartar sauce and pea puree give it a traditional feel but in a fine dining way.

P has halibut which I wanted, but I gave way seeing as I had caught the crab. Again a mighty chunk of well-cooked fish. The Grange veloute, wine from the Hampshire Downs, bathes the fish in extra flavour, and pickled radish, asparagus and pea all help too. A tempura rock oyster perched jauntily on top makes it smart.

A bowl of mixed veg is helpful, although the broccoli is rather close to its use by date. Excellent small spuds in wrinkled skins mop up the extra veloute.

So to dessert, my passion fruit and pomegranate  ‘Eton’ is good, although the meringue has a bit too much sugar in the mix which renders it hard, rather than crisp and chewy.  P has the Blood Orange Tart  with pickled rhubarb and a  poppy seed tuile. It’s a very geometric dish, almost austere in look, but very well balanced for flavour.

It’s dark outside now as we happily disembark and head back to our rooms at The Creek (owned by the same people), the tide is in, the pontoon bobs under our feet, and I am careful not to end a very good meal by taking an impromptu dip in the Solent.

If you’re local or visiting, The Lightship definitely rocks. 

The Lightship, Haslar Marina, Gosport, PO12 1NU