UPDATE 16/05/2018 scroll to bottom of post
Southsea Beach Cafe is situated right on the seafront, not far from South Parade Pier in Portsmouth. Once home to a public toilet block it has now been transformed into a cafe with excellent views across the Solent and the IOW, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Helen was home for a little visit from her travels, having been away for over 7 months and had surprised me only a couple of days before. It was lovely to go out and have lunch and do a little blogging together instead of being millions of miles away from each other.
The interior is quite a clever design, having a roof which can be rolled back and sides which can be opened or closed depending on which way the wind is blowing. This way you feel as if you’re outside, plus you get all the lovely fresh sea air. Although this was nice, I still felt as if I was in someone’s very large garden shed. It was completely void of any colour or decor. Being beside the sea I expected some sort of sea theme with ropes, fishing nets, a life belt perhaps. The waiting staff’s navy and white striped tops were the nearest to it. We came up with endless ideas ourselves.
We decided to sit indoors as it was a very hot, sunny day and there appeared to be no umbrellas or shade outside. A very friendly waitress greeted us and gave us each a menu. I enjoyed a very nice flat white coffee with a heart shaped ‘coffee art’ in the froth, which stayed there right until the end of the drink. With my meal I enjoyed a pleasant glass of white house wine, which was a good price at just £2.70 for a small glass.
For my main meal I ordered fish cakes which were quite tasty and were served with a nice sweet chilli dipping sauce, coleslaw and a good sized portion of French fries in a tin. The mayo’ came in a mini ‘jam jar’ with a lid – like the Bon Mamam jam jars – which I thought was rather a good idea.
The coleslaw was very dry and was basically just shredded carrot and beetroot. I think the mayo’ was missing. I’m afraid I couldn’t eat it.
Helen ordered the summer salad. On the menu it was written that it had a caper, parsley and shallot dressing. As Helen doesn’t like capers she asked if the dressing could come on the side so she could add as little or as much – or none – as she wanted. Yes, yes that was fine, no problem. She also asked for some tomatoes, again that was fine. When the salad arrived there were around a million tiny capers on and in the salad. She spent the next half hour picking them all out. The waitress was very apologetic when she saw this. A ‘dressing’, one would assume, would be of a liquid form. Helen asked about a dressing and all she received was a mixture of olive oil with balsamic vinegar in a pot. The sundried tomatoes appeared to be almost non-existent, the fresh tomatoes she asked for didn’t arrive and there were no shallots. The ‘salad’ consisted of just a few pale yellow leaves of cos lettuce. Now I don’t know about you, but I like a salad to be a mixture of different leaves such as rocket, lambs lettuce, that kind of thing. This came with a portion of the coleslaw the same as I had which Helen couldn’t eat either. We did give our feedback on the disappointing salad when asked our thoughts by the manager and were told that they were trying out different salad leaves which keep fresh for longer.
There were two ‘jam jar’ puddings on the board for dessert. One was an Eton Mess which I really like but we settled on the dessert which was raspberry fool, Chantilly cream, layered with fresh English raspberries. As soon as we saw the dessert we thought it looked a little dry. And it was. It certainly wasn’t a fool, it seemed to have been mixed in with the cream and making it rather thick and dry. Neither did it have a lot of taste to it. It also had a few pieces of sponge which were quite dry too as it had nothing to soak up. So, a very disappointing dessert and for £5 we feel it wasn’t worth it. Home-made cakes were on the menu but all we saw were scones and croissants underneath domes on a table. As you know, a key to my heart is a decent dessert!
We happened to speak with the manager once we had left and she was telling us of their plans for the future, putting in a special covered-over area for the colder/wet weather, suitable for dogs being one of them. I am not a dog lover so that definitely won’t appeal to me (a dog-owner friend of mine told me she felt the same). Wifi was supposedly available but neither of us could get it without signing up, but even then it required special authorisation.
As I said previously, we think they can do much more to this place. I didn’t feel that it was nice enough for me to return, especially as there are already a number of good places for lunch in the area such as The Tenth Hole Tea Rooms, plus more on their way like the Coffee Cup who are currently busy building their own cafe.
Judging by the comments on TripAdvisor however, we are in the minority. If you walk your dog along the beach then you probably already love this place where you can sit and talk to other dog owners. But we are all different. I can see that this would be where they would get most of their trade from, along with joggers and walkers perhaps, so in that respect they are probably catering for the right customer.
Our experience at Southsea Beach Cafe was disappointing but it does have a lot of potential and with a few things ironed out and some much needed decor, it could become a great little spot along the front. It would be interesting to return in a few months to see if things have changed.
Living life, loving cake
I think up until May of this year I’d only returned to Southsea Beach Cafe once and that was for a hot chocolate in the winter time. This month however I’ve been twice. Our first visit was on the very hot Bank Holiday weekend, everywhere was heaving, long queues for ice creams – which is great for Portsmouth, don’t get me wrong, it was lovely to see so many people out enjoying the long awaited sunshine. We decided to stop for a glass of wine and were told that we had to have something to eat with it, which was fine. We weren’t terribly hungry as we’d eaten not long ago at Manna Tearooms in Old Portsmouth, so Geoff had some fries and I a dessert. The fries were very nice, the dessert was a lemon posset with lemon crumble and blueberries served with a lemon biscuit. It was nice, but the lemon posset was a little runny underneath, I presume something had separated in the heat. It was lovely to sit by the open ‘window’ which had been rolled up, watching people on the beach, the place has a nice ambience. The service was very friendly too. It looks better inside now, although they still don’t have a lot of decor but it seems better and they have a wide selection of cakes in one corner. The open seating shown in an earlier photo above is now covered over with the same plastic which can be rolled up, so they have two areas still, I think one might allow dogs, I like that the two are separate as we’re not all a lover of dogs, especially in eating establishments.
On our second visit, only a few days later, I visited it again this time with my daughter Helen – and the other half of livelifelovecake. We met up with a friend with a new baby, cuddle time! We arrived on the cusp of the change over from the breakfast and lunch menu (11.45 – 12.15) which worked out just fine as Helen wanted something from the lunch menu. She got to hold the baby whilst I and the new mother could eat our breakfasts and then when Helen’s lunch came I got to hold the baby.
I had a very nice flat white – two in fact – and the toasted sourdough with smashed avocado, with poached eggs. As an extra I added the roasted mushroom for £1. And it was just one mushroom! Not even a large field mushroom, medium maybe, I was just thankful that it wasn’t a button mushroom. I thought that was a bit mean. Service again was very very friendly though. It was a little chilly that day so the plastic windows were down which is a shame as you can’t see out so well.
I took away a piece of sponge cake to share with my elderly aunt later that day, an Earl Grey sponge cake with a lemon curd filling. My aunt thought it was delicious but I though it had a very weird taste and didn’t really like it.
Would I return? Probably as it has a nice ambience and friendly staff although I certainly wouldn’t queue up to do so. There are better places in Southsea to eat at – in my opinion 😉 .
P.S – we still coudn’t get the free wi-fi to work…