It’s been two years since I’ve visited The Parade Tearooms in Southsea (until now that is). Some may find that hard to believe as lots of people love it and return again and again.
On our very first visit soon after they opened, we were disappointed and I think we made one more trip to The Parade not long after that and felt the same on that occasion too (I write notes when I visit places). The owner, Mark said that several dishes would be the same as The Tenth Holes’ from years back when he worked there, before they were taken over. I was so hoping they would have the cream cheese dip which they served with the sandwiches and nachos because I loved it, but alas he said they did not 🙁
Anyway, I finally returned recently in October with a friend who frequents the place often, to see if I would change my mind.
We got there around 12 and there was no queue, we were lucky. There’s a sign at the entrance asking you to wait to be seated and we didn’t have to wait long before a friendly young server showed us to our table next to the window, overlooking the common and Clarence Parade Pier. The place was filling up fast.
Inside is really very nicely decorated and it has a cosy feel to it (it used to be an old sub station so they’ve done a fab job). There’s one long room with windows all around overlooking the common and skylights in the ceiling so it’s light and bright even on the most miserable day I would think. There are several arches, two of which look into another square room which has a fireplace and more seating.
There’s certainly plenty to chose from on the menu and once we’d made our’s we had to leave our shopping bags, camera etc., to order at the counter, for which there was now a small queue. I must say, I much prefer table service, especially in a fairly large place such as this. If you’re ordering for others and are asked a series of questions such as “brown or white bread?, milk or cream with coffee” etc, etc., then it gets rather stressful trying to make the choice for them and then worrying if you made the correct one.
Instead of having to queue up again, we ordered our dessert at the same time. I wonder how many people get put off having an extra drink or even a cake if they face another long queue.
I ordered one of the specials of the day, the pulled pork in a brioche bun with fries. The bun was fresh, the chips were nice and the pork was tasty with a BBQ sauce, very much like Wonderland Cafe’s and other’s I’ve had around town (perhaps they all use the same supplier).
We each had a coffee served in what looked like half pint beer mugs, a cappuccino and a flat white. They were ok but not what you’d get at say, Southsea Coffee Co., up the road.
Sarah almost always orders Jayne’s Salad (which comes from the original Tenth Hole’s menu).
There were lots of cakes to choose from, chocolate lumpy bumpy, toffee lumpy bumpy and lemon meringue pie are some of them including several sponges and other cakes such as millionaire shortbread, flapjacks, Bakewell tart, choc chip shortbread and again, lots more, all very big slices! I ordered a slice of Bakewell tart to take home to Geoff.
Sarah and I decided to share a slice of strawberry cheesecake. It was truly delicious, smooth and creamy.
The staff were friendly and very pleasant and the place was full as we were leaving, we had to claw our way out as there were people queuing all the way to the door and outside so it’s very popular.
Geoff and I shared the Bakewell tart later that evening, it was big enough for two quite easily. It was nice, but not the best Bakewell tart I’ve had and far too big for one person, not that I’m complaining.
Will I return? Well, it’s a bit out of the way from all the other places in Southsea and so if I went there and found a queue I’d probably walk on by. I hate going somewhere and not being able to get in. And you can’t even book at the Parade, not even for Afternoon Tea. To be honest, knowing how popular it is I probably wouldn’t even bother trying (which is one reason why I haven’t returned). I could never go there with elderly relatives (all octogenarians) as they certainly wouldn’t be up to queuing for a great length of time especially not out in the cold or damp and then we’d have to try and find somewhere else to accommodate us which would mean more walking which they wouldn’t be up to. I think having a few tables to book would be a good idea and perhaps save some for walk-ins, maybe half and half.
I hope this doesn’t sound like a negative review, it’s not meant to be (and I’m sure they’ll survive without me, they seem to be doing just fine 😉 ) but life’s too short to queue – unless it was somewhere amazing. Years ago we used to do just that but there are so many places around nowadays you don’t need to.
Looking back at my notebook I’d given the same scores as below without even realising.
Return? Unlikely, unless with someone who really, really wanted to go there – read the last paragraph on why
Living life loving cake
The Parade also have another eatery of the same name but at Vernon Gate, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth