Cafe Fresco: Canoe Lake, Southsea

Cafe Fresco
Inside Cafe Fresco


Newly opened Cafe Fresco sits on the shores of Southsea’s beautiful Canoe Lake where Green’s used to be. We were so excited to hear of yet another opening in Southsea, especially during these uncertain times where many businesses are struggling. Cafe Fresco is brought to you by the guys from Bistro Montparnasse, a Palmerston Road restaurant which is sadly no longer open. We enjoyed a couple of decent meals there back in the day.

Cafe Fresco
Back view of Cafe Fresco

Cafe Fresco has taken up residency next to the mini-golf opposite Canoe Lake playground. The building is part of the tennis complex next door, owned by Canoe Lake Leisure. There are plans to expand the pavilion there and add an extra room to host yoga/pilates in the day and events in the evening. Cafe Fresco hopes to have regular ‘pop-ups’ here such as food and wine pairings and supper clubs. Exciting!

Food review
Dad, Mum and Me enjoying our takeaway

It’s such a weird time to be reviewing new eateries because we can only takeaway and subsequently, only receive half the experience. However, this also gives us even more reason to return and eat more cake in the process!

The venue…

On first impressions, Cafe Fresco looks rather odd with just a spacious hall and counter (due to COVID). Carlos said it reminded him of a community hall where children have their birthday parties. Obviously Cafe Fresco would not normally look like this and I’m pleased they do have a large open space which enables customers to keep a social distance while waiting for their orders.

flower ceiling
Colourful flower ceiling

The first thing you notice when you walk in is the flowered ceiling which is bright and beautiful. Mum hates fake flowers and I do too, however, flowered walls and ceilings are the ‘in thing’ these days. Plus, a ceiling made from real flowers would be impossible to maintain and may fall on peoples heads as they stand underneath! This insta-worthy feature will certainly draw some attention.

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The staff were friendly and plentiful and the menu clearly displayed in multiple locations so people didn’t have to get too close to one another. The food on offer was simple, three sandwiches, soup and a vegan sausage roll for lunch. This made it easier to choose and easier to takeaway. There are so many dishes that reduce in quality once they’ve been sat in a box for 10/15 minutes and you’ve finally found a good spot to eat it.

The food…..

Cafe Fresco baguette
Vegan baguette filled with roasted aubergine, vegan feta, beetroot and rocket

Mum and I went for the vegan baguette filled with roasted aubergine, beetroot, vegan feta and rocket. This was generously filled and very fresh and flavoursome. I was expecting slices of roasted aubergine but it was more like a paste which did make it easier to eat. The vegan feta was really tasty and Carlos said it tastes just like normal feta, and it did!

Dad and Carlos had the pulled pork baguette which was a little warm from the pork – yum! I love warmed pulled pork. Their baguette wasn’t as filled as ours but I guess it had fewer components to it. They both said it was very tasty and had a very subtle kick to it which they both enjoyed.

Café Fresco food
Takeaway vegan baguette

The baguettes are baked by Hampshire Real Bread Co, a firm favourite of ours, especially their doughnuts at We Are Common Grounds coffee shop in Chichester. If we are totally honest, we didn’t enjoy the bread too much (personal preference, read on!). There wasn’t anything wrong with them, they were very fresh and large enough to leave us satisfied. We could tell they were an excellent quality bake but we often find hard bread cuts our mouths (what sensitive souls we are!).

The cakes…

Cafe Fresco cakes
Cake selection

The cakes were displayed in a cabinet at the front and I was able to get a good look to see which ones looked the best – yippie!. On display were choco-chip cookies (vegan and non-vegan), brownies, a banana loaf, biscuits and another two tray-baked type things. Fingers crossed in future they will pick up some sweet bakes from Hampshire Real Bread Co along with their bread delivery. We need some of those doughnuts in Portsmouth!

Mum went for the vegan cookie of course and said it was one of the best vegan cookies she had ever tasted. I agree you wouldn’t have known it was vegan! Carlos and I shared a chocolate chip cookie and it was very buttery and had a lovely crisp. Dad had banana loaf which I pinched a bit of (for research purposes) and it was very moist indeed!

Cafe Fresco
Dad’s banana loaf


The coffee, by Winchester Coffee Roasters, was decent and the service we received was great. The staff took their time to talk to us about future plans and their old restaurant. We will be back to Cafe Fresco. The grass area out the back was lovely to sit in away from people and shielded from the wind. It’ll make a good garden once they can fully re-open. I’d like to try their vegan sausage rolls and their soup which also sounded tasty. Wishing you the best of luck Cafe Fresco, welcome to Southsea.

Loving life, loving new Southsea openings!

H x

Ambience – Hard to tell with a takeaway but it was lovely sat out in the garden
Quality 8
Service 8
Value 7
Return? Yes
Overall 7.5/10

7 Comment

  1. Cristina says: Reply

    Hampshire real bread is just the BEST

    1. They sure are! Their doughnuts are unbelievable!

      1. Leon Reis says: Reply

        As an old-style journalist, what a pleasure to read such a well-constructed, informative, open-minded and lively review.
        Now I’m going to have to read your other stuff!
        Thanks, and Merry Christmas.

        1. Thank you, Leon for your kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.
          Wishing you a Merry Christmas too.

  2. Toni Cook says: Reply

    Nice venue, but disappointed that tea and coffee served in paper cups. Also that the Mac & cheese (£5.50) came in small paper cup and had to be eaten with wooden fork I feel at the prices charged, you should be able to eat and drink from proper crockery, using real knives and forks.

    1. Hi, Toni. I think, because of the current climate, some eating establishments are still using disposable cups, plates and cutlery. I’ve started carrying around a proper fork in my bag as I don’t like the wooden cutlery – it’s better than plastic though. I’m sure once things are back to ‘normal’ they’ll bring back real crockery and utensils. In the meantime I don’t mind too much about paying the same prices if I’m supporting a local business.

  3. […] which was once in Palmerston Road. We enjoyed Bistro Montparnasse and I regularly visit Cafe Fresco with my friends and their babies for […]

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