Manna Tearooms in Old Portsmouth, Hampshire is on our list of ‘favourite’ places to eat. We’ve been going there for a few years now and the food is always consistent. The cakes are all homemade and are, we think the best around. The carrot cake is most definitely the best we’ve ever had and the pineapple & banana cake – which isn’t always on the menu unfortunately – is equally as good.
Another favourite of mine for lunch is the pulled pork & coleslaw sandwiches, served with a handful of crisps and a few salad leaves. The coleslaw has little fennel seeds in it which I love. In the winter they have different soups of the day available served with doorstop bread which is delicious and fresh.
With Helen home for a few weeks before continuing her travels and finally settling in Melbourne, Australia we’ve been going here there and everywhere. Favourite places plus new ones I’ve been to which I wanted to show her and a couple of new ones we’ve been to together.
Geoff and I had visited Manna a few weeks before where Lorraine, the owner mentioned that a chef from the Michelin star restaurant The Black Rat in Winchester was doing a few pop-up restaurant evenings at Manna (he was leaving to also live and work in Melbourne) and would we like to attend. Well, we jumped at the chance.
On the evening the three of us arrived at the tearoom at 7 for 7.30 where we were seated – luckily at my favourite table. (Does anyone else have favourite tables at cafés and restaurants like me?) The place was full and candles were dotted around giving it soft lighting.
First to be presented was ‘Vermouth infusion, chili and cucumber juice’. Served in a tall, narrow shot glass the juice was at the bottom, a light foamy concoction in the middle and on top was scattered a few chili flakes. This was lovely and had a slight, but not too much, of a chilli kick to it and was quite refreshing.
The ‘Canapé-gougeres’ dish was superb. Geoff enjoyed this although he’s not a fan of cheese and it was a similar taste to a cheese scone, although very much lighter and airy, the pastry was more of a choux. This was served with a creamy thick sort of sauce spread onto the slate it was served upon, which was lovely to dip the pastry into.
‘Smoked salmon cannelloni, prawns and cracker, quinoa, courgette and lemon purée’. Oh my, this was delicious. Salmon is not something I ever order out, nor do I eat it at home, unless it’s been cooked by my good friend Catia who rustles up a delicious salmon dish. However, we all enjoyed this very much. The salmon was fresh, not too heavily smoked and was rolled around the creamy filling. A couple of large meaty prawns, the squid ink crisp, nutty quinoa and the courgette & lemon purée was all very tasty indeed.
Next up was fresh brown bread with burnt butter. The butter, I thought, tasted very much like the lamb fat you get after roasting it. It was lovely and smooth and creamy.
‘Onion Bhaji, spiced lentils, curry mayonnaise, chapati bread’. This was served warm with the lentils etc., on top of the chapati. A nice spicy dish with crisp onion.
The main dish was ‘Quail pie, woodland mushrooms, madeira jelly, soil’. We had a little sliced quail breast which was very tender and also some ‘pulled’ quail inside a very light flaky pastry with two little leg bones sticking out the top.
The scotch egg with quails egg inside had a nice crisp coating, but very light. A few tiny cubes of Madeira jelly, a drizzle of elderflower sauce, foraged mushrooms – which gave me cause for concern after reading that very morning about people being poisoned by foraged mushrooms, but I’m still here today and feel fine. A ‘soil’ of crushed hazelnuts and olives finished the dish off perfectly.
The dessert was ‘Sea buckthorn posset, bitter chocolate bubbles, orange meringue, pine granita’.