Andre’s Food Bar is a renowned Portsomouth eatery, known to many as the home of Southsea’s infamous garlic chicken (if you don’t know, find out), and to others as Southsea’s oldest, independent sandwich shop. Established in 1988 as La Croissanterie, the cafe has been serving baguettes and more for almost thirty years, so I was keen to make it a stop on the Southsea Food Tour.
Could this popular, Southsea classic lunch stop hold up to its history? And could it be as good as people say?
Located a stone’s throw away from the seafront on Osborne Road, Andre’s is a small shop open 6 days a week, Monday to Saturday until 3pm, aimed at the lunch time customer. The core menu of jacket potatoes, baguettes and paninis aren’t conventional dinnertime treats so head elsewhere if you’re after a late afternoon snack.
As I passed the metal chairs and tables outside the shop, the window display boasted a large spread of tempting treats. Sausage rolls, quiches, danishes, baguettes and cookies lined up to seduce passers-by inside.
Andre’s interior is pristine, decorated with black and white tiles, potted herbs and even more mouthwatering temptations. There’s a small amount of seating to the right of the deli, but Andre’s is more of a take-out joint – perfect for the busy worker nipping in to get a wholesome lunch, rather than a place to relax, drink a coffee, have some food and watch the world go by.
The staff welcomed me with big smiles and explained the day’s specials. I thanked them and looked around at what was on offer. A range of baguettes, freshly prepared, included beef and horseradish, seafood, turkey breast and cranberry and of course the ‘famous garlic chicken’. Various vegetarian options included cheese-slaw, egg and brie and cranberry. All baguettes can be customised with fresh toppings from the salad bar and come with lettuce, tomato, onion and/or cucumber garnish as well as two other toppings of your choice. If you want to add more each extra topping will cost you a reasonable 20p. For another filling it’s 50p. For bread they have a choice of white, brown or rustic and are all good value ranging from £3.50 to £4.40.
Beyond baguettes, there are also fresh salads, paninis and jacket potatoes on offer – all of which can be customised and offer good value. Soups and ‘home-made nibbles’ including nuts and olives complement the great choices already on the menu.
I ordered a garlic chicken baguette, a Parisien panini and a chicken and leek pastry basket which came to just over £10.
The baguette was wrapped up by a member of staff and I waited for the panini as it was cooked from fresh. One man behind the counter told me Andre’s takes telephone orders so I could have called in advance and picked up my panini without the wait. I will remember this next time…
As I waited, I noticed even more interesting delicacies. At the front of the display was a box of miniature croissants with fillings such as tomato, cheese, chicken and ham. These were only £4 and I thought they would be perfect for a group of friends or a small family. They had larger filled croissants too and thick chocolatey cookies.
For children they even had a meal deal on offer for only £4.20 which included half a baguette, raisins, a fruit drink and some magic stars. That would have been perfect for me, I thought.
The panini was handed to me shortly after, wrapped in foil and paper, and as I left I grabbed myself a take out menu. I headed home, looking forward to devouring my purchases.
The baguette, bustling with fillings, was scrumptious. The garlic chicken erupted with flavour and was very moreish. It was served with Andre’s homemade mayo which complemented the chicken well with a light and creamy touch.
My last treat, which I barely had room for, was the chicken and leek basket. It was the first thing that caught my eye in the window. The pastry was golden brown and in the centre sat a moist, green filling with large chunks of chicken and leek. Once again the flavours were impeccable and the fillings generous.
Andre’s menu is fairly simple but the flavours are flawless; bringing the basic lunchtime menu to perfection. But perhaps the most juicy thing about my visit was the price: for such high quality, fresh food, some places charge a hefty sum but Andre’s is kind to the wallet without compromising quality.
The Food Bar is the perfect place to grab a moreish lunch on the go, especially on a busy day. For the casual diner who wants a comfy place to spend their lunchtime eating and reading the paper, it may not be a first choice.
Perhaps the perfect way to sum up my Andre’s review is to tell you I will certainly be calling them soon to order a tasty lunch on my way to university. In my view, a trip to this local, independent lunchtime stop beats a Subway any day – not by a mile but by a hundred.
Photography by Emily Priest.