When a storm strikes suddenly, S&C’s reporter and reviewer Emily Priest finds shelter from the rain in a little pocket of comfort on the shore.
For so long I’d heard good things about the seaside eatery and seen beautiful photos of it on Facebook. I had to go.
I got my opportunity when the heavens opened and I badly needed to get somewhere dry. I entered the Southsea Beach Café, just next to South Parade Pier, with my hair dripping and my make-up running – the entire set.
The waitress smiled at me and sat me down next to a large heater and a window. I wrung the water from my coat, hung it on the back of my chair and grabbed a menu.
After glancing at the seagulls battling the oppressive weather outside, I scanned the menu’s wide range of breakfast, lunch and kids’ items. Vegan and vegetarian choices abounded. I liked the look of the steak frites, Moroccan spiced vegetable curry and American-style pancakes with caramelised bananas and raspberries. Amongst the plethora of drinks were Belgian beers, smoothies and six different hot chocolates including the ‘fully loaded’ with marshmallows, cream and a flake. The ‘salted caramel rum hot chocolate’ got me drooling as well.
A main meal is between £8 and £10 and a ‘fully loaded’ hot chocolate a steal at £3.50. I was impressed – with such a great location you’d expect a more costly meal.
It was too early for lunch so I solemnly stared at the Moroccan curry and steak frites. Another time, I thought. Instead I ordered a vegetarian breakfast and a ‘beachside’ smoothie with bananas, strawberries and apple juice. The waitress flashed me a grin and hurried off to the kitchen as I kicked myself about not ordering a decadent hot chocolate. I guess I was still sticking to that ‘new year, new me’ mentality.
As I waited, the heater warmed me up nicely. Outside, the wind picked up and the roof and walls of the café shook violently. At first, I found the incessant banging funny but, after a while, it grew annoying and stripped away the atmosphere. That was my fault for visiting during a storm.
More interestingly, in spite of the horrendous weather, the café was half-full. That’s always a positive sign.
My vegetarian breakfast was served on a tin plate with two fried eggs, two vegetarian sausages, a pot of beans, a tomato, a mushroom and two slices of thick, buttered sourdough. All of this was only £7 but, when it was placed in front of me, I thought the presentation was a bit lacking. Perhaps having read all the good reviews of this place, I had high expectations. Anyway, all that really matters is the taste.
The sausages were fragrant and a tad spicy, and the mushroom was huge. The runny-yolk eggs were okay but nothing special. They were just two fried eggs. While it filled a hole needing filling, it didn’t come close to the superb breakfasts over at the Tea Tray.
As I paid up, the waitress wished me luck with the wind and rain. She gave me another bright smile. I left, not too impressed with the food, but still with every intention of coming back.
The café’s prices and sheer breadth of dishes, for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, were all pros. The atmosphere and location really made it for me, while, sadly, the presentation didn’t. Given the café’s excellent rep, I expected a tad more. Then again, maybe I’d gone there on an off day. After all, there was the rest of the menu to try and I still needed to get my ‘fully loaded’ hot chocolate.
At the very least, the Southsea Beach Café will become for me a great new spot to sit down, grab a drink and watch the waves roll in and the seagulls drift – or struggle – past.
Photography by Emily Priest