To celebrate the one-year anniversary of her popular Southsea Food Tour, Emily Priest lists her top 10 must-visit eateries in the city and reflects on why she started reviewing food in the first place.
A year ago, I was sitting at my computer trawling through reviews and articles, tourist guides and websites that were all about Pompey. Of course, they mentioned the Historic Dockyard, the football club, seafront and Spinnaker Tower but they rarely talked about food. The ones that did, seemed more like press releases than actual reviews or lost themselves in foodie jargon.
It’s without a doubt that there are so many amazing places to eat in Portsmouth, all with their own unique brand. So why don’t we celebrate that part of the city more? We are more than boats and Charles Dickens, we are flavour, culture and colour.
But as the saying goes, if you want a job done, do it yourself.
The Southsea Food Tour brings you honest opinions about local eateries, while helping to rebrand Portsmouth as a food diversity paradise.
37 eateries later, my reviews have been read and shared by people all over the world from Portsmouth to Canada. So to celebrate the series’ first anniversary, I have compiled a list of my top 10 favourites so far.
There were so many good places to choose from that I could easily have made a Top 20. However, the Top 10 that follows were the ones that really stood out over the last year, not just for the feel-good food they offer, but for a range of other reasons as well, including affordability, ethics, seating and ambience.
The original, unedited Southsea Food Tour reviews appeared over at my website, so to read the originals, click on the title of each restaurant in the Top 10 below. Ready? Then let’s tuck in!
#10 Cinnamon Cafe
Cinnamon Cafe is a bright venue located on Winter Road that provides all-day breakfasts, an extensive range of vegetarian items and healthy smoothies at a very reasonable cost. The portions are generous, the menu is diverse and the cakes are drool-worthy. I recommend it to anyone looking for snacks and lunch options more than a more formal restaurant dining experience.
Pie and Vinyl – a cafe and vinyl shop combined – is a unique spot that should be on any Portsmouth tourist’s ‘to do’ list. A funky atmosphere and filling food from a menu of unique tasting pies that include options for vegans and vegetarians options, if you are after something other than a pie, this may not be for you. There is limited seating and high demand so be sure to visit early or on a weekday to avoid disappointment.
#8 Home Coffee
Home Coffee is a beauty with great presentation and experimental flavours. The staff are always warm and welcoming and during the summer their ‘secret’ garden – bursting with vibrant flowers – is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon. There are vegetarian and vegan options on offer here too, but although they have a constant cycle of exciting specials, food options are mainly limited to sandwiches, crostinis and ploughmans.
Easy to miss amidst the hustle and bustle of Commercial Road, Harbour Coffee House has options for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. The atmosphere is relaxing, in contrast to the street outside, and the prices are reasonable. It’s another place with unique flavours and nice staff but their food is limited to sandwiches with fillings that are not always as generous as a ravenous foodie like me would like.
The Parade Tea Rooms is like the Tenth Hole rebooted in the heart of Southsea. The portions are tempting and the meals tasty, but you don’t need to wait for hours to get in. The backdrop of Southsea Common is the perfect complement to their light and airy space. It’s a bit more expensive than other cafes but you definitely get what you pay for in terms of size and quality. There are, however, a limited amount of vegetarian options and it can get quite ‘cosy’ when rush hour strikes.
After countless break-ins and a threat to shut down. Huis still stands tall and proud as one of my favourite venues to eat and drink in the city. An authentic Belgian bar, you can find a vast range of imported beers and delectable mains. You can easily spend all week in here for both lunch, dinner and late night partying but good vibes come at a cost. The prices, for drinks expecially, can be on the high side but don’t let this deter you. The experience is worth it!
Locally sourced, freshly cooked and so damn good, the Fisherman’s Kitchen seems too good to be true. Their menu adds a new spin to the fish ‘n’ chips classic with countless of items for you to choose from. Their portions are large but still affordable and their specials are, well, indescribable. Sadly, there is a lack of seating and, as the name suggests, not many vegetarian and non-fishy choices.
Hunter Gatherer has a special place in my heart. They serve generous and gorgeous vegan and vegetarian food, have wonderfully relaxed vibes, and are populated by cheery staff. It is one of the few veggie joints in the city and since its opening has also become a bit of a cultural hub with poetry and music events taking place there every month, including our very own training course launch event. This cafe is definitely something to sway even the most stubborn of meat-eaters.
A newcomer to the Pompey eaterie game, Need Street Food means business. Their meals are filling, tasty, moreish and ethical with each hot dog and burger going towards saving lives. Their flavours are something you can’t find anywhere else in the city and their vegan gives ‘food porn’ a whole new meaning. The atmosphere in The Merchant House may be a tad noisy, but who cares when you are getting great food for hardly any money at all?
Of course, Sakura is my Number 1. As a ‘Japan-phile’, this authentic Japanese restaurant left me with stars in my eyes, feeling like I was back in Tokyo. The ambience is great, the food is plentiful and the price tag is very reasonable. Sometimes the staff may be a bit slow but they are always friendly and accommodating. Here you can have a great night out without denting your wallet and experience a slice of Japanese life without having to leave the city.
Stuck for somewhere to eat? Check out the whole series of Southsea Food Tours here on S&C, or the original versions over on Emily’s website. If you have enjoyed Emily’s reviews over the past year and want to support her, visit her Patreon and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Photography by Emily Priest.