Southsea’s very own roving food critic Emily Priest gives a thumbs-up to the smooth vibes, multifarious beers and authentic, tastebud-tickling dishes of the Belgian-themed Huis bar on Elm Grove.
I was saddened and shocked to hear in April from owner Simon Docker that Huis had closed its restaurant service after several break-ins that caused thousands of pounds’ worth of damage. Thankfully, restaurant service resumed just the other day. I couldn’t wait to get back there.
The walls are exposed brick with framed modern posters and the lighting is warm and welcoming. The floor has a 1960s-style black and white checkered tile design. Disco music – but not the cheesy kind – plays in the background. The cool, relaxing vibes make Huis truly unique in Southsea.
This wasn’t my first time here. I’d enjoyed evening visits to listen to their DJs and get drunk on their vast range of beers. There are over 70, ranging from from 2% to 12% ABV and they come in delightful flavours such as caramel, coconut, mango and chocolate. Prices vary from £4.40 to £5.50 which may not be as cheap as a Foster’s somewhere else, but once you consider the quality of the tipple and the import costs, the extra pound becomes a moot point.
My Lindeman’s peach beer arrived in a long decorative glass with a gold rim. ‘Nice touch,’ I thought. The bar staff at Huis have always helped me to both choose the right beer and pronounce the names of them all.
The menu isn’t too extensive but there’s a good choice of meat, veggie and seafood dishes. The prices are above average but the food is cooked fresh and the portions are large.
As a starter, I ordered the Kroketten, 3 of them, each with different fillings – cheese and blonde beer, wild mushroom and truffle and oxtail. They were presented on a large bed of salad along with toasted sourdough and plenty of thick dressing. I cut the first two open and mixed forkfuls of gooey cheese and mushroom with the leaves and sweet sauce. Both were moreish. Too moreish. I didn’t think the oxtail in the next Krokotten would go with crayfish and shrimp and I thought about sending it back. I’m glad I didn’t. Once I’d had a mouthful, I was blown away by the creamy, tangy flavours.
Our mains – the small plate version of the Beef Carbonade and the Wienerschnitzel – came a little too quickly after the starter. For a ‘small plate’, my Beef Carbonade was the size of a main meal and was more than enough. For £8.95 you can’t go wrong. The meat was cooked in three different beers meaning that it was beautifully tender and fell apart with each bite. The were plentiful servings of both meat and vegetables plus a handful of sourdough with garlic butter on the side. It was no surprise I didn’t finish it all.
My better half’s meal was huge! Arriving on a large plate, the Wienerschnitzel was 12 inches long and, unlike the other times you may have heard boasts about the lengths of things, I’m not exaggerating. It came on a bed of fried potatoes and lardons with an egg on top. I enjoyed the few bites I stole, but I have to say the meat was a little dry for my liking.
There was no room for dessert after Huis’s oversized, scrumptious portions. I did look at the menu but there was nothing that took my fancy. The sweet options were quite limited with either some form of ice cream or waffles involved. Don’t get me wrong, the waffles seemed impressive, especially the Eton Mess one with meringue, berries and cream, but after a large meal, I generally can’t manage something so filling.
Huis is a great place to eat and drink and stands out as something distinctive amongst those Southsea coffee lounges that all look the same. While it may be a little pricey, if you want to be thoroughly satisfied or need a vibrant, lively place to drink with a few good friends, this place is for you.
Let’s hope they don’t get broken into again or we will lose a valuable asset to our city’s delicious diversity.
Photography by Emily Priest.