Food critic Emily Priest finally visits Pie & Vinyl, one of Southsea’s most famous cafés, and adds it to her Top 5 favourites on the Southsea Food Tour.
I have lived in Portsmouth for nearly a year now and it may come as a surprise to you but I have never been to Pie & Vinyl. I can almost hear you gasp as you read that, I know.
My friends have asked me many times why I have never been to try Portsmouth’s most legendary pies. I shrugged in response. I got the impression from their reactions that experiencing Pie & Vinyl was part of the tourist experience, on a par with visiting the Historic Dockyard. Perhaps I’ve taken it for granted in a similar way.
As well as a café, I already knew Pie & Vinyl is a record store (and a forthcoming record label); I’ve been to their gigs before and seen their stages at events such as Southsea Fest. These guys certainly know their music, but what about the food?
I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about their menu, but as I recently discovered on another stop of the Southsea Food Tour, word of mouth isn’t everything. It was time for me find out for myself.
Pie & Vinyl is a small shop on Southsea’s Castle Road and usually when I walk past, every one of their nine tables is full. On a Tuesday at 1pm, I managed to bag myself a seat in the heart of this much-loved café’s kooky interior. The walls are covered in vintage items from board games to toys and dolls. Rustic lampshades hang from the ceiling above a mix ‘n’ match of wood and coloured plastic tables and chairs. Through the café is the Pie & Vinyl record store with rows of pristine vinyls, cassettes and their own merchandise of hats, shirts and bags.
Pie & Vinyl’s menu comprises only pies and quiches but is surprisingly extensive, with plenty of options to customise your meal. All the ingredients are sourced locally and are homemade, which is always welcome. They sell many vegan and vegetarian options with impressive flavours such as butternut squash and spinach. Meaty flavours include double cheeseburger in the Fat Cat pie or Thai spiced fishcakes in Hot Hot Head. The menu is adventurous and unique and before I’d take a single bite, I was impressed.
The two-sided drinks menu offers a broad range of affordable hot and cold drinks, including cordials from Mr Fitzpatrick’s vintage and Victorian range. They are served with a choice of still or sparkling water in a tea pot and come in over 16 flavours. I ordered the strawberry and kiwi and was shocked at how much this provided, filling my glass three times!
The coffee is locally brewed and boasts hints of caramel and blueberry aromas. The tea comes as loose leaf with a timer to make sure you leave it long enough to brew the best possible flavour. The hot chocolate comes with complimentary marshmallows.
After ogling the drinks menu for too long, I ordered a Porksea Islander pie with mustard mash and wavy gravy. One problem with the menu was a somewhat disappointing range of sides to choose from. With your pie, you can have a choice of two sides such as mustard mash or mushy peas and, although I liked the unique flavours of the mash, there were no other choices. It was either more mash or peas as a second option and I hate peas. Maybe a mixed veg selection would be a good addition.
In no time at all, my pie arrived with a heap of mustard mash and a jug of thick gravy. The crust was gluten free and the pastry crumbled effortlessly as my knife sliced into it. I poured masses of gravy over the steaming, generous filling. The mash was fluffy and creamy with a gentle mustard flavour that didn’t overpower. The gravy was beautifully rich.
The BBQ pulled pork filling was gorgeous with plentiful heaps of meat, creating a deliciously more-ish taste. Underneath was a pork crackling base. This was a nice touch but I can’t help but think that it would have been better as a topping, as acting as a base had made the crackling unbearably chewy. I left it for the well-being of my teeth.
I devoured every bit of the remaining pie. It wasn’t too heavy on the stomach or greasy like some pies and eating it was an enjoyable experience in and of itself.
I passed on dessert as none of the three choices available took my fancy. There was a plum frangipane and a cinnamon bun swirl pie, but almonds and cinnamon are two things I can’t stand. The third option was St Jude’s ice cream in vanilla, passion fruit and white choc and raspberry fudge swirl flavours. Although more to my taste, I’ve had ice cream before, so I paid my affordable bill and went out to enjoy the rest of my day.
Everything I’ve heard about Pie and Vinyl is true. They have successfully put their money where their mouth is, not only where the music is concerned – they were named as one of GQ’s ‘best vinyl shops in Britain’ in 2016 – but with their incredible food.
This independent Southsea gem has definitely secured itself a position in the Top 5 of my Southsea Food Tour.
Photography by Emily Priest.