Food critic Emily Priest visits the under-estimated Fawcett Road to find a cafe everyone’s talking about. Good value for money, unique flavours and a meal deal makes Baffled Coffee a must-see stop on The Southsea Food Tour.
Baffled Coffee on Fawcett Road opened last year and although this Mediterranean-styled café has been recommended to me many times, by many people, I have no idea why I have not been before. Perhaps it’s because I don’t go to Fawcett Road very much. It always looks so busy and isn’t as obviously nice as other parts of Southsea, like the seafront, South Parade Pier or Palmerston road. But, this week I pushed all such silly thoughts aside and went to try Baffled Coffee.
Just down the road from Priory school, Baffled is a very small shop with rustic wooden benches and tables, and orange and grey décor. Outside a chalkboard boasted ‘£6.50 meal deal.’ Inside felt energetic, with several coffee drinkers chatting or tapping away on laptops. Staff flurried behind the till and a counter piled with tempting cakes, sandwiches and salads. On the walls, signs listed the cafe’s suppliers, including locals Arun Meats and Northney Farm Dairies.
Apart from the usual fare of rolls and sandwiches, Baffled Coffee offer a range of other treats, including curry, mac and cheese and meatballs. Meals like this come in two sizes: perfect for when you aren’t so hungry or if you are particularly ravenous. The prices are reasonable, with many options costing an average £4.50/£5 each and larger options around £9. Each dish boasts a generous range of ingredients and the menu showcases the best flavours from around the world.
Ordering a Chicken Milanese home-baked baguette – with rosemary breadcrumbed chicken, tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise – and a tea, a member of staff told me I could get the meal deal. This was £6.50 and included my medium tea, sandwich AND a cake. I had a few choices for dessert and settled on the Donut Muffin. I quickly paid and thanked the server for her help before choosing a small table on the left-hand side of the shop.
I was already impressed and as I waited for my food and drink, I took in my surroundings. A huge fridge was filled with soft drinks and smoothies – all at a reasonable price – and I was impressed with the vegetarian options on the menu. A few more people arrived as I waited. Behind the till a man was mixing a huge salad in a bowl with leaves, rice and veg. It looked amazing and so did my food as it was placed before, although the three items only just fitted on the table. If I wasn’t dining alone, we’d be in trouble.
The bread was warm and crispy, not too hard, with a nice flavour. The chicken was tender and the rosemary breadcrumbs gave it a tasty edge, while the mayo acted as the perfect deterrent to the baguette being too dry.
However, eating it did make quite a mess. Five minutes later, although the sandwich was completely devoured, I was covered in mayo, and frantically grabbing at napkins.
The sandwich was plenty, but of course I’d also ordered the muffin and I took an adventurous bite.
Then I spat it out.
The muffin was covered in sugar and looked like a ‘dinky donut’, but the taste was not what I expected. I’d assumed a ‘donut’ muffin would be a simple sponge with sugar but instead, the sugar was cinnamon. You may remember from previous reviews that cinnamon – like kryptonite to Superman – is a thing I cannot stand.
What doughnuts have cinnamon in them? I mean, you could include Spanish doughnuts but then technically, the muffin would be more appropriately called: ‘churro muffin’.
Other than the cinnamon surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Baffled Coffee, which has also changed my perceptions of Fawcett Road. Previously a place I would never go to, this is now a Pompey street I intend to visit a lot, and all because of this small, quaint café. Fawcett Road may not have much else to entertain you – unless you want some cheap furniture or marijuana seeds – but the affordable, high-quality food of Baffled is more than enough reason to visit. This little gem is unique, with a flavoursome menu and I can’t recommend it enough, especially their meal deal. It’s another worthwhile and must-see addition to my Southsea Food Tour. Make sure you pay it a visit.
Photography by Emily Priest.