Roving reviewer Emily Priest explores Southsea’s brand new slice of ‘hipster paradise’, once a rough and ready local.
Before it was The Southsea Village, 81 Palmerston Road used to be Owen’s. I never went there but I’ve heard it was the kind of place where you would stick to the floor and if there wasn’t a fight then something was seriously wrong. It was rough and ready and poular with its regulars.
Fast forward to 2017, and Owens has morphed into a swanky new pub that serves good food and overpriced pints.
The décor is attractive, with large leather sofas, rustic wooden chairs and warm lighting giving the pub a relaxed vibe. There are plenty of tables and even a separate room in the back for meetings, with a free ping-pong table thrown in as a bonus feature.
As you walk in, the kitchen and bar spans the entire left side of the pub, leading up to the bathrooms. On the right is the seating area, overseen by TVs boasting Sky sports. The Southsea Village is huge, light and airy, the perfect place to enjoy a chilled night out with a large group of friends.
I booked a table online which was quick and easy and, as soon as I arrived, I was seated promptly by a smiling member of staff, who gave me a large menu and told me to order at the bar when I was ready. Simple.
The menu is what excites me the most about The Southsea Village. Not only do I love the ‘hipster paradise’ vibe but also the extensive range of unique food items on offer. Pub classics abound, including burgers, chips and nachos but with a signature flair added to each one: Asian nachos with prawn crackers, hoisin duck, spring onion and cucumber, Uber chips with pulled pork and BBQ sauce, and even a pizza burger with a beef patty, pepperoni, mozzarella and pizza sauce.
And that’s only the tip of the tasty iceberg.
There are several vegetarian options too, including the veggie ‘Green Machine’ burger with avocado and ‘The Grand Fromage’ pizza with mozzarella, goats cheese, stilton and Monterey Jack. Customised options are provided on the side of the menu, for example, replacing a burger bun with salad. So if there isn’t something that takes your fancy straightaway, just tailor your meal to suit your tastes.
For you vegans out there, you have your own menu with plenty of pizzas and burgers. Many of the options are versions of the option on the meat- and dairy- loving menus, so you too can order Uber chips, but with meat and dairy substitutes instead of the real thing. Seriously though, why would you want to be vegan when you can get four different kinds of cheese on a pizza?
Important life choices aside, The Southsea Village have some awesome deals on an equally impressive menu. Monday to Friday you can get a drink and any lunch item for only £5.95, 12pm – 3pm. You can get buy-one-get-one-free on pizzas all day on Tuesdays and take away a pizza and whole litre of beer for only £12 every day. That’s cheaper and better than Dominoes. And even better, they offer free charging ports and free room hire for meetings and parties alike.
So far, so blooming impressive. But, like all places outside of heaven itself, The Southsea Village isn’t perfect.
I approached the bar and asked for a pint of coke and was charged £3.30. This might be fairly average for Southsea but it’s still too much for some sugar syrup and soda water.
I then ordered my food – a ‘Quacking’ burger, a gluten-free ‘Little Italy pizza’ and some ‘Uber chips’. The cost of my food wasn’t bad: a burger cost just over £11 if you add chips (sadly it doesn’t come with them).
After paying, I sat back down to wait for my food, using the time to listen to the loud music playing. The tracks varied sporadically from Its Raining Men and Africa to modern day pop songs. As much as I love cheesy music, this didn’t seem to match the carefully created mood of the pub; some soft jazz or acoustic sets would work better, I think. The soundtrack playing is best left for Popworld or my shower.
Bursting through my musical meditations, the food arrived, relatively fast.
I attacked the Uber chips first. The pile of chips you can see above is smothered in a generous portion of pulled pork, with BBQ sauce on top. The meat was soft and fell apart in my mouth. Divine and so moreish, I could easily have stopped here.
But next up, the ‘Quacking’ burger, one of the menu’s more unusual choices. A Chinese style burger with a beef patty, hoisin duck, cucumber and spring onion, it was smaller than I expected but tasted great. It had a good mix of sweetness and tanginess and filled me up more than I thought it would.
However, the price in relation to the size of the burger was not so reasonable. Yes, it had some good ingredients but the base cost of £9.95 doesn’t include chips which are an extra £2. £11.95 for a burger and chips is reasonable but for a proper-sized burger, not a small patty and bun. It tasted great, to be clear, but I’m not sure the price is fair value for what you get.
Finally, the gluten-free (GF) pizza. I’d noticed on the menu the option for a pizza with a GF base, free of charge, so I thought I’d give it a go as gluten doesn’t agree with me too well. I looked around and saw other people feasting on their pizzas and I stared at them, starry-eyed and salivating. They were eating huge, thin-crusted pizza beasts that looked gorgeous, with bases that were clearly made in-house.
I was surrounded by satisfied faces, some dripping cheese, so I was excited to see my GF option. But sadly, when it appeared in front of me, I was a tad disappointed. The GF base was far smaller than the other pizzas in my eyeline and didn’t look as rustic. It was a small, thick little thing that bore little resemblance to the hand-crafted italian wonders surrounding me. Instead, it resembled a slightly bigger, glorified Chicago Town microwave pizza. The toppings included mozzarella, olives and deli meats but the presentation was less than appetising. At least there was plenty of meat and cheese.
I took a bite. There was far too much sauce and the toppings didn’t stick to the base. As I pulled my knife and fork away, everything came with it, leaving a bare, tomato smeared base that looked more sad than its gluten-filled siblings. I left half of it, regretting my choice and cursing my dietary needs.
The plates were cleared away and I turned to the desserts on the back of the food menu, where a handful of choices included ‘Pizza Sweetzer’ with banana, toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream. The three sweet choices were less adventurous than the mains but I ordered an ‘Oozie’ chocolate brownie and a coffee at the bar.
The brownie arrived in a dish with a lump of vanilla ice cream and plenty of chocolate sauce. It was sloppy, gooey and barely saw the light of day. Within seconds, it had joined half the gluten-free pizza.
When I was done, my coffee still hadn’t arrived. I licked the spoon and waited. It still didn’t come.
I licked the bowl and waited some more. It still didn’t come.
All out of things to lick, I returned to the bar.
The waiter gave me a quick look, realised his mistake, briskly apologised and made my coffee immediately. We laughed about it and I thanked him.
Not long after, I left and entered the brisk, cold night. But I wasn’t satisfied.
I really wanted one of those pizzas, the ones I saw everyone else eating, (curse their gluten tolerance). So I went back the next day to get one and took advantage of the lunchtime deal.
I ordered a ‘Lunch in Florence’ with olives, spinach, tomato, garlic oil and egg. This time, I didn’t ask for gluten-free. And what an excellent choice that was.
My second pizza made a stunning entrance, far more elegant than its GF predecessor, with a thin, rustic crust and plenty of toppings. There were generous chunks of tomato and spinach and fried egg in the middle. I was not convinced about this at first but then I tasted the cheesy base with egg yolk.
I was a changed woman. They say you learn something new every day and I had learnt something truly incredible.
Egg really does belong on pizza.
The Southsea Village is a lovely place with many pros that outweigh a few cons. There are great deals, unique flavours, free ping pong and lots of space to relax in. The atmosphere is brilliant, the food is moreish and they accommodate all dietary needs. The only issues are the expensive drinks and, of course, the disappointing, gluten-free pizza base which I hope they improve in the future.
I have already returned since and will go back again. It’s just lucky I’m not celiac…touch wood (*taps head*).
Photography by Emily Priest.