This global street food bar-restaurant is on Osborne Road and, as the name suggests, two doors down from its partner eatery 6oz Burgers. It may be small but it must have made a big impression on Portsmouth because, whenever I pass, it’s always busy.
I’ve tried in vain to book online countless times on Friday and Saturday. Instead, I ventured down there on a foggy Tuesday evening, hoping it would be less crowded.
It was. At last.
The décor is funky with warm lighting and vibrant ceiling bulbs. There are different coloured chairs and tables, a modern sofa and an eye-catching neon sign on the right-hand side, immediately as you enter.
A man welcomed me and asked where I wanted to sit. I chose one of the booths. There are three of them; lovely, intimate spaces with plenty of cushions and Portsmouth-themed artwork on their walls. Perfect for lone diners or couples wanting a smooch and a cuddle.
The music – from Talking Heads to local disco band Barbudo – suited the venue well.
Two Doors Down’s opening hours are limited. It’s open all day Saturday and Sunday but during the week, it’s closed before lunch time, apart from Thursdays and Fridays when you can go in from 12 to 3. It’s not too bad but if you’re like me, with an awkward schedule, you can’t always have your street food when you fancy it.
I made myself comfortable in a nest of cushions, a menu in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Now happy and settled, my qualms about opening times disappeared.
While the menu wasn’t the most expansive in the world, it offered a selection of international flavours and textures, inspired by everywhere from Mexico to Japan. There was an alluring clutch of vegetarian and vegan options too.
What also stood out were tapas or small plate options, such as boa buns, and then larger plates like naan pizza and sashimi. The noodle and quinoa salads looked good, as did the savoury waffles with duck or chicken. With its unique combos of spices and national cuisines, Two Doors Down seems to have staked out some unique territory in Portsmouth.
In the end, after lots of umming and aahing and sucking back my drool, I managed a decision. I plumped for beef boa buns, pulled pork tacos, halloumi chips and tonkatsu chicken. The amiable waiter quickly took my order and hurried off.
Within no time he was back with my halloumi chips. The presentation was impeccable with each thick slice neatly placed on top of the other, a vivid drizzle of sauce finishing them all off. On the side was a thin stripe of pomegranate and chilli and another of sour cream. The gentle sprinkling of spring onions tasted as good as it looked. The cheese was gooey and the batter crispy and scrumptious. The sauce, although an unusual mix of flavours, worked very well. The cool sour cream complemented the sweetness of the pomegranate and the chilli offered a slight kick at the end.
The tacos were next and far bigger than I expected. As I took one in both my hands, I knew my greed had exceeded my appetite. The complementary ingredients – from peppers to chillies – were scrummy. Although the pulled pork was deep and rich, the chilli heat overpowered the taste.
Each of the bao buns was the size of my fist – again bigger than expected – and bursting with Korean beef, sesame seeds and cucumber. The dough was steamed to white and glistening perfection, and the best I’d seen. The chefs knew their stuff.
I bit into the soft and bouncy bun and my mouth erupted with flavours: sesame oil, ginger, tender beef and, of course, the chilli, which dominated again. I hadn’t bargained for such high levels of spice. Then again, it wasn’t my host’s fault I can’t handle hot food.
The final course was a colossal slab of chicken with a crispy coating, cut into generous slices and ideal for sharing – if I’d had someone to share it with. It was juicy on the finish, though lacked the flamboyance of flavour marking out the previous dishes. I could discern a hint of lemon and little else.
I was now full and ready to surrender. Then I spied the dessert menu. I had to order the raspberry churros.
Six crispy battered sticks, beautifully golden with a bright pink dusting of raspberry sugar, arrived in a tin vessel alongside a pot of dark, rich chocolate dipping sauce. I snatched up a churro, dunked it in the chocolate and shoved it in my mouth. It. Was. Amazing.
Belly swollen, I paid up and bid adieu to the pleasant waiter.
Although I enjoyed my visit to Two Doors Down, I don’t think I’ll go there again. The cool atmosphere and multicultural cuisine are definite pros, while the overreliance on spice was too much for my palate. If an excess of chillies won’t bother you, then I definitely recommend this restaurant. It’s a great place for singletons, couples and parties alike – and for those after something different.
If you want some global colour in your life, you need not travel far. Only to Osborne Road, in fact.
Photography by Emily Priest