The Wave Maiden is changing the tide in Southsea’s pub scene

The Wave Maiden general manager Caroline Searle with owners Paul and Ali Lees
The Wave Maiden general manager Caroline Searle with owners Paul and Ali Lees

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Ali Lees and her husband Paul are bringing a slice of New York charm to Southsea with their independently-run pub The Wave Maiden.

With a wide range of craft beers and ales in a variety of weird and wonderful flavours, enthusiasts from all over the area are venturing to the pub to enjoy a drink.

Ali is originally from New Jersey and worked in New York.

She would frequent craft beer bars in the city and after meeting Paul, a Brit who was in the navy, the pair packed up and moved to Portsmouth.

It was here that they decided to open up their own pub.

Ali, who curates the beer menu and likes a beer ‘so sour it turns my ears red’, said: ‘I was really influenced by the bars I used to visit and at that time there wasn’t anything like it in this area.

‘We hadn’t done anything like this before, so it was really a “fake it ’til you make it” scenario. But when we saw the space and the thriving community, we were so enthusiastic.’

The decor and atmosphere were meticulously planned. Ali said: ‘We are quite creative and stylistic. We brought our own sense of taste to the space but it’s also influenced by the lower east side of New York. You could honestly pick it up and stick it right in the east village, so to me it feels like home.’

The food served at the pub is all meat and cheese-inspired with dishes like a beef mac and cheese and the traditionally Canadian dish ‘poutine’ – chips drenched in gravy and served with cheese curds.

Ali said: ‘Poutine is a real comfort food dish and I didn’t know anywhere else around here that sells it. There’s a Canadian Facebook forum and we popped up on there. We have people from all over coming here to sample it, which is a huge compliment.’

Ali and Paul are passionate about food as well as beer and noticed a lack of hot, vegan comfort food in the area. They plan to team up with Wild Thyme and will soon be hosting a vegan food evening where vegan versions of their current menu will be offered.

The pub’s top floor also regularly holds movie nights and live band performances.

Ali said: ‘We put out bean bags, show films and serve popcorn. Afterwards we’ll hold a film quiz, usually around cult classics. A lot of our staff are big film buffs and it was actually their own idea.’

The pub also teamed up with Strong Island on July 15 to host a Beach Ball event. The charity all-day musical festival was in support of the MacMillan cancer charity.

On expanding, Ali said: ‘I love that we can fully concentrate on The Wave Maiden, but you never know what the future holds.’