Southsea’s Capers café has been the site of several reincarnations, some successful – think Coco with its black chandeliers and chocolate – but others less so.
I approached this new venture with a certain amount of trepidation. Would the new owners have the chutzpah, the audacity, to create a good business?
The two-floor corner café has a lot going for it due to its location. Behind large windows, a glass counter features a selection of pastries, while there are lovely chairs, faux marble French café tables and beautiful wallpaper.
The design, one of teazles (spiny flower heads), festoons one of the downstairs walls and more walls upstairs in the quiet part of the café, a lovely space for that confidential conversation or assignation. Attractive pale green paint adds to the charming mix. Subdued music is another plus, as well as outside seating.
Staff – they smile! – in black aprons and shirts serve at table or behind the cake counter. A proper coffee machine was at full stretch thanks to a busy lunchtime crowd.
The menu promises quality with its fresh fruit smoothies and orange juice, Luscombe Organic lemonade, ginger beer and elderflower bubbly, plus 12 different teas. There are wines and beer too, all drinks at ungreedy prices.
And the food? Breakfasts, available all day, include Buckwells sausages. Come here for Egg Benedict; omelettes; salad platters (New York Caesar, Goat’s cheese, fresh crab, or a sharing charcuterie platter with, yep, caper berries); jacket potatoes; freshly-baked baguettes (poached salmon and prawns, hand-carved honey ham, rare beef with horseradish); toasties and ciabatta buns. And if this isn’t enough to get you going, cast your eye over the specials board. You might find an asparagus tart, sirloin steak, feta salad and soups.
A marinated salmon salad on mixed leaves with sun-blushed tomatoes and roasted peppers in a fish marinade was my choice. Salads sensibly come in two sizes, this one either £5.25 or £7.25. Strips of salmon coiled seductively over very well-chosen ingredients, quality the name of the game here. The marinade was excellent. Only the rather manufactured-tasting croutons detracted from this otherwise smart, simple, well-executed dish. From my café table I could see the many types of cakes (around £1.75 - £2.50) including chocolate and walnut; carrot; brownies and a croissant stuffed with strawberries and drizzled with chocolate.
I could just about make out my initials on this beauty. It was terrific, an Americano equally excellent, one of the best around. ‘We use Fairtrade coffee and don’t fill the cup with froth,’ they say. So that’s the secret.
By now, you will assume – correctly – that the reincarnation of this site has finally made the Southsea grade. And more. Capers, you have just the right chutzpah. My bill came to just over £10 not including a tip.
Capers, 59 Marmion Road, Southsea PO5 2AX (023) 9281 5511
Open: 8.30am–4.30pm Tues-Sat and 10am-3.30pm Sun.
Food: Four (out of five)
Disabled access: Small space, possibly not suitable for wheelchairs.
How to get there: Marmion Road is between Victoria Road South and Palmerston Road. On-street parking.