Lakeside Café & Bar’s distinct rotunda shape is something of a landmark by Gosport’s man-made lake (the view of the marina being another commendable reason to visit).
I walked up a ramp from the large public car park along a main Gosport road to the cupola and entered a cool, clean, airy space complete with two horseshoe-shape blue bars at the entrance, blonde wood tables and chairs taking up the remaining large circle.
Picture windows sported nautical design blinds and walls were pretty bare except for a metal flock of birds and a large photo or two.
New owners recently took it upon themselves to cater for those looking for breakfasts, lunch and afternoon tea. Breakfasts until noon include a large plateful (bacon, eggs, sausages, hash, toast plus tomatoes and mushrooms, tea or coffee), a veggie breakfast choice and bacon sandwiches or baguettes.
There was a blackboard groaning with choices, most of which appear on the laminated, rather sticky menu, including scampi, chips and peas; beef lasagne; chilli nachos; steak and onion ciabatta; ham, chicken or tuna salad; ham, eggs and chips plus toasted teacakes and a whole slew of cakes, on-view in the cabinet by the horseshoe blue bar. Prices are kept low, most mains around the £4–£6 mark.
I sat by one of the windows overlooking the water and ordered ham, egg and chips from a very helpful, charming staff member.
The ham turned out to be plasticky, thinly -sliced with no taste and with a rim of dull orange bread crumbs. The poor-quality egg was cooked in less-than-hot fat and the chips were floury and dry but at least hot.
All in all, it was forgettable and could have been so much better with quality sourcing. What’s nicer than a comforting plate of ham, egg and chips?
It’s less expensive to cook your own ham and slice it than a good-value gammon. There’s really no excuse for such a dull egg and good, less floury, dry chips could easily be sourced.
As the café has pretty much a captive audience, particularly during this long, hot summer, it would be to the owners’ advantage to encourage repeat business. They could attract visitors from further afield by offering excellent food, even with simple meals like this one.
Fortunately there was salvation thanks to a decent, moist, decidedly lemony drizzle cake, one of two cakes, I was told, that were made on the premises. I assume the other large, rather dry-looking cakes are bought-in.
I hugely dislike criticising independent catering businesses as I far prefer to champion them over chains as they struggle against this uneven competition for the most part.
But there is a huge advance in independent cafes in the Portsmouth area, offering the type of food similar to Lakeside Café.
All of the ones I’ve reviewed are doing a pretty impressive job. However one or two are hitting the highs.
One thing in this café’s favour, apart from the moreish drizzle cake, is the lovely, delightful, warm service.
If they just upped their food game, I think they would win over countless admirers – and this restaurant critic.
I wish them good fortune in their new venture. My bill came to just under £7 for the food and a drink.
Lakeside Café & Bar, Walpole Park South, Gosport (023) 9252 6555 Open 8.30am–4pm and 9am–3pm Sun.
Disabled access: Perfect thanks to a ramp and large space for wheelchairs.
How to get there: Follow the signs for Gosport from the M27 and into the town. Continue on the main route past the ferry terminal to Walpole Park South and the café is on the right.
Ratings (maximum *****)