Cackleberry’s opened in a grade II listed building on Fareham’s West Street seven months ago, the smart upgrade from past tiny Italian restaurant to café becoming a mecca for those who prefer independents over chains.
Eggs dominate the grey-cream décor: hens and egg-design shapes joining hanging wire cages and caged homes to lemons.
The floor is a mix of tiles and wood-like planks sporting the names of wines. White wall tiles continue the spick-and-span but cluttered look.
Too much furniture is crammed into the small space. High round tables are cheek by jowl with square ones and two sofas. My hot green soup was eaten above the head of a reclining sofa diner.
The owners have 15 years’ catering experience, their kitchen expertise seemingly in carbs: cakes, pastries and pies. The display counter shows off the likes of corned beef savoury; bacon, cheese, tomato quiche; chicken, ham, leek or steak and Guinness pie; carrot or lemon and ginger cake and a black cherry Bakewell.
Before noon, go for eggy bread; egg, bacon or sausage muffin, eggs Benedict, or a Power Breakfast of sour dough bread, avocado, rocket, poached eggs and grilled tomatoes. There are paninis and baguettes. Soups? Maybe a sweet potato and cumin. You can also go for High Tea and gluten-free carbs too.
Everything is home-made including the soup to order, unusually.
Soup is pre-prepared in most places and when it’s gone, it’s gone. ‘There’ll be a 15-minute wait,’ advised one of the delightful staff. A vast well-seasoned soup portion – if this was ‘regular’ you need a good appetite to handle a large bowl – was über-thick and über-hot, the unbilled sautéed bacon a surprise. An under-cooked but hot baguette came with it as well.
A Roquefort, leek and walnut open pastry followed with an excellent small salad of beetroot, radishes, cherry tomatoes and various lettuces including radicchio. There were plenty of leeks and walnuts but no Roquefort.
Most food and drink took too long to emerge with new staff seemingly unsure of their role. But as charm and friendliness is the Cackleberry way, I’ll buy it.
The stylish drinks list includes teas, beers, ciders, wines and sparkling wine, quality soft drinks and 100 per cent Arabica beans for a variety of coffees.
By the owners’ admission, Cackleberry’s is taking it slowly to get it right, daytime-only openings now but watch for their brasserie hours. It’s definitely a place with a heart and soul but a little colour in the food over beige offerings might appeal, a less-is-more principle too on the current menu helping out the kitchen.
My bill came to just above £10 for the soup, pastry and sparkling water.
Cackleberrys, 6 West Street, Fareham, PO16 0BH 01329 511864 open 9am–late Mon-Fri, 9am–5pm Sun (times on the website but check by phoning).
How to get there: follow the signs for Fareham Central off the M27, West Street at the end of the High Street, Cackleberry’s close to the Red Lion on West Street. On-street parking or car park.