Lu Chino Café Bistro, Gosport

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SHORT STORY FOR THE WEEKEND: The Intruder by Mike Gaines

Gosport's High Street is the town's heart, city fathers taking the good step some years ago to make it pedestrianised.

Smack bang in the middle of the street is Lu Chino, a small, privately-owned caf bistro.

In summer large glass doors allow for extra tables outside, but in winter those doors are firmly shut against the cold and seating is in the small, narrow caf.

Luchino is the Italian chef-owner and a few Italian dishes such as lasagne and pizza seep on to the menu. But this is a man who understands the measure of the local clientele and offers the usual fare found everywhere in Britain: breakfasts and jacket potatoes plus sandwiches.

Or come here for soup, chilli con carne or beef stew in bread fashioned into a round bowl; fish pie; black pudding stack; mixed grill; club sandwiches with chips and other dishes.

Cakes and coffees are equally part of his mission to feed the locals. Luchino loves his coffee.

The caf is decorated with coffee sacks, the coffee list a lengthy one. Come here for macchiato, espresso, latte, cappuccino, mocha, amaretto latte and other alcoholic coffees.

Prices are reasonable for both food and coffees, most mains around the 5 mark.

Luchino operates in a small space within the caf, his cooking domain surrounded by counter space stacked with coffee machine and cakes within glass shelving.

Forget child buggies in here, wheelchairs equally finding it a tight squeeze.

Order at the counter and, if there is a large party as there was the day I visited, you may be there for a bit of a wait.

Luchino is a one-man band, his waitress doubling up if necessary as commis chef-cum-waiting staff.

My choice was the beef stew in bread (4.50), which came with a token salad. A bit of a gimmick, the rim was rather burnt and hard.

But the base was nicely softened by the soup-like stew which contained a few pieces of meat, some mushrooms and carrots.

A growing man might find the portion exceptionally small but, as a light meal at lunchtime, it was fine.

The beef was tender and the soup tasted rather packet-like.

An apple crumble could have been ordered, but instead I went for a carrot cake with an espresso – excellent at 1.

The cake seemed a tad elderly, the marge-like icing really unpleasant. My bill came to 9.

Licensed Lu Chino is also open two evenings a week, but is essentially a daytime caf.

You'll struggle to find one that works harder and the man behind it is delightfully friendly.

Carol is a chef, former restaurateur and editor of Savour, the Guild of Food Writers magazine

Lu Chino Caf Bistro, 130 High Street, Gosport

(023) 9251 0896

Open: 8am–4.30pm Mon-Fri (Fri-Sat evenings also open at 6pm)

Food: ***

Service: ****

Atmosphere: ***

Disabled access: Very cramped for wheelchair users

How to get there: Take the Gosport turn off the M27 and head down the A32 to Mumby Road. The High Street leads off it and there's a car park on the right. Walk through to the High Street and the caf is on the left half-way up.