Smile, Southsea

Smile, Marmion Road, Southsea
Smile, Marmion Road, Southsea

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Marmion Road is a mecca for those looking for interesting shopping and eating. Waitrose is the only big brand in the eclectic mix.

There are two shops selling flowers, a kitchen shop stocked with excellent produce, some furniture emporiums, a smart shop majoring in chocolate and many types of cafes, one of them called Smile.

Smiling can be the missing ingredient in a restaurant. If it does emerge, an insincere, corporate one can be off-putting.

But smiling at Smile is genuine. This family-owned and run business is a café with a heart, judging by the care given to solo elderly diners and indeed all who enter.

This is a very welcome neighbourhood restaurant in the style of Cheers, ‘where everybody knows your name.’

The cheerfulness continues with bright fire engine red tongue-and-groove panelling lifting the spirits, along with large photographs of local scenes including the Spinnaker Tower.

Smart, simple modern wooden tables and chairs complete the spotless picture.

Come here for that all-day breakfast, the Smile Big Breakfast – two rashers of bacon, an egg, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, toast, tea or coffee. At £5.50, it’s one of the six breakfasts on offer.

Or there are sandwiches, jacket potatoes and salads including ones with Coronation Chicken, poached salmon and ham.

The on-view kitchen where the chef prepares her homemade food also comes up with the Smile Super Omelette (cheese, mushrooms, bacon, onion or choose your own filling); chicken breast with vegetables; chicken burger or vegetable burger with a salad and a bun; cheesy-topped cottage or veggie cottage pie or beef or vegetarian lasagne.

They do soups too, plus homemade carrot cake and puddings. They still serve Nescafé, but also offer freshly-ground coffee, plus smoothies, wine, beer and cider.

You’ll find it a challenge to spend more than £6.95 on a main course, with Sunday roasts at £6.50. Vegans and vegetarians have a field day here with many choices.

The chef also offers a daily homemade pie on a specials board. My choice was chicken and ham pie. The homemade shortcrust was excellent, the filling moist and well-seasoned. A small pot of gravy came with this but wasn’t needed.

Rarely has mash been this good, but the broccoli and beans could have been better drained and tossed with some butter to bring them to life. A pleasant cherry and apple crumble followed.

Smile offers a fair deal in pleasant surroundings – and they’re such nice people it’s difficult not to smile. My bill came to just over £10 for two courses and a bottle of sparkling water, but not a tip.

Smile, 49 Marmion Road, Southsea PO5 2AT

Open: 9am-4pm Tues-Sat and 9.30am-3pm Sun

Food: Four stars (out of five)

Service: Four stars

Atmosphere: Four stars

Disabled access: Good

How to get there: Head for Southsea and Marmion Road is off Victoria Road South. The café is on the right, opposite the Waitrose car park.