Despite the yachting fraternity being relatively well-heeled and often well-travelled with an expectation of high standards, sailors along the south coast are generally not well served when it comes to food or drink.
Having sailed these past few years with friends and scoured the coast’s sailing clubs for decent grub, we’ve vowed to pack our own food.
But Debbie Green and Juliet Graham took over the Emsworth Yacht Harbour’s Deck Café last summer with the promise to change this poor reputation.
This event management organiser and chef have ploughed their considerable expertise into this smart café complete with, yup, a deck.
Not for them the ‘take it or leave it’ attitude so loved by some other yacht harbours’ catering outfits. This one shrieks quality.
The café, on the first floor of the marina’s offices, sells a mountain of cakes plus savoury snacks, beers and wines.
The menu is small but perfectly formed, with soups (fish with rouille, croûtons and cheese or pea); quiche, homemade sausage rolls; moules; platters (charcuterie, Sussex cheeses, The Deck with smoked salmon pâté, cured herring, prawn cocktail, marinated cucumber salad with toasted pain de Campagne); smoked haddock fishcakes; oriental duck salad; autumn salad (Sussex blue cheese, pickled pear, walnuts, leaves, roast butternut squash); sandwiches and specials.
Prices are highly pleasurable. The pea, watercress and leek soup is £4.50, platters are from £7.50 and salads around the £8 mark. Sandwiches are from £3.25 and cakes start at £2.50.
The pea soup was splendid – chunky, vivid green (as opposed to sludge green) and well-seasoned. Excellent bread came with it. One of the platters, the Deck, followed. Smartly-presented on a slate and wood platter, it looked just what landlubbers and seafarers have been trawling the Solent in search of.
Three ramekin dishes of fish clustered amongst uber-fresh watercress, a good-sized lemon wedge, a radicchio ‘basket’ holding the cucumber salad and two toasted slices of dense, good bread. All were exemplary, although the cucumber could have been less salty.
A meringue with fruit and red berry sauce on the next table looked straight out of a glossy magazine and the cakes were equally impressive. Choose from coffee and walnut and carrot amongst others. And there’s a gluten-free one too. Afternoon tea at £10.95 (order in advance) is also available.
I sat outside initially, waiting for a table to be free. There are around 12 in the café itself and five outside. The place was heaving, even in winter. I advise booking or getting there early. But do go. The Deck is a huge bonus to sailors and landlubbers alike. Service is on the ball and charming. My bill came to just over £17 for two courses and a glass of good Sauvignon Blanc, not including a tip.
The Deck Café at Emsworth Yacht Harbour, Thorney Road, Emsworth PO10 8BP
Tel: 01243 376161
Open: Seven days a week from 8.30am for breakfast to 4.30pm
Food: Five (out of five)
Disabled access: There’s a lift to the first floor. Limited space for wheelchairs.
How to get there: Come off the A27 to Emsworth and continue past the town centre’s roundabout to Thorney Road on the right. Turn right at the yacht harbour sign, then right again at the entrance. The café is at the end. Limited parking.