BIG READ: From the ladies who lunch, to the ladies who brunch 

Bottomless brunch at Becketts
Bottomless brunch at Becketts
Picture: Shaun Roster

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What could be better than glamming up, indulging in the most delicious food and drinking fancy cocktails  –  in the middle of the day?

Not much.

A delicious salmon dish at Becketts

A delicious salmon dish at Becketts

Bottomless brunch is the latest foodie trend.

They have become increasingly popular over the past two years, with bars and restaurants offering breakfast and lunch dishes with unlimited alcohol – usually prosecco, Bloody Marys, mimosas or bellini cocktails. 

Think Carrie Bradshaw and co from Sex And The City. 

Customers have a certain amount of time to make use of the unlimited drinks, and this type of brunching is seemingly favoured by women looking to mark special occasions in style.

Guests enjoy a bottomless brunch at Becketts, Southsea

Guests enjoy a bottomless brunch at Becketts, Southsea

But there are fears that bottomless brunches are fuelling an escalation in women's drinking habits. 

Southsea restaurant Becketts has been offering bottomless brunch since the beginning of the year, and general manager Jodie Chamberlain says its owners were the first people to see the business potential for it in Portsmouth. 

And she says the fears are unfounded. 

'All our staff arefully trained, and I think that really matters. If they're trained well, and they are keeping an eye on people and circulating the room and monitoring tables, everything's fine.' 

She adds, 'Bottomless brunch is extremely busy for us, we have groups of people just wanting to come and try it out for the fun of it but also parties, birthdays, hen dos - it's really good for our trade.' 

'It's definitely more popular among women because it can be a glamourous thing to do, to dress up and have some nice food and a few drinks. But, saying that, we are starting to get groups of lads in. 

'Overall we get a really good mix of people coming into the restaurant, golden oldies, young, cool girls who want to be seen, kids and parents, businessmen, but for bottomless brunch it's mainly young to middle-aged women. 

'Before Mutiny Festival on Saturday we had loads of girls aged 20-30 in all dressed up, glitter in their hair, and they were having brunch with us before going to the festival. 

'But not long ago we had a group of ladies aged 70 and above who came in and really enjoyed themselves. 

'We re-fill customers' drinks for an hour-and-a-half, while they're eating. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are definitely our busiest days for bottomless brunch – it kicked off straight away. 

'The owners of the restaurant, Jason and Soraya, saw a bit of a gap in the market for it in Southsea, it's something that works very well and it's really taken off in Portsmouth. 

'When we started offering it nowhere else really was down here, we saw the potential before anyone else. It's a trend that's really kicked off.' 

According to Jodie, Becketts offers premium dining with a 'casual, very cool kind of feel'.

She adds: 'A lot of our inspiration comes from London because Jason and Soraya spend a lot of time there in nice, chic bars, and cool places in Shoreditch. 

'Food-wise we offer a bit of everything, it's British cuisine but we have Asian influences in there, comfort food, seafood dishes and more.' 

Jodie says Becketts, on Bellevue Terrace, has been open for about 30 years – but was completely refurbished in 2016 when its new owners took over.  

In the past couple of years, as bottomless brunches have risen in popularity, health experts have issued warnings they encourage drink driving and binge drinking, especially among professionals and middle-class women. 

But Jodie says if there are rules and limits in place, and staff are trained properly, bottomless brunches don't have to be dangerous. 'We're quite strict and regimented here,' she adds. 

'When we get a booking customers get emailed a set of rules, which include things like no under 18s, that we have the right to stop serving people, information about the drinking time limit, and so on. 

'We have a time limit so drinking doesn't get out of control, and people are often surprised by how short they think it is, but when you're sitting down drinking it is actually a long time. 

'We can also refuse to serve people any more drink if we feel it's necessary.' 

Earlier this month, club and restaurant Tiger Tiger, in Gunwharf, held its own Ultimate Brunch Party, where customers hit the dancefloor after enjoying a three-course brunch feast and three hours of bottomless drinks, as well a live music, DJ sets and performers.

Claire Cross, 33, visited Becketts with nine friends to celebrate the birth of her baby. 

'We often go to London to do bottomless brunches, we quite like the daytime drinking element – it doesn't need to be too hardcore and we're not big fans of clubbing,' says Claire.

'Bottomless brunch is a nice alternative because it's chilled out. Becketts was really good. Staff kept your drinks topped up so you were never without one but not to the point where you felt like you were guzzling them down.

'Perhaps it's our age, but we didn't feel obliged to shove as much alcohol down us as possible, it's more of a convenience thing, knowing you don't have to go up to the bar to keep ordering drinks.  

'For sure, it's a good excuse to get dressed up – we've all got young children so it's nice to go out and have a few drinks, see your friends in a different setting and be home at a reasonable hour.'  

It's no longer ladies who lunch, but ladies who brunch. 

ADVICE FROM THE EXPERTS

According to Public Health England, more than 20 per cent of adults regularly drink at levels that put them at risk of health harm and seven million adults binge drink, putting them at risk of accidents or assaults.

A lot of ill health associated with alcohol, such as heart disease and cancer, is among people who are not dependent, but who drink frequently and are unaware of the risks. And concerns have been raised about the popularity of bottomless brunches. Angela Baker, Public Health England deputy director for health and wellbeing in the south east, said: 'Public Health England aims to encourage adults to take greater care of their health, including how much they are drinking. 'Alcohol increases the risk of a wide range of health conditions including high blood pressure, some cancers and depression. Ten million people are drinking at levels that increase their risk of harm, which is why we are continuing to work to reduce the harm alcohol can cause. 'Many people will say "I only drink at the weekend" or on "special occasions" and when we ask what they drink at the weekend, it’s maybe 25-30 units. 'So anything that encourages you to drink more would, if you were doing it regularly, would be detrimental to your health. 'Making lifestyle changes can be tough but it’s important to give people the information and tools to help them make healthier choices including guidance, based on the best available evidence, to help them judge the risks.'