DISH DETECTIVE SPECIAL: Where's the best food at Portsmouth's Commercial Road Christmas market?

BOUND by a commitment to living life in the shadows, the maddening buzz of Commercial Road is not something the Dish Detective yearns for.

Tuesday, 19th December 2017, 1:04 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th December 2017, 1:06 pm
The Commercial Road Christmas market
The Commercial Road Christmas market

But with Christmas fast approaching, this hustle and bustle is at its peak – bringing enough footfall to be confident I could go about my work incognito among the crowds.

Famous at this time of year are the destination’s festive stalls – collectively known as Portsmouth Christmas Market – boasting oodles of offerings from crafts and cards to food and drink.

Given the fact I wasn’t about to crunch my way through a bespoke bauble, the Schwenkgrill slap-bang outside Cascades seemed a solid place to go undercover once again.

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The krakauer sausage from the Schwenkgrill

This pop-up faux-German shack boasts an open-plan layout, centred around a big, swivelling grill above a platform of hot coals.

Four kinds of sausages are available, including the arguably now-pedestrian Bratwurst, but I settled on a spicy Krakauer to give my lunchtime a bit of a kick.

Service was blunt but swift, which didn’t disappoint me too much as the stall itself had next-to-no seating, so I wasn’t inclined to stick around for long.

When the £4.50 Krakauer arrived, I couldn’t help but smile and let out a silent laugh in my head. My sausage was served half-bare in a meagre excuse for a bun – I almost felt embarrassed for it.

The trio of German kisses

Perhaps I’d drawn the short straw and caught the vendors at the end of a loaf, or maybe they just wanted to make their meat look massive. Either way, the bun was not big enough.

But it’s the taste that counts, so I pressed on and took a much-anticipated first bite. Delicious. But I had one question. What spice?

Sadly, my attempt at a vaguely fiery lunch fell flat. As enjoyable as it was, the sausage packed little-to-no heat. It simply didn’t do what was promised on the tin. For that reason, £4.50 felt a little steep.

Moving on, I meandered next door to the Alpine Bar. Its cheery staff greeted me with a friendly smile before taking my order of a hot chocolate.

A hot chocolate from the Alpine Bar

It’s a very safe bet, admittedly, but a perfect winter warmer when it’s done right. I’m glad to say it was.

For £2, I received a reasonably-sized beverage topped with whipped cream, chocolate dust and half a Cadbury Flake.

With no need for sugar, this went down a treat as I sat at one of the bar’s multiple tables and watched the world go by – serenaded by gaudy Christmas tunes.

Its confines were a warm and welcome respite from the pouring rain and packed walkways and, as I was informed by staff, you can even take your market-bought food into the bar.

The krakauer sausage from the Schwenkgrill

I’m sure they would prefer it if you made a purchase when you got there, but the reassurance of being welcome saves the awkwardness of a typically British ‘these-seats-are-only-for-customers’ turf war.

If hot chocolate or a simple cuppa doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can be more adventurous than I was by opting for a Glühwein (German mulled wine) for £4, or a pint of Kalternberg lager for 50p more.

No doubt steep for some, not least the Dish Detective, but the latter can even be enjoyed in an £8 plastic stein – the perfect item of memorabilia if you can’t bear to lose those memories of boozing in a high street market.

As my assignment drew to a close, I picked up a few ‘German kisses’ for the road, from a stall of the same name.

At £1-a-piece, these yummy chocolate confections are effectively Tunnock’s teacakes on steroids – packed with sweetened foam from egg whites instead of marshmallow.

Given their size (and indeed potential mess when eating), I likened them more to a sickly-sweet snog than a gentle peck, but as I learned from my Krakauer half-an-hour earlier, the Germans go big.

The trio of German kisses

I ate three of the cakes that afternoon – one cappuccino-flavoured, one coconut and one milk chocolate. They went down a treat.

All-in-all I enjoyed my time at Portsmouth Christmas Market. It’s not a spot I would leave the house solely to visit, but its stalls are a sound way to break up a Christmas shopping trip.

The Dish Detective features every Friday in The Guide, inside The News.

THE VERDICT

Food: 3.5

Ambience: 4

Value: 3

Child-friendly: 4

A hot chocolate from the Alpine Bar