A cheap lunch to put a smile on your face

Whistle Stop cafe, Cosham
Whistle Stop cafe, Cosham

When you’re on the railway commute, you’ll often find yourself going through the frustration of having to change trains to get to your destination.

Sometimes you can be waiting for your next train for almost an hour, with very little to do to pass the time.

Chicken, bacon and cheese panini at Whistle Stop Cafe, Cosham

Chicken, bacon and cheese panini at Whistle Stop Cafe, Cosham

Many’s the time I’ve been stranded at Cosham Railway Station – but just around the corner is the most amazing place to stop off for a hot snack, or a even a full lunch.

Whistle Stop cafe is a delightful little cafe that is perhaps overlooked by visitors but it has an awful lot to offer – from great food to top-class customer service.

Upon walking into the cafe you can see a good number of seats (surprising for such a small cafe) and are greeted by the smiling staff behind the counter. I must say I really like that you can see everything going on in the kitchen behind them – it’s a very clean kitchen and there’s a certain comfort in knowing that they’re happy for you to see their every move.

Looking at the menu I was impressed to see just how much is on offer inside; from breakfast rolls to lunchtime paninis and homemade soup – as well as a board for the daily specials.

The menu itself is also significantly cheaper than the popular chain cafes that litter our high streets and railway stations – and for what you get it is genuinely great value for money.

I ordered the chicken, bacon and cheese panini (£3.50) and a slice of Victoria sponge cake (£1.50) with a bottle of Coca-Cola to wash it all down.

After being presented with a choice of sauces, I was given a very generous amount of tomato ketchup inside, which was nice.

The bread of the panini was perfectly cooked, with a crisped up finish while still being soft inside. The chicken was tender and while perhaps lacking in seasoning, complemented everything else inside very well.

As established many times before in Dish Detective reviews, bacon is a controversial topic and difficult to get right – it really depends on your personal preference.

For my preference, they got it spot on; the bacon did have a decent crisp to it, but wasn’t overcooked. There was still a meaty texture to it and they very kindly left the fat on – which means major bonus points are coming their way.

There was a very generous portion of cheese as well (‘generous’ appears to be the running theme for this cafe) though I can’t quite decide if I found this overpowering or not.

After the panini I tucked into the Victoria sponge.

Considering I only paid £1.50 for it, this was an enormous slice of cake – I was genuinely surprised and it dwarfs the slithers you’re given in some of the chain cafes.

The cake itself was very light and fluffy – not too sweet but still packed with flavour. The amount of cream was also genuinely impressive, but still didn’t overpower the sweet strawberry jam inside.

While I was having my lunch, I noticed a couple of things about the customer service. Firstly, there were a number of regulars who came in – the staff knew them by name, had time for a proper chat with them and also knew their orders by heart.

Secondly, another customer came in with very specific questions about the menu, and what went into an individual panini. The staff were able to answer all of those questions and were clearly accommodating of this customer’s needs, which was great to see.

All in all, it was a nice stop-off for lunch while waiting for the next train in a pleasant environment that put a smile on my face – I highly recommend it.

Whistle Stop cafe, Portsmouth Road, Cosham

07972 780024

Ratings out of five: 

Food – 3

Value – 5

Ambience – 4

Child-friendly – 3