If you are a fan of alcohol The Cork & Cheese really is the place for you. As soon as you enter the cafe you are hit with a wall of different beverages. In fact every surface that isn’t a window or a table for eating is home to a glass bottle.
If hundreds of different gins, wines, vodkas and beers aren’t for you there is another wall of home-made and local food products and a delicatessen counter packed with cheeses (when we were there for a Saturday brunch they were busy making a wedding cake made of cheeses and I couldn’t brie-lieve my eyes.)
Sorry that was cheesy... moving on.
In the middle of all the spirits and food it took a while for us to be acknowledged by the staff. There were five of them, two of us, the cafe isn’t that big, so it was not too much to ask.
We had booked a table as it was the day before Father’s Day and we were unsure if local families to this Park Gate establishment would flood there for tea and cake.
As it turned out we need not have bothered as there were only one other couple and a family there.
Some of the Dish Detective’s acquaintances would immediately know they were in the right place because the drinks menu is longer than its food counterpart. But besides having the chance to drink any bottle straight off the shelf (£5 corkage) it is pretty unclear whether you order at the counter or from the table.
We were told the counter, but another family’s order was taken at the table – all a little confusing.
Despite all the alcohol choices (Parma violet gin and toffee vodka caught my eye), we opted for Portsmouth Tea which is especially blended in Southsea to cope with this area’s hard water.
It was served with a hipster mismatched classic tea set which fitted the atmosphere of the place perfectly.
I opted for one of the four afternoon teas on offer. They range from a ‘simple’ cream tea (£4.75) to the ’luxury’ version (£14.50) which comes with a pot of tea or coffee, a round of sandwiches, slice of cake, scone with clotted cream and jam and a glass of prosecco or a gin and tonic. Frankly this sounded like a feast which would last me two days.
So I opted for the £9.50 ‘traditional’ – everything from the luxury version minus the booze. It arrived on a black slate.
The cafe bakes its own cakes daily and that day there was a choice between nut-free carrot cake and a vegan Victoria sponge. I kept it royal.
The only disappointment was the sandwich choice – or lack of it.
Most afternoon teas Dish Detective has sampled include a variety of delicate rolls with fillings but here the choice was between chicken, ham, beef or tuna. They added mayonnaise but it was an underwhelming start.
Grapes were an unusual addition but appreciated all the same.
Cheese scones were available but my sweet tooth craved the plain scone with cream and jam. It was huge – like a scone on steroids which I was looking forward to devouring except it was rock hard and cold in the middle. The best came at the end with the light and jammy Victoria sponge.
Dish Detective’s mother went for the ham omelette with side salad (£7.25) although there were many other choices. She said it was light and fresh though perhaps the price slightly too dear for its size.
Overall The Cork and Cheese was a mixed experience. Having heard such good things from friends and family I’d really wanted it to be good. Perhaps they were having an off day. I’ve heard high praise for their many gins, cocktails and charcuterie sharing boards (£15) so another visit is required.
The Cork & Cheese, Park Gate
Tel: 01489 588255
(ratings out of five)