Carol enjoys a quiet lunch at the Vanilla Bean Patisserie & Cafe in Gosport.
The Vanilla Bean is a stone’s throw from Gosport pub The Star, where a fracas involving the town’s new mayor and mayoress resulted in stiff Pub Watch bans for the twosome, just hours after their mayor-making ceremony. Fortunately, The Vanilla Bean is decidedly quieter, with no booze – just cold soft drinks, teas and coffees spurting from a proper espresso machine.
Gosport’s high street, like many other towns, is full of chain brands such as Costa Coffee so The Vanilla Bean, with its Hungarian staff, is a welcome haven of independence.
The café, which opened in 2013, declares that it will ‘give you the best pastries, made by hand from genuine ingredients’. Certainly, the offerings don’t look like those garish factory confections you can buy in supermarkets, but neither do they resemble the cakes you’d find on a French high street, being solid rather than light and stylish.
The café’s décor is fairly colourless – fawn chairs merge with beige-painted walls and a single photograph of a flower is the only decoration. Even the cakes – which I am told are all homemade by the pâtissier chef on the premises – seem to blend in, veering towards the off-white, mushroom and dark brown.
The service and atmosphere are simple and quietly delightful, with smiling staff and muted music – during my visit The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ floated in the background. Even something of a language barrier doesn’t detract from the experience.
The menu is nothing to startle the horses, providing the simple fare that many now seek: breakfasts, omelettes, sandwiches, jacket potatoes and pâtisserie – very much a case of carbs over healthier options.
On the menu, not-particularly-Hungarian baked beans on toast sits next to poached or scrambled eggs and the full English breakfast while omelette options include bacon, mushrooms and cheddar cheese. I daresay you could guess the sandwich and jacket potato fillings: yep, cheese, tuna mayo, bacon and others, plus a smoked salmon and a chicken panini, all served with salad garnish.
Prices are modest: from £1.50 for toast and jam to £5.50 for a full breakfast, £3.50 for homemade soup, £4 for an omelette and pastries and cakes ranging from £1.90 to £2.80.
The food itself was a little underwhelming. My tomato and onion omelette – unfortunately minus the billed basil – was attractive enough, but less cooking would have benefitted the eating. Better quality tomatoes would also have improved the dish, not only in the omelette itself, but also in the garnish – a few tasteless slices nestled alongside crispy lettuce that needed some form of simple dressing.
I followed it with an individual lemon tart, which was slightly too solid and not quite lemony enough, decorated with needless squiggles of piped cream and light caramel. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant end to my light meal. Other choices included a chocolate tart, caramel or chocolate cake, eclairs with vanilla cream, cheesecake and a selection of fruit tarts.
Overall, The Vanilla Bean was a welcome pit stop and an inexpensive one – my bill came to £8, including bottled water. Perhaps mayoral leaders might celebrate here in future with a cream tea for their retenue, rather than necking down drinks and causing a fuss in front of rightly astonished townsfolk.
Vanilla Bean, 25 High Street, Gosport, PO12 1DU.
Call : 07544062788.
Mon-Sat: 8 am– 6pm
Sun: 8am – 4 pm
Disabled access: Fine.
How to get there: Take the Gosport Road to the end of the peninsula by the harbour, drive around to the paying carpark and walk through to the high street.