If you have ever wondered why, when in restaurants and trendy cafes, you see people taking pictures of their food – the answer is Instagram.
The social media platform is awash with artfully placed dinner plates and cups of coffee, which diners have spent more time arranging than actually enjoying.
The beautiful Garage Lounge, in Albert Road, Southsea, which takes its name from its past life as a tyre workshop, could have been made for Instagram.
Thanks to a banquette-to-ceiling window looking out on to Albert Road, natural light floods in from the front of the cafe to create an airy, welcoming environment perfect for a relaxed drink on a summer’s day, or a rainy winter one.
Opened in 2012, the venue is full of carefully selected pieces of furniture which reflect the owners’ tastes.
For interior, think antique chic and dark wood, united with burgundy velvet, French-style provincial sofas and pouffes, with marble-topped side tables of odd heights to eat and drink from.
If you’re here for a feast, the size of said tables is impractical, but there’s plenty more traditional seating around the edge of the main room or through the back.
As I and my partner arrive and cast our eyes on all this for the first time, we’re impressed and excited for lunch and before long we’re seated.
This wait of perhaps a minute or so may have been a lucky fluke, we later learn.
Handed brunch menus and told to order and pay at the counter, the power’s in our hands now and options aren’t scarce either.
Four of the eight traditional breakfast dishes are veggie-friendly –ranging from £6.50 to £8, with gluten-free variants available – and there are seven sandwiches to choose from, eight sweet breakfasts and four salads.
Having effectively fasted all morning in preparation, I opt for the carved, seared steak sandwich on ciabatta, with pickled caramelised onions, mustard aioli and watercress (£8.50).
My partner’s choice is a vegetarian breakfast of poached eggs, sourdough toast, smashed avocado, spinach, feta, portobello mushroom and plum tomato (£8). Try saying that in a hurry.
I get a thick and delicious Oreo milkshake to drink (£4.50) and my partner goes for a Frobisher’s pineapple juice (£2.50).
It’s at this point I’m overjoyed to be in her good company, as we chat our way through a lengthy wait of 43 minutes for food.
And we’re not the only ones – diners on at least two other tables look miffed at the delay, throwing cursory glances in the direction of the kitchen and front of house staff.
But thankfully, like buses, when one dish out comes they all do, and our anger falls to a simmer in unison.
My steak is juicy, flavoursome and not too chewy, but the winning combo here is more subtle.
Some ciabatta can be too tough and overly dusted with flour, but this was simply perfect.
It's soft and warm and every bite has me yearning for the next one, as the mustard aioli and caramelised onion combine to give off a sweet, moorish tang.
I’m glad to say it’s worth the wait, but it’s a case of long-term pain for short-term gain as it’s polished off within a fraction of the time.
Across the table the vegetarian breakfast, so I’m told, is business as usual but it hits the spot.
With that we eventually leave pleased with our food, but also with the fact we don’t have to wait for the bill.
Tel no: (023) 9234 3630
Ratings (out of five):