It’s the day after the snow and everything is melting. You’d have thought the Beast from the East had trapped people in their homes for weeks judging by the number of people now queuing to get into Tesco’s car park at Fareham. There must be something about not being able to get to a supermarket for 24 hours that makes people yearn for fluorescent strip lighting even more.
Despite those desperate to replenish their bread bins, we brave Fareham town centre. It’s still wet and cold but Three Joes has its heating on full and the staff give us a warm welcome.
We’ve come to check the newest pizza place in town on a Saturday lunchtime and we're lucky to be ahead of the crowd as the place quickly fills.
It’s on the edge of the shopping centre in what was an odd unit that was empty-ish, housing start-ups and charities, anybody who’d agree to rent it. When the council agreed a change of use, allowing the first licensed premises in the centre since the pub went some years ago, Three Joes moved in and breathed life into the moribund shop.
They gave it a makeover and now there are trendy tiles, industrial lighting, booths with leather seats and the mismatched church/school chairs you expect from any with-it venue. A projected image plays Laurel and Hardy on mute (although the sound is piped to the loos and gives you a start when canned laughter starts).
Pizzas are made in the open-plan kitchen while waiting staff work from a large bar. It has a nice feel about it, nice enough to make it a treat to eat in but not too posh to put you off stopping by for lunch. There are lots of friendly waitresses and even the manager says hello.
The menu is relatively small and simple – a selection of eight wood-fired sourdough pizzas plus a special, and five alternatives including macaroni cheese, salads and slow-cooked pork shoulder.
We skip starters and head for the mains, plumping for the pizza special (£10.95) – today it’s teriyaki beef – and the slow-cooked pork shoulder (£9.95), plus a side of slaw. To drink I go for home-made lemonade, mother picks an elderflower pressé.
Baby is happy too as there’s an Ikea highchair for him (a winner as they are safe and easy to clean. Three Joes has at least six highchairs, so extra marks) and he's busy working through a colouring sheet he’s been given. A baby-sized portion of carrot and cucumber with hummus arrives and he agrees to tuck into that instead of the paper.
My pizza is topped with slow-cooked teriyaki beef, spring onions, edamame and fresh red chilli plus a side dip. The menu says the beef's from Dave’s Family Butchers in Fareham.
The pizza is large and fresh, the sourdough delicious with just the right amount of cheese.The fresh red chilli catches me by surprise, but in a good way. The house slaw is zingy and fresh-tasting, worth the extra £1.95. Mother enjoys her slow-cooked pork served on a bed of slaw with flatbread. It’s also delicious.
We share a chocolate brownie (£4.95) which comes with ice-cream and lashings of rich chocolate sauce. Again it’s delicious. By now we are getting the point, Three Joes does simple food well.
We accompany this with a double espresso (they had no soya milk, the only bad thing I can say about Three Joes) and a liqueur coffee. The coffee is an excellent rich blend. Our bill comes to just north of £40.
Dish Detective gives top marks to this place. It was a delight made even better by kind and friendly staff who made us feel our custom was appreciated. It’s the kind of place to make a trip into the town centre worthwhile – even on a busy, dismal Saturday.
• Three Joes, Fareham Shopping Centre, West Street, Fareham Tel: 01329 740232
Ratings out of five