The Wave Maiden closing is a sad indictment on our society | Simon Carter
I don’t know about you, but I love visiting pubs and restaurants that are a bit ‘different’. Basically, that’s shorthand for ‘not a chain’.
If I want a Wetherspoon’s, I could visit any major town or city in England and find one pretty quickly. Ditto if I want to visit a pub run by Greene King - there are more than 10 such establishments on Portsea Island for a start.
I have nothing against either company, but you don’t get the feeling of being anywhere intimate, anywhere different and, I’ll be frank, anywhere out of the ordinary when you visit one.
You order from a range of food and drinks that are basically the same - for obvious reasons - in all their pubs. It’s relatively cheap and cheerful and relatively good value, and I get why swathes of the population enjoy visiting them.
But I’m always on the search for that something ‘different’, and on moving to Portsmouth almost two years ago I quickly found one such place - the Wave Maiden in Osborne Road. It offered some traditional ciders I’d never tried before - and I’ve tried a lot, the strapline to this column should tell you that! - as well as a great ambience and some comfy sofas. The drinks weren’t cheap - £5 for a pint of cider
Food-wise, you could choose from a range of cheeses, chutneys and crackers as well as a menu offering a vegan alternative to all their main dishes. Now, I’m not vegan - I have no wish to ever become one - but it was a nice touch I’ve never seen anywhere else. And the cheese platter was to die for …
I’ve spent the last two years looking for pubs on Portsea Island that, in terms of cider, offer a refreshing - literally and metaphorically - alternative to the Strongbow, Magners or Bulmers options so commonly (and boringly) found in the major chains.
I’ve discovered a handful - The Fleet, The Lawrence Arms and The Rose in June in addition to the Wave Maiden.
With all that in mind, I was therefore saddened to read in The News last week that the Wave Maiden has shut, another victim of the pandemic. It’s by no means the first, and won’t by any means be the last, but its passing is another stab in the heart for those of us who want our pubs to be a little out of the ordinary, for those of us who don’t want to be the bland visiting the bland.
As our high streets continue to suffer a slow and painful death, so many places become mirror images of each other. Chains reinforce that; they have their place, but by their nature they cannot be anything special - what you get in a Spoons in Hull will be the same as you get in Northampton, Truro or Worcester. Same with KFC, same with McDonald’s, same with every chain. And I repeat, I get it why those places are popular - customers know exactly what they’re getting.
That’s why Spoons pubs are everywhere, rammed to the gills on occasions, and family-run businesses like the Wave Maiden are closing. Places that dared to be different, gloried in being different actually, are closing down.
It’s a crying shame, it really is, a sad indictment on our society really.
On a more positive note, and with The News’ Dish Detective having been furloughed since mid-March, I must mention a restaurant within a stone’s throw of the Wave Maiden. Well, if you can throw a stone several hundred yards, that is …
Flamez, on Palmerston Road, opened up back in January but I’d never been there until a weekend visit a fortnight ago. It was so nice my partner and I returned three days later to take advantage of the government’s Eat Out to Help Out offer. It would have been rude not to ...
Just to say, the chicken kabsa meal with rice, Tabbouleh salad, hummus and pitta was THE best food I have eaten in a very long time.
We got the last table, even though it was only 6pm, and a queue quickly formed outside. I’m guessing this place is not a secret to many, but I’m happy to further spread their gospel. Seriously, you must visit. No-one’s paying me to say this, and I’m not getting any free food (though I wouldn’t say no …)
I’m not joking, you really must visit. You'll want to buy me cider as a 'thank you’ gift, though sadly we can’t go to the Wave Maiden to drink it ...