Returning Southsea cafe boss lays claim to one of the 'best breakfasts in Portsmouth'

THE owner of one of Southsea’s most loved cafes says he’s delighted to be back in business after 495 days – and has claimed to still be serving one of the best breakfasts in Portsmouth.

Promoted by Federation of Small Businesses
Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 2:37 pm

Graham Heke runs Smile Café, in Marmion Road, and the café reopened for the first time since the start of the pandemic last week.

Graham said he was delighted to see his customers come back to support him – and that he was relieved not to have lost any of his cooking skills.

He said: ‘It was a bit weird coming back after 495 days, when we finished the first shift we thought “oh my god”.

From left, Sheena Heke, Grahame Heke, Yasmine Cupples, Alice Whittaker and Jo Bleach. Smile Cafe, Marmion Rd, Southsea Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 290721-)

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‘I was cooking in the kitchen, just taking a step here and there to operate the grill, and I still managed to do 7,500 steps during my shift.’

Graham, who has run the business for 14 years with his wife Sheena, said that breakfasts remained the cafe’s strongpoint.

He said: ‘I would go as far as to say as we are one of the best breakfasts in Portsmouth.

Owner Grahame Heke. Smile Cafe, Marmion Rd, Southsea Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 290721-15)

‘It’s up there to be shot at. They are decent, they would be hard to beat.

‘I get all my meat from Buckwells, use free-range eggs and Heinz baked beans, plus I have my own special technique, and everything is cooked to order.

‘I had a roofing business for 17 years before running the café and every morning after I picked the guys up I would go to a café and get a breakfast. It sets you up for the day. That’s why I know how to cook a good breakfast.’

The café is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – and Graham said he was pleased to see the place busy again. He hopes to see more people this week.

Smile Cafe, Marmion Rd, Southsea Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 290721-12)

‘We get a lot of older people coming in, plus the students when they are back, and all the faces of Southsea, everyone comes in as I attract all sorts,’ he said.

‘It is so good to see them again. It is seriously good to be back. It’s my mojo. I am such a creature of routine that it’s great to get back to doing what I love.’

As reported last week, Graham’s reopening has not been straightforward as he had to reapply for his alcohol licence from the council, plus he is locked into a battle about whether he can put his usual two tables back out at the front.

Cooked breakfast. Smile Cafe, Marmion Rd, Southsea Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 290721-14)

Portsmouth council stripped him of his outside seating licence while shut, and now he faces jumping through hoops to get them reinstated.

He said: ‘The battle is not over. Councils up and down the county are helping the hospitality industry get back up and running, but here they are not allowing me to do something that I have done for years.

‘I will keep fighting to get them back.’

Story by Kimberley Barber

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