These Portsmouth restaurants have started doing deliveries or takeaways - here's how they found the massive change

It’s no secret that the casual dining crunch has been felt across the country.With everything lockdown has brought, it has also presented itself as a very real threat to our restaurant industry.

Saturday, 25th April 2020, 12:00 am
A selection of food at Sant Yago. Picture: Christopher Reed / Hashtag Social

But in a financial climate that demands a response similar to fight or flight, many of the area’s top eateries have transformed themselves into takeaways or arranged a delivery service for their customers who would regularly eat at their tables.

They all need our help to keep going when life returns to normal – whenever that may be – and supporting local businesses has never been more important.

‘When we heard we had to close there were lots of tears but we realised we had to diversify,’ says Sarah Weir, who part-owns Southsea’s popular tapas and cocktail bar, Sant Yago.

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Coconut quinoa curry from Sant Yago. Picture: Christopher Reed / Hashtag Social

Together with business partner Jon Welch and their team of waiting staff, they are normally run off their feet with customers at their Clarendon Road restaurant.

Up the road at Elm Grove, Huis Belgian Bar’s owner Simon Docker was preparing to shut the doors. He says: ‘The hardest part about closing was that we had no notice or clear instructions about how or when to close. We had kegs half full with beer and no time to clear food stocks.

‘We had fresh mussels – you can’t take them to a foodbank.’

And for Lawrence Murphy and his wife Julia, who own and run Fat Olives restaurant, Emsworth, their customers gradually dropped off before lockdown was put in place. Lawrence explains: ‘We usually serve 150-180 per week. The week before lockdown we served 20.’

Huis's Pork belly slowly roasted in Lindemans Apple beer, served with stoemp or truffled potato dauphinoise, and seasonal vegetables, finished with apple beer and mustard reduction.

Despite a lack of government advice, these three restaurants – along with many others in the region – have carved out their own way to survive through the help of delivery services Uber Eats and Just Eat or simply by using their own cars. Something none of them had done before.

Huis continues to offer some of its signature dishes, such as the banana beer brisket burger – beef brisket slow cooked in Mongozo Banana beer, topped with Gruyère cheese in a toasted brioche bun. They are also offering classic Belgian waffles, such as the spiced apple or banoffee waffle.

Simon explains: ‘We are cooking many of our dishes in beer, we stock around 100 beers from Belgium and beyond.

‘We’ve had a good response but are obviously a lot quieter. We had never done delivery or takeaway before because we were always so busy. We had to turn to takeaway to be able to pay the rent,’ he adds.

Huis's Beef brisket slow cooked in Mongozo Banana beer, topped with Gruyère cheese, sweet potato rosti, caramelised pineapple in a toasted brioche bun - with a side of Sriracha mayo.

Similarly at Sant Yago, Jon says: ‘We’re doing this to cover costs. We all can’t wait for the day when we can open our doors again. ‘The delivery service had been on my mind for about a year before all of this happened. I was looking at how to package our dishes because we wanted them to travel well. Tapas is not normally something you would get from a takeaway.

‘This situation has forced our hand a bit to do it but we’re enjoying the challenge.’

‘What was really important to us was that we still offered dishes which were gluten free, vegetarian and vegan to cater for dietary needs,’ adds Sarah.

Their dishes include coconut quinoa curry; roast squash and mozzarella salad served with pomegranate, mixed leaves and mustard dressing; and braised pig cheeks in a caramelised leek and onion, creamy wholegrain mustard sauce. Sarah says: ‘We still want to offer our range of flavours with the takeaway.’

Home Cured Chalkstream Trout, Caramelised Fennel. Picture: Fat Olives

Taking the leap of faith into the food delivery world was something Lawrence, the head chef at Fat Olives, admits he was sceptical about. He says: ‘It’s very difficult to do what we do as a takeaway. We wanted to be able to maintain the standards we set by people being able to prepare it themselves.’

He and Julia have devised a unique takeaway service which they have named Fat Olives At Home. From the end of May, they will be offering a two or three course choice menu for a Friday and Saturday night. You will be able to make your choice from a selection of two starters, two mains and one dessert. Lawrence explains: ‘We will do all the work. All you have to do is pop it in the oven.’

The menus will change on a weekly basis and will be released on the Sunday (starting May 31) for people to order on a Monday before delivery on a Friday or Saturday. The delivery, which they will do themselves, will include an oven and serve guide.

To give an idea of the menu, Lawrence says: ‘For example, the starter may be smoked trout with grapefruit dressing and Tuppenny Barn salad. A main might be braised beef cooked in red wine and mushrooms or a classic fish stew.

‘We make all of our desserts ourselves and use local produce for everything. We need people to support us so we can support local traders.’

‘We’re also thinking about starting a goodie box, which may contain things like homemade bread, olives, harissa and sauces.’

Huis's Wienerschnitzel - Vienna style pork schnitzel HUIS Pilsner breaded, topped with a free range fried egg, served with bacon and onion fried potatoes.

The Murphys hope their loyal customers’ support will keep them going for at least two months. Lawrence says: ‘We’ve had lots of lovely support. We've run the restaurant for 20 years so we’ve built up trust.’

All restaurants are patiently waiting until they can open their doors once again. Sarah, of Sant Yago, adds: ‘It’s nice to see the friendly faces of our regular customers and being able to wish them well when they pick up their food.

‘Everyone has really pulled together and we all benefit from supporting local businesses.’

Contact huissouthsea.co.uk or (023) 9217 6465; santyago.co.uk or (023) 9217 9636; email [email protected]

Here is the full list of Portsmouth restaurants doing takeaways or deliveries.

A bit out of the ordinary

Other establishments have also jumped on the bandwagon of delivering goods.

The Blue Bell Inn, Emsworth, are delivering their most popular dish of prawns – among other dishes – to their community through the Emsworth Alliance. Their ready-to-oven king prawns in chilli, garlic and fresh ground spices take just 10-15 minutes in the oven. Email [email protected] for more information.

If you are in need of pet supplies, Cosham Dog Grooming and Best Pals Pet shop are delivering pet food. Call (023) 9232 1238.

Solent Butchers are delivering meat boxes. Call (023) 9266 9228 by midday to place your order. Relentless Steak and Lobster House, Port Solent, are also delivering prepared meats, such as kebabs. Call (023) 9232 4812.

Duck Confit, Pickled Red Cabbage, Seasonal Vegetables. Picture: Fat Olives