Following the weeks of gluttony and over-indulgence during the festive season I’m sure that many of us will make the inevitable pledge to cut down on the calories.
I felt exactly the same and had vowed to steer clear of anything deep fried, covered in cheese and carb-heavy.
That was until I saw the extensive menu available at The Merchant House in Southsea.
Located on Highland Road, just along from bustling Albert Road, The Merchant House offers a wide range of street-food delights from around the globe that are sure to tempt even the most determined of resolution makers.
When my companion and I arrive at the restaurant one chilly Thursday evening we are instantly drawn in by the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen.
Although it is a weekday night it is still busy inside with many customers enjoying the unique dishes on offer, as well as their substantial list of craft beers available on tap.
As a fairly informal venue we make our own way to a table, choosing one by a cosy stove fire tucked slightly out of the way.
We are both excited to pick out our food with the knowledge that there is plenty to tempt us, even for a vegetarian such as myself.
Of all the restaurants I have visited in Southsea this definitely has the most choice for vegetarians and vegans, taking up almost an equal amount of the menu compared to the meat dishes.
I instantly decide on the vegan philly roll (£8), having visited America several times without being able to try the signature dish.
It is everything I hope it will be, rich in taste with plenty of bite created by the meat substitute seitan, which is similar to tofu. It also comes topped with flavoursome vegan cheese, caramelised onions and pickles making a well-rounded burger that I think even meat eaters will enjoy.
My friend opts for the double katsu chicken burger, which at £9.50, is piled impressively high. She comments that the crunchy coating of the chicken is spicy and tasty, although she felt it needed some accompanying sauce to save it from being a little dry.
When it comes to sides we think we are being ‘good’ by sharing fries and a 10 piece portion of Kentucky fried cauliflower (£9).
However, as soon as the waiter brings these to our table we know straight away that we are out of our depth. The vegan kimchi fries (£7) are the largest portion of fries I have ever seen in my life. They are extremely tasty, topped with spicy sriracha mayo, herbs, lime and, of course, kimchi. We make good headway but combined with the burgers and cauliflower we find ourselves defeated.
Equally the Kentucky fried cauliflower is much bigger than a usual side dish, not that this is a bad thing. The cauliflower is cooked in a spicy coating similar to what you’d find on southern fried chicken. Even though my friend isn’t vegetarian she admits that the cauliflower is extremely tasty.
While we eat we are frequently attended by kitchen staff who check with us about whether we are enjoying our food. Despite the laid-back vibe of the venue and the food it is clear that they place customer satisfaction high.
For how much food we are given we agree that it is really good value for money and even better is the ethos of The Merchant House.
Also operating as a street food supplier under the name Need Street Food, profits from food sales go towards food packets that are sent to malnourished women and children across the world.
My friend and I leave The Merchant House considerably full and new fans of its worldly street food dining experience.
The Merchant House,
Ratings (out of five)
Food – 4
Value – 5
Ambience – 4
Child-friendly – 3