Regular readers will know my view on the explosion of chain restaurants and pubs which have infiltrated our high streets, arcades and countryside and the disappearance of individuality and independence.
This market-swamping is a stark reminder of supply and demand, of high rents and rates, easily affordable by the corporates with their generic look, menus and mainly so-so service. But this is apparently what the public seeks otherwise the genre would wither and die.
But those of us who prefer and champion the few indies such as Portsmouth’s Montparnasse and Restaurant 27, Emsworth’s Fat Olives, Chichester’s Field & Fork, those, who can tear these chains off occasionally, might put a toe in the independent market by visiting newcomer Artie’s Kitchen.
Previously known as the Artisan Café, the small but perfectly formed two-floor café is run by others now.
Once a granary, the previous owners scraped away hundreds of years of detritus to uncover beautiful brick and beams, a minimalist approach taken with simple Danish-style wooden chairs and tables, some covered in zinc.
The menu delights. Breakfasts (the café does lunches and has now found a chef worthy of dinner too) offers the likes of Mr Treagust’s Breakfast, Emsworth butcher sausages, dry cured bacon, poached egg on potato cake, plus eggs Florentine, as well as banana bread with Greek yoghurt, honey and pecans. Lunch may include four soups; goat’s cheese and red onion tart with home-made coleslaw and salad or mezze.
Prices go up from moderately-priced breakfast and lunch (£4.95 to £7.95) to dinner (£5.95 to £10 and £22 for a fillet steak with home-made peppercorn sauce).
Starters may be scallops with a saffron sauce or tiger prawns in garlic and parsley butter followed by rack of lamb Provençal or chicken with roasted peppers and chorizo.
I found a window table by the old granary door on the airy first floor, the place packed. Service at first was nonexistent but morphed into charming and reasonably efficient.
First up, an excellent, deep green pea and mint soup, the mint shy in coming forward. Decent, home-made croutons added texture.
The kitchen doesn’t whizz dishes out quickly, unlike your corporates, But was it worth the wait for that scallop dish? Oh, yes. The queen scallops were sensitively cooked, the saffron sauce sublime – and lots of it. The wine list is to treasure if my Italian Trebbiano is anything to go by, the stylish, dry white served in a perfect wine glass.
Perhaps finish with chocolate soufflé with Cornish ice cream or cheese. And do sample their excellent coffee.
Artie’s Kitchen, a friendly, laid back place with definite heart, is head and shoulders above the chains. Despite feeble efforts by local government in Chichester to promote independent businesses, locate these indies and support them. But only if they’re good. Like Artie’s Kitchen.
My bill came to just short of £20, excluding service.
Artie’s Kitchen, 33 Southgate, Chichester, PO19 1DP 01243 790365
Open 9.30am to 11pm (Tues-Sat), 10am–4pm Sun.
How to get there: take the A27 to the Witterings roundabout, taking the first exit to Chichester. Pass the station and continue into Southgate. The café is on the right. Parking nearby (two public car parks). Nothing on-street.