Carol Godsmark reviews: The Pavilion Cafe, Southsea

The Pavilion Cafe, Southsea.
The Pavilion Cafe, Southsea.
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The Pavilion Café at Southsea Tennis Club was given a new lease of life in May when caterers Watkins and Faux took it over.

The décor they decided to run with was wistfulness, the nostalgia of past tennis eras when men wore long white trousers and didn’t run on testosterone or big bucks tournament prizes.

Black and white photography of tennis greats and ancient wooden tennis racquets decorated the three-roomed café, with retro red treacle tins holding cutlery.

There were squidgy leather sofas and chairs in the Wimbledon Wing and elsewhere in the café, all overlooking the tennis courts and splash pool.

There were also quirky tables and chairs, including old school desks.

Pick up a newspaper or magazine here or bring your children (the café bills itself as a baby-friendly one) to play in the area around the tables or outside.

And the menu? As stall holders at Hampshire Fare markets, they started by specialising in vegetarian food using copious amounts of local produce including cheeses, vegetables and salads.

They’ve also branched out in the café to include meat and fish sourced in Hampshire.

Open for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea, order at the counter with its on-view kitchen for a bowl of porridge, free range egg, bacon or sausage butty or blueberry pancakes with maple syrup.

When I visited there was a scrambled egg and smoked salmon bagel; soup with crusty bread; savoury pastries; salads; leek and salmon fish cakes; chicken breast with salad; rump minute steak in a ciabatta roll and a slew of sandwiches, as well as a specials board.

Afternoon tea treats included handmade local cakes, maybe a carrot or banana with toffee one; fruit scones with clotted cream and jam.

Prices ranged from £2.50 for the porridge, £4 for soup or some sandwiches to fish cakes and chicken with a choice of three salads for £7.95.

Children had their own menu too and they also offered baby food pouches.

I ordered fish cakes and three of the five salads on-view at the counter, picked up a glass of water and napkin at a table by a tennis notice board and found a table in the Wimbledon Wing.

Service was excellent, the counter staff well chosen and all friendly, knowledgeable and efficient.

I soon had two vast crispy-on-the-outside fishcakes, less mash improving these very tasty cakes plus a large lemon wedge.

A Waldorf salad – walnuts and celery in the main – was pleasing as were the two other ones, a coarsely-chopped coleslaw with long strands of carrot and chunky red cabbage, broad bean and feta with dill.

A moist carrot cake with soft icing, made by two local cake-makers, was also moreish.

Entrance to The Pavilion Café was via a path between the splash pool and a bouncy castle area, both crammed on a hot day last week.

The nightclub music from the bouncy castle was at odds with a child-friendly space, a bit of a downside to the experience.

But this is a charming, inclusive, caring venue and food experience for all.

It’s a very welcome newcomer to the city’s real local food scene.

The Pavilion Café, Southsea Tennis Club, Clarence Esplanade, Southsea, PO5 3PB, (023) 9282 4693.

Open 9.30am–6pm every day.

Disabled access: Steps up to the café.

How to get there: The café is opposite the D-Day Museum on Clarence Parade. There is on-street parking.

FOOD Four stars (out of Five)

SERVICE Four stars (out of Five)

ATMOSPHERE Three stars (out of Five)