South Parade Pier, once a must-visit destination on Southsea seafront, may be but a shadow of its former glorious self these days.
But that hasn’t deterred Owain Harris and Rosie Clements Gander from opening the ideal accompaniment for a pier – a fish and chip restaurant.
I use the term ‘restaurant’ loosely.
To get there, you go past the amusement arcade on the left side of the pier, then through some gates and a stained walkway to a little treasure trove on the right: The Boat Deck.
Inside the tiny space is a kitchen, a frying machine and a serving desk, the remaining room taken up with a stylish, inclusive long wooden table and benches, two round tables for four and some stools along the window overlooking the beach and sea or the gaming rooms next door.
Modern white tiling and industrial-type outdoor lighting snaking along the tiles is the décor. A battered old suitcase lying on the floor is home to Scrabble boards and other games including Battleships.
‘Delicious and sustainably-sourced food is our passion,’ says the blurb on a card.
Locally-sourced ingredients include ‘our beer battered fish, twice-cooked chips or our home-made mushy peas.’ Oh yes, and ‘Kids Eat Free All Summer.’ Quite a good deal, then, for that family treat by the sea.
A large blackboard holds the key to the fishy options: fish and chips (£5.95); scampi (£3.50); lemon sole and chips (£6.95); fishcake (£1.50); pea fritter (£1) and a few other choices including breaded halloumi (£3). Drinks? Bring your own tipple or choose a cordial, maybe an elderflower or other soft drinks. They aren’t equipped to take cards so check your wallet for cash before you go.
I queued at the counter as dusk was settling over the beach, fish and chip aficionados bent over their brown-boxed food on tables outside, a stiff, cold breeze not deterring the hardy.
Owain and Rosie offer blankets, a nice touch also found at many Fullers pubs offering outside eating and drinking.
One young staff member managed the orders, drinks and till with charm, a real asset to the business. After a mere five-minute wait, I had my fish and chips in a brown box and a glass of elderflower cordial for the small sum of £6.75.
And the fish? It was coley and excellent. Not haddock or cod, both fighting for survival but with stocks on the rise due to sustainability methods in place like those at The Boat Deck.
The chips – a portion could fill a family of four easily – could have been a tad more firm and less greasy though. And dessert? Maybe the menu will swell in time, but no puds are on offer at the moment. They do offer coffee and wi-fi – and a takeaway service.
Rough and ready combined with an ethical sustainability stand and charm could sum up the pier’s newest venture.
The business will no doubt develop past these early days. Let’s hope it helps to create a new audience for the pier, a Southsea icon whose potential is not being realised.
The Boat Deck, South Parade Pier, Southsea PO4 0SW
Tel: (023) 9217 0171
Open: Noon-9pm daily (possibly later soon)
Food: Three (out of five) - one taken off for the chips
Disabled access: Fine
How to get there: The pier is on the seafront, east of Southsea Castle and the Pyramids.