The Garage, 1 Albert Buildings, Albert Road, Southsea

The Garage, Southsea
The Garage, Southsea

SHORT STORY: The eternal battle between sisters

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It’s hard to get more quirky than The Garage, a cafe recently opened by architects in a prime Southsea location.

Bucking the ‘drink ’em dry’ fashionable trend, the place isn’t licensed. Nor does it bow to the corporate trend of memorised greetings and hospitality-speak.

The quirkiness extends to all of the sum of its parts, thanks to its fin de siecle Edwardian-meets-Mittel Europa décor.

It doesn’t fit any pigeonhole. The cafe is grey on the outside and the inside is a cornucopia of colour thanks to its owners’ fine scouring of auction houses and bric-a-brac buying.

Large mirrors were tracked down and placed in the fireplace and above the orders booth, housing large containers of homemade cold tea and drinks. The furniture is for lounging on, with a pink curved velvet sofa, mismatching chairs and tables filling the square. Fans swirl above.

A glass cabinet displays a range of cakes including Eton Pavlova, vivid chocolate layered cake, Moulin Rouge (strawberry filling) and others, all home-made. Bought-in cakes are more prosaic. There’s lemon drizzle, apple crumble, granola.

Savoury food is shown with varying degrees of success by having on show complete food replicas of the kitchen’s offerings – quiche with salad; a carrot and coriander soup; a strange fruit and halloumi salad; eggy bread with ham, cheese and a Hollandaise sauce; filled rolls, all with salad and homemade coleslaw.

They do no favours, sadly, as the ingredients wilt and end up looking very sorry, even by 1pm.

The Japanese did this more successfully many moons ago with their fast food dishes by using photos of plastic replicas. OK, not ideal either but they didn’t appear exhausted. Here, they just look plain unappetising.

Prices range from £3.50 to just under £7. A state-of-the-art coffee machine dispenses real coffee and tea leaves in tall glass containers are raided for proper tea served in non-matching china cups and saucers – of course.

My eggy bread, served on a board covered with paper (which got in the way of cutting it) was very tasty – no, rather splendid – if totally messy. The poor-quality ham let the side down a tad.

Real coleslaw of the chunky genre was ace, but the perky salad was poorly served by bottled vinaigrette. A pavlova reached the heights, as did the tea and service by outstanding practitioners of the hospitality art.

I can see in my culinary crystal ball that The Garage may become a rip-roaring success with just a few nudges, the only drawback to making this a monetary success being too few seats. Otherwise they have the board covered, a real gem of a place.

The Garage, 1 Albert Buildings, Albert Road, Southsea PO5 2SP

(023) 9282 8432.

Open: All week from 7am-11pm every day

Food: Three (out of five)

Service: Five

Atmosphere: Five

Disabled access: Fine and dandy. Good, spacious quirky loo too.

How to get there: Garage is on the corner of Albert Road and Victoria Grove (off Victoria Road South). Parking is on-street.