The Pump House, Gosport

10/1/12     ''The Pump House coffee shop at Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport''Picture: Paul Jacobs (120078-1)
10/1/12 ''The Pump House coffee shop at Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport''Picture: Paul Jacobs (120078-1)

Former Priory School, Southsea,  teacher Tony Foot pictured at home in Bishops Waltham. 

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It’s rare to find a café or restaurant in a Grade II-listed building.

Rarer still to find that the 18th century octagonal brick structure was once used as the engine house needed to pump large quantities of water for the Admiralty Brewhouse in Gosport’s historic Royal Clarence Yard.

Under the café’s flooring is a well and donkeys were used to help pump that vital water for thirsty sailors’ beer – 17th century seafarers were allowed a daily gallon until it was replaced by rum.

Food on offer today includes English breakfasts, salads, baked potatoes and a plethora of home-baked cakes, as well as quiches, soups, baguettes and jacket potatoes. The specials board has a further daily dish or two, including perhaps a chilli or a fish chowder.

The on-view kitchen takes up half of the beamed interior, which also houses a book exchange. The music is local radio. Expect to leave with a whiff of deep fat oil as ventilation is not good.

A couple of blue-cushioned benches lining the café were taken the day I went – we all favour backs against the wall, a homo sapiens survival instinct.

So I chose one of the central tables, but for those keen on fresh air there is a large area outside.

One staff member didn’t look up from tidying up the food in a display case but her sidekick redressed the unwelcoming balance with a smile and a helpful ‘here’s the menu and we’ve also got a fish chowder on the specials menu’, pointing to a sign at the back of the kitchen.

But what was the fish in the New England chowder, a soup-cum-stew? First cook didn’t know, second cook coming to the rescue again but with an odd disclaimer: ‘Oh, I don’t like fish, but it has salmon and cod.’

Prices are uber-reasonable. You’d be hard-pressed to spend more than £10 a head for a main dish, cake and drink.

Not put off by the non-fish eating cook, I had the chowder. Remarkably hearty, the large bowlful included lots of potatoes, sweet corn, onions and good chunks of those fish.

To make it even better, fish stock would have made a wiser choice over water. An excellent piece of carrot cake and a coffee followed.

Up for sale, the Pump House might really soar to new heights if the ventilation was improved and a less predictable menu offered.

But The Pump House certainly has its merits and is without doubt appreciated by those who work and live nearby.

My bill came to just under £10, not including a tip.

The Pump House, Cooperage Green, Weevil Lane, Royal Clarence Yard, Gosport PO12 1AX

(023) 9252 5522

Open: Mon-Thurs 8am–4pm Fri-Sat 8am–10.30pm Sun 8am-2pm

Food: Three (out of five)

Service: Three

Atmosphere: Three

How to get there: Take the A32 into Gosport, turn left on to Weevil Lane then first right into Royal Clarence Yard. The Pump House is on the left. There is a large car park.