“ Address: 'The Hard' / Old Portsmouth / PO1 4DT „
Feed is a tiny cafe situated under the railway on a stretch of road between two entrances to Gunwharf Quays. I wouldn't have given it a second look had I not found out that it was owned by the same company as the Olivo restaurant in Ryde, Isle of Wight, that had impressed me so much. It had to be worth trying.
My first visit to Feed was at 1pm on a weekday during school holidays, and the place was encouragingly busy. I sat down at the only vacant small table, noticing that the wooden tables and chairs were reminiscent of those at Olivo. A waitress brought me a menu, simply printed on an A4 sheet of white paper, along with a separate sheet for the day's specials. Sausage casserole had, she told me, run out, which was a shame as the sausages at Feed come from Buckwells, Southsea's best butcher. I ordered an orange juice (£1.55) and started to look at the menu.
Feed offers a surprisingly good choice of food whether you want breakfast, a sandwich, a hearty cooked meal or afternoon tea. Breakfasts range from toast and toppers (£3.50) to full English (£5.95) or the Mighty Meaty Feed Breakfast (£7.50) for those with a huge desire for protein. There are three varieties of omelette with which you could have chips and salad or toast and beans (or even toast and chips). Extras can be ordered, for example black pudding (£1.50), baguette (£1.20) or mushrooms (80p).
If burgers are your thing, there are five different choices including a spicy Mexican bean burger (£5.95) and a lamb and mint burger in a toasted ciabatta (£6.95); all are served with chips, coleslaw and mayonnaise. Jacket spuds come with a small salad garnish, homemade coleslaw and butter. Most fillings are £4.75, but the prawn Marie Rose as well as the sausage and bean toppings cost a pound or so more.
Baguettes, sandwiches and wraps are served with coleslaw and diced potato. They range from bacon (£3.50) to prawn Marie Rose (£4.95). The only vegetarian choice is Cheddar cheese and onion (£3.95). If you don't think one of these will satisfy your appetite, you could go for the Feed club sandwich (£7.25), a toasted one with chicken, ham, cheese, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, red onion, mustard and mayonnaise, served with coleslaw and diced potato.
For children there is a Little Fillers Menu. The price of £3.95 includes a drink, and the choices of food are full English breakfast, classic burger, sausage with chips and beans, ham or cheese sandwich with diced potatoes, or two slices of toast with either bacon, eggs or beans.
I considered ordering from the special menu where I liked the sound of the chicken and mushroom tortelloni more than the spicy chicken fajita, but in the end I decided on a veggie breakfast (£5.95). With two veggie sausages, an egg, fried diced potatoes, mushrooms, griddled tomato and toast, this sounded very filling. I only had to wait a few minutes until this was served. It was well presented and looked appetising; my only reservations were that brown or wholemeal toast had not been offered, and no alternative was given to a fried egg. Given the choice, I would have had wholemeal toast and scrambled egg. Portions were generous except for the tomato. The diced potatoes were very small and beautifully crisp, and the button mushrooms had also been sliced into small pieces. The veggie sausages were cooked to perfection. Everything was hot and tasted very good. Had I not had a long walk that morning I might have struggled to finish the veggie breakfast.
Feed do a selection of homemade cakes that sit tantalisingly in the window, but there was no way I could have found room for a slice that day. It will be a good excuse to go back one afternoon and decided whether to be vaguely healthy and go for carrot cake or indulge in coffee and walnut. I also resisted the temptation to try Feed's coffee. As well as espressos, lattes and cappuccinos, they serve hot chocolate with cream and mallows, Earl Grey tea, and a variety of Twining's flavoured teas.
Feed is actually situated in one of a number of arches underneath the railway line. Because of this, it has a curved ceiling and walls, as though you were in a short tunnel. The walls are exposed brickwork, and I realise that some people may be put off that this is a very small and not very stylish eatery. Others, however, will appreciate the originality of the setting and prefer Feed to the chain restaurants and the crowds of Gunwharf Quays.
My bill came to £7.50 to which I added a tip. Several young waitresses were on hand at Feed, and they were welcoming, friendly and efficient, just as they had been at Olivo in Ryde. I was alone yet did not feel uncomfortable in any way.
There is just one unisex toilet at Feed with a rather strange folding door that closes with a hook. Other than black grouting between the tiles, it was clean; turning the tap on and off, however, was almost beyond me as there wasn't anything much to get hold of! I had to tell one of the waitresses that I hadn't been able to turn it off properly and she kindly said she would see to it.
This is obviously a much smaller and simpler place than Olivo Restaurant in Ryde, but it nevertheless had a similar feel to it. The food was very good, and the place does seem popular despite the competition from Gunwharf Quays. I believe Feed is open until about 7.30pm, and it is in an ideal location for anyone visiting Portsmouth Historic Dockyard or for those who want to get away from the crowds at the shops. It may not have the views of the eateries at the waterfront, but it offers good food and a welcoming atmosphere that is genuinely refreshing.
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