“ Address: 59 Marmion Road / Southsea / Hampshire / PO5 2AX / England „
Walking home along Marmion Road, Southsea, one day in the spring I was dismayed to find that Coco's Cafe had closed down. It was one of my favourite places to go for coffee, a smoothie or lunch whilst shopping, and always made a pleasant change from Costa. I stopped, however, and read the notice in the window advertising the fact that the Greenhouse Kitchen Vegetarian Cafe would be opening on the premises on 24th May. It sounded promising.
We made our first visit to the Greenhouse Kitchen at the end of May, around eleven o'clock one Saturday morning. The first good sign was that an alternative front door was being used, which took you straight in by the counter. Coco's had always used the door on the corner, which meant you had to fight your way past the tables, whilst those seated near the door would suffer from a cold draught in winter every time customers entered or left.
The two hungry young men that were with me were disappointed to see that sandwiches came under the lunch section on the blackboard and were not served until noon. However, there was an array of them wrapped in paper bags on full display, and the waitress said that the time restriction for lunch had in fact been set because people were demanding soup for their elevenses. She didn't mind at all serving sandwiches during the morning. They both ordered egg mayonnaise sandwiches, one on white bread and one on brown, along with smoothies. I wanted to sample the coffee, as that is what I often judge such a place by, so I ordered a cappuccino along with a homemade golden syrup and oat muffin. I enjoyed both the coffee and the muffin, and the egg sandwiches were pronounced to be the best ever.
I decided not to write a review until I had sampled the lunches at the cafe. Several weeks passed before I did. This time it was at around noon, again on a Saturday, and the ground-floor room was almost full. We were told that there was plenty of room upstairs, but as a group of people were about to vacate their table we decided to take it over. The downstairs tables are easily big enough for two people and just big enough for three. There are one or two tables with relaxing armchairs for those who are just having a drink, but most have upright chairs similar to those at Cafe Rouge.
It was a bit of a squeeze as we stood at the counter deciding what to order, as several elderly ladies who couldn't hurry were leaving and the door is right in front of the counter. That didn't matter, however, as we weren't in a hurry, but space by the counter is a little restricted. The day's lunch specials were each priced at £4.75. I was torn between vegetable crumble and lentil loaf with salad, eventually choosing the crumble. (I have since been back and enjoyed the lentil loaf.) My son and his partner both decided on sweet potato curry with nachos. This time I thought I would try the smoothies; a company called easyjuice supplies frozen packs of prepared fruit which you can see in the freezer alongside the ice cream, and the smoothies are then made on demand from these packs. The one I chose was named Energy Burst and was a combination of raspberries, blueberries and oranges. Smoothies are £2.50 each, whilst fruit juices are £2.20.
Having placed our order and paid, we took our seat by the window. The drinks were soon brought over and the waitress apologised for the fact that the previous customers' cups and glasses had not yet been cleared away. The staff at the cafe are extremely polite and friendly, it must be said. I took a sip of my smoothie and immediately said that it was probably the best I'd ever had. I've always found blueberries a little lacking in taste, but I sometimes buy Waitrose's raspberry and orange juice - the combination of these two fruits is almost as perfect as a taste can be for me. There were a lot of tiny seeds in the smoothie that might bother some people, but I didn't let their inclusion put me off.
The food followed very quickly. The curries were served in a soup bowl with nachos on an oval plate underneath. My vegetable crumble certainly looked good. It was mainly cauliflower and broccoli with a topping of chopped nuts and breadcrumbs. Everything had a definite home-made feel to it. We all enjoyed our lunch - for me, the texture of the crumble was just as important as the taste and was made almost perfect by the addition of the nuts. The curry was spicy with good flavours rather than being overly hot.
Although not a vegetarian, I would personally choose the Greenhouse Kitchen as one of the best places to have a simple lunch in Southsea, and definitely the best place for smoothies or home-made snacks. There were young children there when we visited, and high chairs are available. One disadvantage is that the toilets are up a steep flight of stairs, but there are public conveniences two or three minutes' walk away adjacent to Waitrose supermarket.
All of the ingredients used at the Greenhouse Kitchen have been approved by the Vegetarian Society. Wine, lager and ales are served, although I have not sampled any of these. All the food and drink served is available for take-away, except for the alcoholic drinks. I haven't yet tried the ice creams, but they look and sound delicious. On a hot day you could sit and have one at an outside table.
Free WiFi broadband is available on the premises, but my son had his Blackberry with him and found that it would only be suitable for visiting public sites as other customers would be able to view your internet activity on their laptops or other devices if they felt inclined to do so.
Two rooms upstairs are available for private functions.
The Greenhouse Kitchen is closed on Monday. Opening hours are from 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday.
The Greenhouse Kitchen Vegetarian Cafe
59 Marmion Road
Tel. 023 9281 5511
Also posted on Ciao under my username denella.