Whilst shopping in Southsea, it’s so convenient to flock into Costa or Heidi’s if you are ready for a rest, a coffee and a sandwich, but venture a little further afield and you will find Coco, where all things are delicious and hand made, usually from local produce too. Turn left at the end of Palmerston Road (just opposite St Jude’s Church) into Marmion Road and you will find Coco on a corner at number 59, opposite Waitrose’s car park. The fact that it is packed with people on a Saturday is testament to its worth and shows that it pays to walk an extra couple of hundred yards from the shopping precinct.
Having queued to place your order and paid your bill, you can then decide whether to find a table downstairs or up and wait for your food and drinks to be brought to you. I have always sat downstairs, and the only disadvantage here is that it can be quite draughty in winter. I’ve heard people say that the upstairs area is actually more pleasant, but if I can avoid stairs and they are quite steep here I usually do. The tables downstairs are easily big enough for three people, four at a squeeze. In warmer weather there are one or two tables out on the pavement if you prefer the fresh air.
I’ve been to Coco’s twice on a Saturday for late lunch. The first time I had savoury tart with salad, quite small but more than enough for me, for 3.95. On the second occasion I decided on roast pear, ham and stilton salad, but it was after 3pm and by that time goat’s cheese had replaced the stilton. My son was with me and ordered the same with a honey, vanilla and banana smoothie. The smoothies are heavenly, but I thought I should try the coffee for a change and decided on a cappucino. My other son joined us too, but having thoughtlessly had breakfast before coming out (at 2.30pm), he just ordered a bottle of water. Nobody seemed to mind. The bill came to 17.70.
After a few minutes the cappucino came along with a chocolate shaker; a few more minutes and the waiter brought the smoothie. It must have been about a twenty-minute wait altogether for the salads, but the place was packed. The salads were served on large, heavy square plates that were each filled with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, two large slices of ham rolled up, two warm pear halves with a scoop of cheese in each, and liberal portions of cheese scattered among the lettuce. I do love stilton, but the goat’s cheese actually seemed perfect with the pears and ham. The pears were slightly crunchy for my liking, but it may be that some people prefer them that way. It was very good food, very fresh and beautifully presented; for most it would probably be just the right amount, but I’m afraid I was unable to finish the salad. Not for want of enjoyment, I have to say.
I usually like coffee without any sugar, but the first sip of my cappucino left something to be desired so I put just one sachet of sugar in and sprinkled plenty of chocolate on top. That did improve the taste, but it wasn’t up to the standard of for example Cafe Rouge, whose coffee has never disappointed me. I probably should have gone for a smoothie, except that it would have been more filling and I might have eaten even less of the salad. Coco’s smoothies for me would make more sense if I wasn’t eating anything.
I noticed that three young women were at a table just with coffee and tea when we arrived, and an hour later they were still there; this is a good sign that even at the busiest times you are not made to feel that you have outstayed your welcome. Neither do the waiting staff pounce on your empty plates as soon as you have finished, making you feel that it’s time to give up your table. Some people come and go quickly, others linger and enjoy the convivial atmosphere of the weekend. I have once been just for a drink on a weekday afternoon, around half past four, and the place was much quieter then.
When you queue to place your order you will find an array of handmade cakes and brownies ogling at you from the counter, but so far I have not given in to temptation. You can choose from twenty flavours of ice cream, or have a milk shake made with this ice cream. For those with allergies, Coco’s serves dairy gluten-free ice cream, gluten and dairy-free cakes, and soya shakes. You can have breakfast at Coco’s any day of the week except Sundays, whereas the restaurant is open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings only. You would need to take your own wine.
The ladies and gents are both upstairs just one of each so this is not really a place for disabled customers. I did visit the ladies and found no fault with it in terms of cleanliness; the only drawback is that the washbasin and hand-dryer are both inside this one toilet, so this could mean quite a wait. I did catch sight of a high-chair while I was upstairs, so babies are obviously welcome.
Just a few yards down at 98 Marmion Road is Coco Chocolatier, part of the same firm selling handmade chocolates, some of which are dairy free and vegan. I have so far confined myself to window shopping here, but if you want some really high quality chocolate, I’m sure this is the place to go.
I can imagine that Coco will become a regular haunt, not least because we were told off on our last visit to Costa for asking as to the whereabouts of a latte that we had paid for but had not been served. But there are more than enough positive reasons for visiting Coco too it’s a pity that they do not have larger premises, as I can see that many others feel the same way. It’s a special kind of place.
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