Pie & Vinyl, Southsea (Castle Road)

Pie & Vinyl Exterior

(Pie & Vinyl Website)

Hidden among Southsea’s bustling one way streets and student housing lies a small ‘record’ café aptly named Pie & Vinyl after the two things it sells. The café combines one of Britain’s very own comfort foods; pies with vintage style music; vinyl to create a unique experience that fits perfectly into Southsea’s historically founded location.

With an assortment of locally sourced drinks and food, Pie & Vinyl sells its pies individually or as part of a ‘meal deal’ which consists of the pie you have chosen with creamy mash, gravy and minty mushy peas which will turn any mushy peas despiser into a regular (myself included). A popular favourite among the Portsmouth University students is the Moo & Blue; a pie filled with British beef steak, red wine, gravy and aged stilton which makes my mouth salivate just writing about it. Unfortunately, I cannot claim what the pie tastes like as they have run out of stock by the time I’ve visited proving they must be as delectable as I imagine. However, vegans and vegetarians rejoice! Pie & Vinyl have not forsaken you! There are a number of options available to you as well which are lovingly made as much as any other pie name on offer with an interesting such as the Heidi; a pie comprised of goat’s cheese, sweet potato, spinach, red onion and roasted garlic. You will not feel as if they have made these pies simply to avoid criticism but rather they have created them to fully satisfy their vegan and vegetarian customers. However, I would suggest that to avoid missing out on your favourite pies, it is best to visit the record café outside university term times. Moreover, the café’s cosy interior comes with a price, although it creates a lovely atmosphere as if in a second home, it does limit the number of tables they can feed.

With this in mind I can begin to hear the odd pessimistic reader complain that pie shops seem a little old fashioned for our economy nowadays. With only 60,000 pubs still open in the UK today and four on average closing each day what chance does a humble pie shop have when pubs do similar dishes plus more. Well let me tell you: Pie and Vinyl prides itself on its originality and its kooky (if not obscure) dishes such as the seaside inspired Fish and Chips Pie which, I have on great authority from my partner, is not at all a culinary monstrosity as it sounds. Its oddness doesn’t stop there either, Pie and Vinyl takes the pie theme to the extreme when thinking pudding as well, Pie & Vinyl sells (yes you’ve guessed it) sweet pies as well.

Enough about food however, I’ve only discussed half of what makes up Pie & Vinyl. The music shop may not have the largest collection of music but they try to cater to most genres of music and will order any you ask for with only one exception, they only sell vinyl (as the name suggests). It is rare to find a place where there is the mix of old records with the newly released vinyl records which major chain stores such as HMV have only recently decided to sell. However, what makes the store what it is today is in fact the live music events that Pie & Vinyl plan on occasion, ranging from artists such as Frank Turner and Band of Skulls.

If you are looking for somewhere in Portsmouth that is a little out there then Pie & Vinyl’s Heston Blumenthal-like dishes are for you. It is an odd mix that works by exemplifying the already apparent alternative style seen throughout Southsea as well as allows those seated and waiting in the café area to enjoy some retail therapy by buying an album or two or if you are lucky a live performance from a band you might just find you love.

For a full menu of this establishment please visit the their menu

Carluccio’s, Gunwharf Quays

(Google Images)

Having set our eyes (and stomachs) on Pizza Express and realising how busy the restaurant was, me and my boyfriend were pleasantly surprised to find the new Carluccio’s tucked away from the other major chain restaurants that reside on Portsmouth’s waterfront. With a rather enticing fixed price menu of £10.95 we decided to give the newly established diner a chance. We were both glad we did.

The customer service was excellent, within minutes we had been greeted and seated and were able to order what we fancied quickly. Additionally, the waitresses were friendly and approachable. What I loved most about the service however was how each one of the servers kept their own personalities as they worked. Most restaurants I have been to keep a rather professional and formal approach to orders whereas this one allowed for the customers to make a closer connection to their server.

Carluccio’s has a selection of red, white, sparkling and rosé wines some of which are exclusive to the restaurant. Perhaps limited in its bottled beer range which appeared to only sell different Peroni products, Carluccio’s made up for it with the sizes of the beer you could order with the largest bottle being 660ml. After a short wait with our drinks already poured and opened, our starters were put in front of us. My ‘Primi’ of Focaccia All’Aglio described in the menu as chargrilled garlic bread was delicious, however, it became evident that the pair of rather large pieces of bread were too much for one customer. My boyfriend on the other hand, enjoyed his marinated olives which were fresh and did not follow the tradition of some restaurants which buy their brine-drowned olives in bulk from a supermarket. The restaurant therefore delivered on their promise that each dish uses the freshest seasonal ingredients and it wasn’t applied simply to the starter either. My main of Penne Alla Luganica; a spicy sausage sauce with penne pasta, was evidently fresh which made the dish a joy to savour and eat. Since the rest of the meal had been so successful, both I and my partner decided to risk pudding and Carluccio’s did not hold out. The desserts we chose were both a delight to eat. Their melt in the mouth tiramisu was one of the best I have tried, second only to authentic restaurants in Italy. Additionally, their Crostata Al Limone; a lemon tart was also tasty; however, similar to the starter, an entire tart was perhaps too rich for one person but a perfect choice to decide on as a sharer while on a date.

Carluccio’s proved itself to be a great surprise location for a date night not only because of its quality of food and filling dishes but because of its atmosphere. Candle lit dinners coupled with the opportunity for quiet, personal discussions allowed for a romantic atmosphere. Additionally, the ferries coming into the harbour and the Spinnaker Tower juxtaposed with pictures of Florentine rooftops gave the restaurant a rather beautiful and serene quality which makes Carluccio’s unique.

Having started as a fall back choice, Carluccio’s will certainly be our first choice for a romantic Italian date in Gunwharf Quays perhaps ahead of certain other chain Italian restaurants which are increasing in price and decreasing in quality.

For a full menu of this establishment please  visit the Gunwharf Quays menu