Southsea – a feast of the world

Gunwharf Quays is Portsmouth’s big draw for eating out and the queues of cars into the city pay testament to this reputation – who can resist a spot of retail therapy followed by a meal out and a glass of wine, all while overlooking the sea?

For a more bohemian, off-the-beaten-track experience, head to Southsea. It’s where you will find most of the locals eating out, sampling cuisine from around the world and often paying a fraction of the price. There are some awesome independent restaurants in the area – and many I return to again and again, whether it be for a quick Tuesday night supper with a friend, or a weekend get-together with family.

For authentic Thai cuisine – at amazing prices – head to the Thailand Café and Takeaway in Albert Road. The atmosphere is of a street market kitchen – this is certainly not fine dining. But the food is authentic, the service is super-friendly, and the value-for-money is jaw-droppingly good. You can also take your own wine or beer – another major plus if you’re on a budget. When the bill comes to £10 or so, and I’ve had a delicious meal that I didn’t have to cook myself (or do any washing up), I’m a happy man! Just make sure to book ahead, as it’s very popular.

Nearby is one of Portsmouth’s gems – Nara. If you love sushi, you’ll love this place. It doesn’t quite have the glitz of Sakura, another of the city’s Japanese restaurants that is well worth a visit, but its sushi is some of the best I’ve tried – and I’ve eaten a lot! The chicken katsu bento box is one I return to again and again, washed down with Miso soup and a glass of crisp white wine (but not all at once!). The restaurant is run by a lovely local family and the service never disappoints.

The grounds make for a stunning peaceful walk down towards the Beaulieu River. There are so many different corners to explore: formal gardens, informal gardens, ponds, meadows, a bog garden and a rock garden, woodlands with ancient yew trees, shady walks along rivers, and spring carpets of sapphire haze created by bluebells alongside bubbling streams.

There’s a special family ticket and kids love racing along in the wind and rain as happily as in bright sunshine, only stopping to tuck into a picnic at one of the little hideaway spots.

Little ones love the play area, the specially designed family trail and activities, and the steam railway which chugs and whistles its way happily through the rhododendrons

Jeff with friends