Sunday, 26 January 2014

maximum consumption

Southbound again - I don't know if I'm going or leaving home

Southampton continues to fascinate me as a culinary town. I have written before about the experience of eating out there. This weekend we hurried down to stay with one of our daughters who has just taken the first tentative steps on the property ladder by buying a house there. Poor weather and an accident managed to ruin our attempt at getting there early on Friday evening (M25 2, M3 nil) but Saturday was fine.

Well okay, I spent much of it sleepwalking around Ikea but on the whole, the day was fine. A very late lunchtime came and second born was overcome by tiredness and excitement - they'd only moved in on Thursday - and her partner had a long-standing engagement. The weather continued to pour and he found that trees on lines can hold up your well-prepared plans. Still, whilst second born slept, Mrs Dave caught up on Friday night tv through the magic of the internet and a PlayStation. Meanwhile, I wandered off to find some cheese.

I found a small shop in the middle of a street with no other shops anywhere in sight. The bearded young chap outside seemed to be the shopkeeper - he followed me in. After managing to scan the price of cheese - two different prices, the most expensive seemingly correct of course - he then informed me that the lower price was, after all, the correct price. As I'd spent over five pounds - I also availed myself of a bottle of Ringwood Old Thumper as I hadn't had a drink for some fifteen hours by now - I had evidently won a scratch card. I wasn't handed the said card, though, I had to watch him have all the fun of scratching off the silver foil. Obviously I could feel the excitement building up palpably. Guess what, he congratulated me as I had won! A packet of Walkers Salt and Vinegar crisps! Not just a packet of Walkers Salt and Vinegar crisps but a "grab bag" of Walkers Salt and Vinegar crisps. That means a huge bag of the dreadful tasting potato snack.

I left the shop with some chagrin especially after I asked if I could swap them for a less foul-tasting pack, but no, I had to have them. I'm sure he smiled as he shook his head. Still, the rain had stopped. The beer was nice. I had to work out how to use my daughter's electric oven/grill combination to make some cheese on toast but it all worked out well. But what of Southampton's culinary fascination? I hear you ask.

Well, after second born joined us and Coronation Street and Silence of the Witness had all been watched, we wandered out to see what the local 'hood had to offer second born and her partner.

We had been recommended a restaurant called something like Stavros Central - oh, hang on, Mrs Dave assures me it's called Santo Lounge (The?). Anyway, we found it, it isn't far away from their house and the menu looked okay from the website. We wandered in and did the usual How About There Shuffle. You know, you sit at one table that you don't feel comfortable at until someone leaves and then you go and sit there even though you ordered food at the previous table's number. We only moved once so the waitress found us.

The actual problem was that our daughter had ordered the food at the bar and asked to have the tapas as a starter. "Oh yes, no problem." This was after going through a list of the daily specials that they'd run out of.

So, when all three meals turned up with the tapas and a bottle of wine within minutes of me getting another pint of (rather fine) Toga Man bitter, it all seemed a little overwhelming. The table was groaning with food, wine and mulled cider. Ah well, what the hell - it all looks good and it's what we've ordered* so let's just get on with it. In truth, the restaurant was probably suffering from  members of staff off ill, so we just got on with it. The rather harangued-looking waitress seemed pleased when another fresher face waitress turned up to help. I must admit, the food was pretty good. It was just having to eat a main meal and the starter at the same time that seemed a little bizarre. Oh, and by the way, Stavros - the ham hock my daughter chose was far too fatty, not quite cooked as well as it could be and looked the size of a normal family's Sunday joint.

I'm not suggesting that if ever you find yourself in need of a meal in the Shirley area of Southampton that you shouldn't go there but it seems worthwhile to make sure that there is an agreed separation between what you consider a "starter" and the main event. There was no such problem this afternoon in the rain-sodden walk to the local Wetherspoons (more of another time) but my personal recommendation for dining in Southampton tends to be for Turtle Bay. Great food. Well, the goat curry is always great and I can't seem to move away from that. I've never been to Jamaica and will probably never go there. However, you can't beat a good goat curry.

By the way, Wetherspoons seemed to be full of Polish people dressed in their Sunday best eating traditional English Sunday roast dinners. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but it's an interesting point that they feel compelled to dress up to go to a rather down-at-heel pub to eat what is essentially a cheap catering enterprise. Not really sure that it's a traditional experience.

Anyway, here's to Southampton and its continuing fun-filled attitude to eating out. Long may they run.

Oh, that motorway living
Ain't it a thrill to be so free, yeah
Got to get away from
Cats eyes, cold meat pies
Thousand on a raft, cold French fries
So tired, tired of livin'
Tired of livin' this motorway livin'

By the way, dear reader, I left the packet of crisps at my daughter's house.

* It's not always the case.


Mike C. said...

Jesus H. Christ, man, nobody eats out on Mutant Mile! You need to go to Bedford Place or Ocean Village to get a halfway-decent meal...


Dave Leeke said...

Er, "Mutant Mile"?

Mike C. said...

Shirley High Street, famous for the spectacular ugliness of its inhabitants.


Dave Leeke said...

Ah well, every revolution requires that first footing . . . My daughter and her partner are very attractive. So, watch this space, things will change.

Meanwhile, another friend has a daughter who works at the hospital - I think the husband is a doctor - they live on the other side of the street: Upper Shirley (?!) is that a genuine divide? Or just a Middle Class (mythical) divide?

Mike C. said...

Look at the house prices... The west side -- Shirley shading into Milbrook and Fremantle is "roots" Soton, walking distance from the docks (it's where my daughter went to school -- virtually all of her friends are from single-parent families, where the mothers are half our age). Mainly small terraced houses and blocks of flats. The east side is mainly larger houses, that get larger and more expensive the closer you get to The Common. Large houses are rare in Soton -- it's mainly terraces or 30s semis.


Martyn Cornell said...

Try the Waterloo, Hopback Brewery's Southampton tied house.