The Art House Gallery Café

A few days ago Skippy and I went to Southampton to meet C. We were a little late arriving (no change there then) so C went looking for a good coffee shop to meet us in, my coffee addiction if not well documented is at least notorious. I’m a little unclear on the specifics of how she ended up with a recommendation for The Art House (I so often am when C is involved) however, to whoever it was who gave her the directions thank you.

At first their opening hours seemed a little odd (I had received a slightly garbled phone message from C telling me that she’d found a café but it didn’t open ’til 12 and she was going to wait in the park just off Commercial Road), however once we got there it made a lot more sense. The problem was that neither Skippy nor I know Southampton very well and as you can see from the map that’s one big park:

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Fortunately Shouty Lady and mobile phones are my friend, so we found her and subsequently the café without getting too lost. Whether we’d ever find the car again of course was an entirely different matter (a smart person might have “favourited” the position of the car before leaving it, I however, am not that smart). Even with our tardiness and C’s having checked the opening hours we still managed to arrive at the café early and therefore hovered outside for about 10 minutes while the staff (or as I realised later possibly volunteers) bustled within. I’m glad we waited, it’s a lovely café and a vast improvement on the clone town chains that are often the only option for a visitor due to their prominence and dominance over high footfall areas such as high streets and proximity to common tourist attractions.

We actually ended up going to this café twice, initially for a hot-chocolate and some lunch (they have a small vegetarian and vegan menu offering a selection of well presented and tasty dishes) and later for a cider and to kill some time before we headed off to meet a mutual friend for dinner. We were a little early, so we’re warned we may have to wait a little longer for our food to be prepared as they weren’t quite set up for the day but they were lovely about it and still remarkably quick.

I had a portion of “Naughty Nachos” which were billed as “Organic corn chips, topped with melted cheese and served with a mild salsa” the salsa was indeed mild, but flavoursome, and there was plenty of cheese scattered throughout the nachos.

Skippy and C had “Art House Sandwiches” with Cheddar Cheese and Hummus respectively. Slightly oddly these “sandwiches” only have one side and some filling, their paper menu (although not their web site one) state that this is because they’re too thick to put together – something which Skippy would dispute however semantics aside it was a very good sandwich.

We sat outside on our first visit enjoying a rare moment of sunshine, here their website is a little out of date as it claims they are still raising money for the chairs we were sat on to eat lunch:

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I can’t actually remember what their current campaign is however as a small mainly volunteer run café I think it’s probably not that surprising that it occasionally takes them a while to get their site updated.

At the back of the café is the Trash Cocktail Boutique selling young, funky pre-loved clothes and handcrafted one off accessories from small scale makers in the UK. While I was waiting for Skippy and C to use the toilet (there’s only one so if you all need to go at once you have to race for the back of the café) I had a quick peruse of the rails and actually managed to find a top that I liked and that fitted me (this is something of an achievement in any shop and, as I discovered when I lived in Bath, nigh on impossible in second hand shops in some areas of the country).

Overall it’s a lovely and very relaxed little café, I would encourage anyone visiting Southampton to wander off the beaten track a little and patronise this establishment. If only there were more like it. I leave you with a close up of one of the lampshades, the café is full of beautiful little details like this go and find some.

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