Back in July 2014, my friend Ash sent me a message, which simply said:
“Sarah! Have you seen the new bar/food place opening opposite the The Belle Isle? It’s called the The Wave Maiden. It’s not open yet but I was helping my friend with the renovations over the weekend. It’ll have a craft beer and cheese theme. I was chatting to her about the menu and thought of you.”
Let’s be honest, mostly because I can’t deny it anymore… and because everyone already seems to know. My cheese obsession has spiralled out of control. Honestly… I’m OK with that. In fact, I’m now embracing it.
This exciting message arrived in my inbox around four months before the Southsea craft beer scene changed for the better. Four months before my cheese intake doubled (at least). Four months before my overly ambitious “thin jeans” finally became a thing of the past. Four months before The Wave Maiden opened its doors.
The Wave Maiden, 36 Osborne Road, Southsea, Portsmouth, PO5 3LT (opposite The Belle Isle).
Forget light, airy and open plan… cosy and candlelit is where it’s at. The Wave Maiden is a wonderfully atmospheric bar that’s tucked away, unassumingly, between a kebab joint and an estate agent on Osborne Road in Southsea.
When you walk in, you’re greeted by a hand-painted roof beam, which says, “Welcome to the dark side of the street.” And that’s exactly what you get: an extremely warm welcome in a brilliantly shadowy bar.
As you might have guessed from Ash’s enthusiastic message, The Wave Maiden focuses on craft beer and cheese. However, that statement doesn’t quite do it justice. The Wave Maiden, its staff, and its loyal customers, live for hops and dairy… and they revel in telling people all about both of them.
If you can’t remember the name of a particular beer, but know that there’s a picture of a bear on the can, this is the place for you (yes, I’ve done this). If you want to sip something with a particular flavour, you’re sorted. If you want to try three different beers/ales/ciders, then there’s a personally recommended flight waiting for you. Likewise, if you’re hankering for the perfect brew, paired with some of the richest, cheesiest dishes you can imagine… look no further.
The Wave Maiden is set over two floors, with a cheese counter and bottle shop upstairs. The main bar downstairs features wooden tables and benches, a blackboard which lists the huge variety of drinks on offer, complimentary popcorn, and a magnificent wooden bar complete with stools.
Did I hear you ask, “What about Pip?” Possibly not, but I’ll tell you anyway. He was welcomed heartily into the bar and offered a fresh bowl of water… and he quickly made himself at home and fell asleep under my chair.
Tip: the bar is usually busy on a weekend night, so you might struggle to get a seat. A chilled afternoon beer and cheese fix is often a good bet.
What This Girl Ate
We made the ultimate mistake when we ordered food… we went in ravenous. An important point to note is that less really is more in The Wave Maiden. The food is so rich and filling, I promise that you don’t need all of those delicious sides that your stomach tells you are essential.
Between two people, we ordered a portion of Aunt Mac, a Mac Daddy, and an Easy Lebanesey as a side. We accompanied this cheese feast with a glass of the house white wine and a pint of Silvertip New Zealand Pale Ale (4.7%, fruity and fresh, from Beerd Brewery).
The Aunt Mac is served in a small-ish bowl, but don’t be alarmed by the size. It’s so rich and filling that it’s a perfect portion. It’s made with a delicious mix of Sussex Charmer from Bookham Harrison Farms, and Lyburn Gold from Lyburn Farmhouse Cheesemakers, and it’s finished with a crunchy rosemary topping. I can’t help but compare it with another mac and cheese dish served in Southsea, which is a bit too “watery” for my liking. This one is a much nicer consistency and the quality of the cheese really shines through. In short, it’s delicious.
The Mac Daddy, as its name suggests, is much heartier fare. It’s the sort of dish you get irrational food envy over, as soon as it arrives at another table. The Mac Daddy is an Aunt Mac with a difference: it boasts a heart of crispy and tender pulled pork. This is my go-to whenever I visit The Wave Maiden… and you certainly won’t leave feeling hungry afterwards!
As an entirely unnecessary side (which we ended up taking home and enjoying later), we ordered an Easy Lebanesey. I’ll be honest, I was expecting just a flatbread with some cheese and other assorted toppings. But what arrived at the table was something pretty special with flavours that blew me away. The base was thin and crispy at the edges, the cheese perfectly melted, and the red onions and seasoning finished it off perfectly. In fact, it was the surprise hit of the meal.
Tip: If you’re just after a light bite, order a portion of Twist and Snout. These are some of the best cheese straws I’ve ever had… and I’ve eaten a lot of them. Trust me. Oh… and whatever you do, make sure you try the fondue at some point, complete with brown sourdough bread from Bread Addiction on Elm Grove. Extreme comfort food for a chilly autumn evening.
If you’ve never been before, go to The Wave Maiden. If you’ve been once or twice, become a regular. If you’re a regular, you’re onto a winner. The food is amazing, the staff is super friendly and helpful, the ambience is cosy and welcoming, and everyone will be able to find a drink that they love. Plus, dogs (and greedy cheese guzzlers like myself) are made to feel very welcome.
The prices are a little higher than you’ll see elsewhere, but you’re paying for quality, experience and passion… and it’s hard to disagree with that!
Price: The Mac Daddy, 8.25, Aunt Mac, 6.95, Easy Lebanesey, I can’t remember because the food arrived and I forgot about everything else.
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