Umami opened last year and introduced Southsea to the 5th taste. What is this you may wonder? It’s meaty or brothy and in Umami Street Food’s case, it’s also spicy and moreish.
This restaurant on Elm Grove blends cultures to create their colourful and rustic décor, as well as their wide menu, featuring wraps, burgers and platters. They also offer traditional Lebanese meals including meat majboos and chicken kabsa.
The walls are lined with corrugated iron and lanterns hang from the ceiling. The tables are wooden and on the walls, are various decorative items from painted spoons to plastic cacti; creating a makeshift Moroccan bazaar in the centre of Portsmouth.
I took a seat in one of the front booths and read the menu. I was welcomed by flavours from all over the world in a juicy blend of global heritage. It isn’t the best menu if you are on a diet or have a delicate heart, so just make sure you don’t forget your Gaviscon.
One of my friends, who works there, approached me and like women do, we had a good natter. I asked her if she was enjoying it there and told her that I would like a coke.
“You order at the till over there,” she corrected me.
“So what do you do then?” I laughed as she jokingly shrugged, gave me a wink and left. I settled back down to decide what I was going to gorge on this lunchtime.
I settled on 3 jumbo wings to start then the Pittsburger meal deal with a side of rice and a bottomless soft drink. I paid the bill that was reasonably priced at just over a tenner and took my empty glass to the drinks station. Hearing the ice clunk at the bottom and the cola splash the sides, I was taken back to my childhood, exploiting the drink fountains at Pizza Hut. If only they had the same bottomless ice cream stations.
The (not so jumbo) jumbo wings came minutes after I sat down, presented neatly on a plate with a side salad. Umami has five different flavours to choose from and I decided on garlic and herb which, in Umami’s technical terms, is ‘a bit hot’. They were delicious! Succulent wings of chicken with the right level of flavour and spice. Much better than Nandos.
The burger, which arrived soon after I had finished licking my fingers, was just as tasty. It was a 6oz patty with their secret sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, cheese and turkey bacon. Once I took the pickles out, it became one of the best burgers I have eaten in a long time. I could experience that ‘5th taste’ and it was refreshing to have a burger with so many fillings that wasn’t overpriced. The sauce was just as delectable but there was far too much of it and eventually, rather than staying in the burger, it was dripping down my forearm and making a nice, fat stain on my t-shirt.
The rice as a side was a stab in the dark but it paid off. It was something different but complimented the burger and style of Umami well. Mixed with onions and peppers, my palate was taken to foreign markets full of colour, where people yelled at one another and sold fresh fruit and vibrant cloths.
You would think that there would be no room for dessert but think again. I ordered the cheesecake and one of their impressive shakes, the Oreo cookie one, and took advantage of my 10% student discount for the second time.
As I waited for them to arrive, I grabbed myself a delivery menu after spying free delivery to residents in the PO1, PO4 or PO5 areas. For PO2 and PO3, don’t worry, their delivery cost is only £1.50 rather than your soul or first born son like most venues charge.
The second thing to catch my eye was a free gourmet burger or half a chicken with every phone order over £17.99. Look at me, sounding like a salesman. I’ll stop. I shoved the menu into my bag as I spied my cheesecake and shake making their way over to me.
The cheesecake was presented on a slate tray with ice cream and sprinkle covered whipped cream. I would have preferred a plate. What is this modern thing of serving food on wood or slate boards? Anyway, I was not impressed. The cheesecake was hard and tough. One bite was all it took to know that it was out of a packet.
I pushed it to one side and pulled my milkshake closer. It was topped with loads of cream, chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings yet once again served in an unconventional way – in a mason jar. I took one sip and all I can say is ‘yes, yes, oh god yes!’.
I left very content that day and when I say I will be back, I speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Umami street food is a great blend of flavour, culture and spice and all for a reasonable price. They cater to families and students and deliver for almost nothing. But I’m not a sales person so I don’t have just good things to say.
The dessert was disappointing, to say the least, and the menu only offers two vegetarian options. The meat is also Halal which I personally don’t mind. I respect Umami’s inclusion of the Muslim community in Portsmouth. But I know that some animal rights activists and members of Britain First would care.
At the end of the day, I left a happy customer with a belly full of food and a bag holding their menu which now sits by my telephone.