Fine Dining: SUSU Café

Fine Dining lunches at the ever popular SUSU Café.

I have a real problem with restaurants that enforce dress codes. It just seems so archaic, so Victorian, so damn boring. A throwback to when Britain was “great” and we all walked round as though we owned everything and everyone, lording it over anybody unfortunate enough to cross our paths. The type of establishment which stipulates a compulsory dress code for diners is the sort that is home to the dusty Brigadier and the society girl, who bring with them the foul stench of old money. Not my tumbler of whisky at all.

So my visit to SUSU Café immediately started on the wrong foot. The rules for required garb are clear: denim trousers, hooded sweaters and lumberjack shirts for both sexes until the warmer summer months, when ripe flesh is permitted to be displayed- and is, with joyful, slutty abandon. I was disgruntled at having my wardrobe dictated to me, but decided to bite the proverbial bullet and enter into the spirit of things, donning a Hollister hoody and foppish deck shoes. A Superdry condom beanie completed the identikit look and ensured I would be allowed in for the 1 o clock service.

Approaching the restaurant means navigating a maze of hawkers, canvassers and boisterous self promoters. It feels rather like a cross between a Marrakech marketplace and a budget public school, but I like it. Community is difficult to create, and placing a cash machine opposite a pub is probably the best way to simulate one.

I’ve been told that the building which the restaurant sits in is designed to look like the arse end of a ship, in keeping with Southampton’s maritime past and present. If boats were square and concrete and looked like every other modernist architectural abomination then perhaps this theory would ring true. It’s wholly unlovely and is about as far removed from the sleek streamlined curves of real ocean going vessels as you can get. The interior is better, with a pleasant view of lush grass below and the “picturesque” Shackleton building in the background. Oddly coloured sofas (maroon? Dark pink? Who knows?) and random panels hanging from the ceiling are indicative of a dining room that is trying its best to be forward thinking.

Service was swift, employing the classic massive saucepan technique favoured by army chefs and mobile soup kitchens. I chose chicken curry with rice for my main. The pro and con of curry is that it usually obliterates the original flavours of the vegetables and meat. This didn’t quite happen- I was able to taste the meat well enough to confirm that it is genuine chicken, as advertised- and it was pretty good, if a little watery. Dessert was charmingly minimalistic: a Yorkie chocolate bar, lovingly relocated from a storage cupboard that very day, then slow cooked on the shelf using a strip light. It was one to savour.

Red Bull is the ideal companion to Chilli Con Carne for the stressed out student.

I was impressed by SUSU Café. Management might have some questionable tastes- a strict dress code doesn’t appear to keep all the oiks out- but for a medium priced lunch there are far worse places to patronise. The food and dining room aren’t as cutting edge as Chick-o-land (Extra), but then again that is in a culinary league of its own.