It arose from a conversation on Wednesday, when I was working at the bookshop. A lady came in to shelter from a torrential shower, and during a very pleasant chat - it turned out she was from Portsmouth, and had lived in the Isle of Wight - the name Verrecchia came to mind. In the very early 1960s, my grandmother sometimes took me on shopping trips to Portsmouth, and as a treat we'd go and look at the budgerigars in the aviary in Victoria Park, then go to Verrecchia's.
Invariably called by the misnomer "Vereeshee's", Verrecchia's was a long thin cafe by the Guildhall, adjacent to the bridge where Commercial Road, Porstmouth's main shopping street, went under the railway. It was all wood and glass, with a central aisle and marble-tabled snugs where you pressed a bell for service. The foyer had tea and coffee machines, and a row of optics containing prettily-coloured milk shake syrups. I just found a description:
VERRECCHIA'S CAFEThe News, Portsmouth, as a nice external picture (here), whose caption explains that it was demolished for 1970s developments; see Google Maps for what the location looks like now. There are a couple of pictures of the glasses and internal decor, from Portsmouth Museum, at the foot of this post - Vintage Ice Cream - at the Come Step Back in Time weblog.
Guildhall Square, Portsmouth
Externally this is a shabby, two-storey building sited uneasily on the north side of the Guildhall. The interior of 1933 is a delight; within a complex section, entered through a shop at the east end, the sitting area is raised half a floor over the kitchen forming a tall space in which the extraordinary furnishings are intact. The tip-up seating and marble tables are in bays enclosed by tall timber screens with inset decorated glass panels. The walls are panelled to a height of eight feet, each bay having an elliptical mirror centrally placed. This produces an effect of continuous visual change, glimpsed through the ranges of screens and reflections from the mirrors.
- Portsmouth, Alan Balfour, City Buildings series, London : Studio Vista, 1970
I'd invariably have a lime milkshake float, a beatiful pale green and white swirl drunk with a straw from a fluted glass, and it was made with real ice-cream, not the aerated palm-oil shaving foam that generally passed for ice-cream in those days. I'd also have a Kunzle cake, a now-defunct brand of cake: pre-wrapped in brown cellophane, it comprised a chocolate shell containing cake topped with some kind of fondant mousse and a further topping of candied fruit or chocolate decoration.
This recollection gave me a hankering to try lime milkshake again - I haven't tasted it for perhaps forty years - and pursuing the experience proved mildly difficult: no-one seemed to make the syrup. But Googling found that our local Waitrose stocked a "special edition Crusha Mixa Lime". The packaging is all very "yoof" and aggressive - a long-standing brand of milkshake syrup, Crusha has revamped its marketing image for the modern age. The taste, however, is just as I remembered it. I didn't have a Kunzle cake, but as I drank an ice-cold glass of lime milkshake, I shut my eyes and was back in Verrecchia's.