Whether you are a new student with a penchant for cooking, or an old face from around the block, you will have at some point set foot in the culinary Aladdin’s Cave which is Akram’s. I hold fond memories of being a nipper and ducking out of my gran’s on Villiers Road, in order to buy myself a sly samosa that they used to display on the counter. Whilst Portsmouth has been evolving and modernising, Akram’s has always been a constant, a place you could rely on. The smell of the spices that greets you as you walk in has become a byword for comfort within our family. So you can imagine the concern when signs stating that the business is struggling started to appear in the shop windows, not to mention a short piece appearing on South Today and The News highlighting the store’s current plight. So how can this be?
It is no secret that the traders along the pedestrianised area of Palmerston Road have been struggling, and the questions surrounding this issue have been thoroughly discussed on Strong Island, but can this 50 year old Southsea institution really be on the verge of going under? Surely their customer base span the generations, ensuring their survival no matter what happens to the road? If the effects of the pedestrianisation threatens a shop of this stature, then what would become of all the other independent traders? Sainsbury’s moved in a couple of doors down last summer, and no doubt we should expect more identikit convenience stores on their way. Southsea is being flooded with “local / express” versions of big name chains; places to buy crisps and magasines but not much else. Why do we need a Tesco’s opposite a Sainsbury’s on Albert road, or a Morrison’s next to a Coop on Elm Grove? Not only a waste of well located buildings, but also a loss of any sort of identity to the area. The thorny issue of Palmerston Road has clearly divided people and I find my views on it at odds with each other. I enjoy the café culture that can sometimes be felt down the road during the summer, and as a cyclist rather than a driver, the way the road has evolved suit my personal needs just fine. However I also believe that our independent businesses need to take a precedence and be preserved. Now more so than ever.
So no matter what side of the fence you find yourself on, Akram’s must remain a fixture on the Southsea food scene. This landmark has guided myself and many others through our attempts at Indian, Thai, Chinese and Caribbean cuisine. It’s loss would be tremendous. So next time you find yourself in the area, make sure to call on them and show your support.