There’s so much going on in Wiltshire this summer, we can’t wait to get out and about and visit...
Are you a foodie with an appetite for culinary adventures closer to home? If so, then you will be delighted to hear that Hampshire is the perfect destination to seek flavours, textures and diverse influences that make the region’s food utterly fantastic. From traditional British gastro food to fusion cuisine, Hampshire is home to some of the most exciting developments in the dining world. This makes it the perfect place to take a weekend break to indulge yourself and your senses.
Tim McMinn from Culinary Chatter is a Hampshire-based food writer and blogger who has travelled to 81 countries around the world sampling the finest food on the globe – making him a connoisseur when it comes to quality dining. Despite his far-flung culinary adventures, Tim still recommends Hampshire for those looking to experience next-level cuisine. He says:
“Nestled in Southern England, Hampshire has a wonderful array of local artisan producers, supplying everything from apple juice and biltong to trout and watercress. Local restaurants are taking advantage of these wonderful ingredients and incorporating them in their menus. As a result, knowing the provenance of these ingredients has contributed to a healthy handful of Michelin-recommended restaurants to be found in and around the county.”
One of the most well-known Michelin-starred restaurants in Hampshire is The Black Rat. Situated in Winchester, the restaurant opened in 2010, and after just a year in the business, the team acquired a prestigious Michelin Star. Stepping into the venue, you will immediately be immersed in a charming kind of luxury – not overbearing, but comfortable and romantic nonetheless. Look out for intriguing details among the old beams and timbers, harkening back to a Dickensian Britain whilst maintaining that quirky neo-vintage feel.
When you sample their carefully curated menu, you will see why The Black Rat has been granted that most esteemed award. With ingredients sourced from some of the best local suppliers and their very own forager to bring the most seasonal and fresh products available, the food is as authentic as it is indulgent. The Black Rat explain their home-grown ethos, saying:“Located nearby is our kitchen garden where we grow some of our own herbs and vegetables, all of which helps to inspire the kitchen team to create the menu using wild and forgotten ingredients.”
As Squaremeal comment, the result is that “menus aren’t short on appeal or imagination”. Starters include treacle-cured salmon with buttermilk, grapefruit, cucumber and a seafood cracker, mains feature prime cut dishes such as their Pollock loin with vanilla cauliflower, pickled beetroot, soubise, chickpea and lovage. For dessert, sample something delightfully unique with the beetroot meringue served with sorbet, goats’ cheese, pistachio sponge and blood orange.
JSW is a stylish, modern restaurant in a setting steeped in history. The quirky architecture of a 17th century former coach inn includes beams, a well, a cellar and three tunnels leading to ancient buildings in the town of Petersfield and sets a precedent for the kind of experience you can expect when eating at JSW. Be led on a journey through intense flavours perfectly balanced in each dish for a full palate experience.
Head chef Jake is one of the few Michelin-starred chefs in Hampshire, and even appeared on BBC 2’s Great British Menu. Besides his Michelin star, the restaurant itself is recognised with numerous accolades, including awards by the AA Food Guide who claim: “Remarkable quality ingredients and superb flavours are at work throughout.” At JSW, not only can you sample mouth-watering main dishes including fallow deer, shallot tart, hay-baked parsnip coffee sauce, there is also an extensive list of vegetarian options.
Why not enjoy a crisp Twineham Grange croquette with roasted onion and mushroom duxelle?Or, start with the oyster-cured duck with lentils, truffle and shiitake, before eventually moving to treat yourself with a dessert such as the baked English custard, rhubarb, ginger beer jelly and ginger bread.
Chef Jake explains: “I believe that cooking is a craft, one of the few remaining crafts left in society. It's expressing our creative side and through cooking part of it is giving happiness to others.” Eating at JSW, this is a joy you are sure to share a part of.
The Terrace Restaurant at the Montagu Arms also deserves an honorary mention on the list of Michelin-starred restaurants in Hampshire, having held the accolade for eight years up until October 2016. One of the finest restaurants in the New Forest and still boasting an impressive three AA Rosettes, the venue lost its Michelin star for 2017 only due to the £400,000 refurbishments the restaurant is undergoing, meaning that we can expect many more stars in the future.
Offering an unparalleled dining experience, you can expect richly comforting dishes fused with delicate touches of innovation. As the restaurant told us:“Head chef Matthew Tomkinson creates a seasonal, enticing menu capturing a delicious and exciting range of flavours, textures and aromas. His commitment to the perfect dining experience drives a constant quest to find the best ingredients for the plate. His goal: to source fresh, local and seasonal produce from trusted regional suppliers. The Hotel’s kitchen gardener provides a selection of home-grown ingredients, nurtured by hand and harvested with care to perfectly complement each dish.”
The restaurant offers high-end afternoon teas during the day, but if you fancy a once-in-a-lifetime epicurean experience, try their tasting menu with a five course ‘surprise’ tasting menu crafted from the best of the day’s seasonal produce. As the restaurant conclude, “Whether you're a gourmet enthusiast or simply enjoy superb cuisine, sample some of Matthew's finest dishes with his five or seven course tasting menus offered with a selection of accompanying wine to distinctly match each course.”
Since 1955, the Michelin Guide has awarded the Bib Gourmand each year. Tim explains that this is given to restaurants that are deemed to serve “good quality, great value food”, and points to the Sun Inn in Dummer and Pulpo Negro in Old Alresford as two Hampshire restaurants that have most recently gained this recognition.
From the outside, The Sun Inn resembles your ordinary country pub, but this venue is something special. Situated just outside Basingstoke, the locally-sourced seasonal à la carte menu has earned the restaurant a Bib Gourmand and two AA Rosettes. In fact, their head chef, Gordon, was recently made a finalist in the Craft Guild Chef of the Year Award 2015, and even won The Sun Inn the title of Gastropub of England in the Food Awards England 2016.
With all of this to their name, you will surely be expecting big things of The Sun Inn, and you won’t be disappointed. Fusing traditional flavours from local Hampshire producers with modern cooking methods, the food at The Sun Inn inspires the mind and indulges the taste buds. To start, try the parma-wrapped rabbit loin with broccoli purée, carrots, bacon foam and tomato jam, before moving on to an extravagant main course of a trio of pork with sweet potato fondant, roasted cauliflower and smoked apple. Finally, finish off this delicious journey with their plum tarte tatin with praline ice cream and hazelnuts.
Pulpo Negro in Old Alresford is a tapas bar with a difference. Boasting a Bib Gourmand and a dedicated following, the restaurant is positioned at the forefront of the local eating out scene for young customers looking for high quality food without the sky-high prices. As the AA guide observes: “There's a smart-casual, modern feel-good vibe about the place, with its floorboards, café-style chairs, pews and wooden tables.” Relax in this urban-chic restaurant and pick your favourites from an extensive list of picoteo, charcuteria, frituras, chargrills, seafood and tortillas. Sample the deliciously crunchy salt cod croquetas, or the deeply flavoured Iberico pork sliders. For vegetarians, their smoked aubergine tortillas are a must. If you are a fan of food with well-travelled influences, this is the place to be.
Having previously held a Michelin star in 2004, The Chesil Rectory in Winchester is currently the proud owner of two AA Rosettes. Located inside a gorgeous 600-year-old grade II listed medieval house adorned with vintage chandeliers and botanical prints, the restaurant has a reputation for its intimate atmosphere and delicious classic dishes. However, The Chesil Rectory now has a decidedly more relaxed feel about it, which recently earned it the name of the third most romantic restaurant in Britain. As GQ Magazine comment:“Looking like it’s been plucked straight out of a fairy tale, The Chesil Rectory is a romantic medieval building… working your way through a roast shoulder of pork is a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”
Enjoy creatively re-invented traditional dishes such as their confit chicken breast with mushroom risotto, roasted cep, truffle, shallot crisp and parsley oil among these elaborate yet atmospheric surroundings.
The Greyhound on the Test in Stockbridge received two AA Rosettes in 2015, after being named Michelin Pub of the Year in 2014. Harkening back to the 1800s, The Greyhound on the Test maintains its country leisure roots, set among grounds that are also home to the world’s most famous fly-fishing river, Chalk Streams. Inside, the restaurant makes use of its inherited theme in game dishes such as their herb-crusted venison loin and braised neck served with spelt, wild mushrooms, sea aster and butternut squash. Head chef Chris Heather, however, says that he is influenced by Asian cooking styles, with the fusion of flavours evident even in the desserts. Try their salted caramel and peanut parfait with chocolate and olive oil ganache to experience their complex combinations in action.
When The White Star Tavern opened in 2002, it became Southampton’s first gastropub, and since then its reputation for fantastic food has only continued to grow. Since 2010 it has consistently held two AA Rosettes for its delicious food and vibrant ambience. The restaurant is committed to using seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients in their dishes, from breakfast right through to their evening fine dining. Inventive and exciting, their best dishes feature unlikely additions, such as their Chalk Farm trout with beetroot and vodka, served with charcoal and dill mayonnaise, shaved fennel and melba toast. Their desserts are also well-known in the area for providing foodie heaven. Dig your fork into their warm hazelnut cake with frangelico ice cream, praline, chocolate espresso crumb and toasted hazelnuts for a rich, melt-in-the-mouth moment of culinary bliss.
As Tim suggests, from the ultimate in fine dining to high quality affordable meals, the many restaurants in Hampshire offer everything from Michelin star dining to high quality yet affordable experiences. He concludes, “If you are considering a stay in the beautiful county of Hampshire, you can be reassured that if you want to, you can find some fantastic Michelin quality food on many a menu.” Whether you’re planning on staying in a holiday cottage in Hampshire for a foodie getaway, or are simply visiting the area for a day, be sure to get out and try some of the county’s culinary delights!