Steeped in history and beautiful architecture, Winchester, an ancient city once King Alfred’s Wessex capital, and home to Rick Stein’s city restaurant, the perfect stop for a delicious seafood lunch – perhaps combining your day with a spot of shopping, river walk, or visit to the magnificent Gothic cathedral boasting the longest nave in Europe?
The Rick Stein restaurant brand is a well-established West of England favourite, serving delicious fresh seafood, simply and perfectly cooked. Rick Stein himself is an English chef, restaurateur, author and television personality who has written over 20 cookery books, as well as an autobiography, and featured on countless cookery programmes.
Having previously visited a Rick Stein restaurant while on holiday with my family in Cornwall, my expectations were already set high – and I did wonder how different the concept would feel dining in a city, away from the white sandy beaches, and chic coastal towns.
Winchester itself is a remarkably beautiful city, I have visited several times, and have always found there to be a lovely sense of fun and energy while wondering down the cobbled ancient high street, passing the interesting unique independent shops, many with delightful Regency and Elizabethan bow-fronted windows. The smells from the bakery, coffee and cake shops, the buzz from the street entertainers, and ambience of people relaxing by the King Alfred statue certainly unwinds you into relaxed holiday-mode.
It is not all shopping either, there are many attractions and places to visit too, from the Cathedral, to the City Mill to the Discovery Centre, and I would especially recommend the Jane Austen museum too, which this year (2017) is running a special exhibition to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, exploring her life and legacy.
But back to Rick and his beautiful fish – an impressive line-up, Rick has cooked for HM The Queen and Prince Philip, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and French President, Jacques Chirac to name just a few! He opened the Rick Stein Winchester restaurant in 2015 as the first restaurant within the brand to open outside of Cornwall.
Located at the bottom end of the high street, close to ample car parks, and close to the river, my first impressions of the restaurant on walking inside were that it was light and airy, the team were warm and friendly, very well presented and the smells throughout the restaurant were divine!
The interiors included several calming coastal prints and all the nautical touches you would expect from the Rick Stein brand, given their coastal heritage, with an open plan chef-kitchen stretching down one wall, and a seating plan in which all the tables looked inviting, from the more relaxed sofa-styled seating with striped comfy cushions, to the more romantic round tables, set with candle and wine glasses for 2.
Harry, our friendly waiter was excellent and made us feel immediately at ease. He was also passionate about his descriptions of the menu options, and proud of their locally sourced ingredients, including, he told us, the delicious freshly baked sour dough bread rolls we were munching through at the time.
To start, I choose Stir Fried Salt and Pepper Prawns, this was followed by Pan Fried Hake with roasted red peppers, chilli, oregano and garlic – myself and husband both ordered the hake for our main courses, and it was a lovely surprise to have this course presented to the table still wrapped in the paper-parcel in which it had just been steamed, with a synchronised unwrapping display by attentive staff, the steam poured out the aroma and adding to our already whet appetites.
A little full but still enough room to finish off with something sweet I ordered the delightful Chocolate Pavé with Peanut Crumb, salted caramel ice cream and chocolate sauce washed down with a green tea. And I was not disappointed.
This is a first-class luxurious restaurant, not only is the food just delicious, the added touches such as the gorgeous Molton Brown products in the bathroom, and the seaside chic cookbooks on display to purchase, gives the restaurant a very warm homely feel – yes, I believe they have found a winning formula here and I am so glad I have now discovered a Rick Stein restaurant a little closer to home. If you are heading to Winchester this year, visiting the Rick Stein restaurant should be a must!
Winchester is just a short train ride from London. High-speed trains run frequently from London Waterloo taking just 1 hr. You can also fly to nearby Southampton from many airports around UK. By car, on the motorway (M3), Winchester is approximately 1hr30mins from Central London.
» rickstein.com, 01962 35 35 35
Rick Stein, 7 High Street, Winchester, SO23 9JX
* Lead image: Oyster charentaise copyright davidgriffenphotography.co.uk
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