Abbey Mill Gardens
The Broadway, Winchester
Hampshire, SO23 9GH
Tel: 01962 457747
Gluten free: Just ask
Parking: Publc car parks
Loos: Above average
The 4 of us and 2 very good friends had been looking forward to lunching at this recently opened and much feted venue for some time. A wonderful coincidence… on the day of our booking Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall was present signing his latest book! SM bought it for her daughter who is a big fan and really enjoyed participating in one of his cookery courses a couple of years ago!
We had to queue to see him for quite a long time but it gave us a good opportunity to study the décor on all the levels. We loved the rustic look and each area is quite small and intimate. As it was very busy we did find that the noise level was uncomfortable but as we were told something is being done to solve this problem we have still given them a 4/5 for décor and ambiance. Next time we will book for the top level, a higher ceiling.
When we got to meet HFW he was charming and very patient! He was happy to sign the book as requested, chat a little about Ladies who Lunch and even pose for photos for those who wanted them… we forgot to ask! During the signing Meridian Tonight were there filming. They decided they wanted to film us eating and then ask our opinion of the food. We have yet to see this on TV so very apprehensive about how we will look and if we spoke any sense! (It has just been shown, not too scary, phew!)…. We now have a link to the interview! Watch it HERE!
The first thing the 6 of us did once we got to sit down was order a Twisted Nose Gin & tonic, the watercress infused gin is distilled in Winchester, this was our first opportunity to try it… highly recommended!
Once we had the menus our server explained what was on the Together boards as they change daily. These boards can be ordered for 2 to share as a starter or for 1 as a main. We ordered all 3 to share. The Seasonal Mezze board (£10.95) had beetroot and carrot hummus, flat bread, pancella salad and Spring onion bhaji. The Hampshire meat board (£12.75), meat balls, wild boar crumble and pork and rabbit rillette. The South West fish board (£12.75) Whiting stew, salted coley fritter, mackerel tartar and crackers. There was a lot of passing of the attractively presented boards around the table so we could all taste everything. The general opinion was that they all contained lots of unusual flavours but the fish combination was the favourite.
There is then a choice of smaller or bigger dishes. From the smaller selection 2 chose a Hampshire topside Angus Beef bap, horseradish & beetroot, sour cream, seasonal slaw (£7.25) and 3 chose Portland crab, toast, Mrs Fluffetts soft boiled egg, & Alresford watercress mayonnaise (£8.75). I of course chose from the Bigger selection! New Forest mushroom stew with herby dumplings, crusty bread (£10.75). The bread wasn’t crusty but it was a beautifully flavoured hearty dish and a generous portion. The beef was tender and filling, the crab was delicious it but in my opinion was a fairly small portion.
To drink we ordered a bottle of white and a bottle of red, reasonably priced at £16.50 and both were organic and quite gluggable. Our server thought we just wanted a glass of white and a glass of red! That amused us (or should it have embarrassed us?), I think she was used to serving healthy lunchers who just want a delicious glass of water or a skinny latte!
In the interests of a complete review we ordered 2 puds with 6 spoons! We tried a Rosemary pannacotta, autumn raspberries, wood sorrel, vanilla shortbread (£6.50) and a Rich Chocolate pot with salt & lime, homemade biscotti. The chocolate was really delicious.
River Cottage are dedicated to sourcing all their ingredients, seasonal, organic, from the best local producers. Yes we would like to go again, we enjoyed our food and the staff are friendly and knowledgeable. We would have liked to see a selection of nibbles on the menu that could be ordered to enjoy with our drinks whist studying the menu. (Once we had ordered our food we were served some bread and rapeseed oil). We had a full blown lunch but it is possible to visit just for a coffee. Coffee, cocktails, drinks, savouries, cakes and the Together boards are served through out the day. They are closed on Mondays. It’s a buzzy and busy venue and sure it will continue to be very popular in its lovely setting. How many restaurants would dare to open with no noticeable exterior signage? River Cottage has just done that!
On the way back to our car we stopped at Chococo in the High Street and treated ourselves to a Twisted Nose Gin chocolate. How decadent!
Ladies Who Lunch Scoring: River Cottage Canteen, Winchester
4/5 Quality of food
3/5 Variety of menu
4/5 Staff and service
4/5 Ambiance and décor
3/5 Value for money
18/25 Total yummy factor. Review CJ
Ladies Who Lunch: score key
The higher the “Yummy” factor, the better the food and service.
The higher the number of £ signs the more expensive. (Roughly one £ sign = £5 per head).
5/5 Cannot be improved upon
4/5 Very good
If you visit, please tell them that Ladies Who Lunch in Hampshire sent you!