Welcome back! Okay now, Summer is nice and all. But I like Autumn and Winter too! So here’s a wee guide to visiting Winchester when it’s a bit chillier.
I guess that you, dear reader, like most other humans in the country intend to visit whilst the Christmas Market is on. I am going to assume that that is your modus operandi anyway and so the following will be again, food and drink spots but this time, for when walking at 0.3 mph round the market gets too much for you. Alright, so first things first, you need to warm up right? In which case the perfect spot for this is Chococo- a Dorset chocolate company that does the best hot chocolate in the city. You can choose what kind of drink you’re gonna have and then they will bring you a little speciality chocolate to have alongside. They have Hoxton cinnamon buns too as well as other tasty baked snacks. Which brings me on to Coffee Lab- this is a cool, breezy, usually very busy coffee shop on the winding streets that flank the high street. They sell Hoxton cinnamon buns too but they also have very pretty latte art. Which really and truly brings me on to… Hoxton Bakehouse which sells not only Hoxton cinnamon buns but all kinds of other Nordic buns and fancy pastries with clever flavour combos. Not to mention very delicious bread. This place was built to be instagrammed; it’s very aesthetically pleasing with its white brick tiles and neon signage and bits of wood. Very pretty.
Alright so you’re warmed up. You still need to pick up a few bits? Here are my favourite shops in town: Right nearby Hoxton Bakehouse is a shop called Consortium. The shop is tall and thin across several floors and they sell everything from vintage metal shelving to wrapping paper to textiles to clothing and all very quirky and tasteful. I have found a few nice things in there but be warned- like much of Winchester, it’s quite overpriced… though I know you pay for the presentation of these things as well as the product itself. Also, once when I visited, the woman working in there was not very polite to me when I asked about the possibility of reserving a rug. But that was only just the one time and like I say; they have some lovely bits in there. (But service matters amiright). If you’re looking for a similar vibe at a more affordable price point then you could try visiting the shop near the pound shop; Projects, which is an antiques emporium and boutique which also sells some handmade things; gifts and cards and house plants. You might need to have a good rummage before you find exactly what you’re after but it is well worth a visit. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a similar vibe to Consortium without the quirky vintage bit then try the Hambledon. This shop really is selling you a lifestyle. It is full of really beautifully curated things for the home, gifts, books, skincare and men and women’s clothes. It’s expensive but it is a lovely and something for me to aspire to. I’ve heard that in January when they put everything in the sale there is always an enormous queue down the street before the store even opens. The other independent shop I would recommend having a wee shufty in is called Three Little Birds and it sells lovely textiles and ornaments mostly I think from India. Their opening times can be a bit unpredictable but if you manage to catch them then do pop in- there are some lovely items available.
Winchester is home to a huge number of pubs. Here are the cosiest:
- St JamesTavern is not far from the train station, part of the little pub group which is a Winchester chain of businesses and it serves extremely good food.
- TheBlack Boy. A quirky maze of rooms, 2 fire places, numerous examples of taxidermy executed to varying degrees of skill. No matter how many times you visit, you’ll always discover something new and it’s the kind of place that has to be seen to be believed. So… see it!
- TheWykham Arms. It’s not a very big pub so it’s usually very busy but it is very traditional in quite a posh way (no kidding when you consider its location) but very much eclectic and cosy.
And here are my food recs:
- CaféMonde!!! It’s a Winchester institution. A huge menu considering the size of the place. I’ve been countless times and it’s always been perfect. They have sandwiches, breakfasts, jacket potatoes, paninis. You know, all the proper lunchtime stuff.
- Josie’s. This place is very cool and serves cool food like pancakes and brunch for cool dudes. It’s loud and busy but always tasty and you get cool points just for turning up tbh.
- Rawberry serves vegetarian and vegan food. It’s a funny location and building but it’s also the only place in Winchester that takes its juices seriously and offers a wide range of food that is really tasty and accessible for people with dietary requirements.
- My absolute all-time favourite restaurant in the world- I’ve been going since they opened- Pi Woodfired. I love this place. The pizza is amazing: you can get an enormous pizza for 2 which is 20 inches across, and you choose up to 3 different topping combinations. They change their menu frequently to reflect the seasons and produce available. The pizza dough is *kisses fingers like an Italian nonna* bellissima! Chewy and light and delectable. It is the best pizza I’ve ever had and I have been to Rome (but admittedly, not Naples…Yet!) I cannot recommend this place enough. They also sell Pic Poul de Pinet by the glass which is a very good thing and they have a nice Montepulciano too. They used to sell a Merlot which was out of this world and truly, I wish I could remember its name or something so I could hunt it down in the wild. They also sometimes have the yellow Isle of Wight tomato juice which is bellissima too. A quick note to say that the salads, cocktails and desserts are also great in my experience but the pizza is the main event and it’s what we’re here for. Currently, they are doing a deal which is one 20 inch pizza plus 2 salads for £20 on a Monday night which is practically giving this amazing pizza away.
- I’m not sure if this counts as a chain but… River Cottage Canteen. This restaurant uses all seasonal, local (ish) fresh ingredients and it shows. It is quite a fancy place in that they do things with food that might be a little way out of some people’s comfort zones and it is quite expensive but not without reason: the food is honestly incredible, so well executed. It’s worth every penny.
- Gurkha's Inn serves extremely tasty and good value Nepalese food. The services has always been great when I’ve been there too which is important to me. The restaurant is located in not the most beautiful part of the city but it’s just near the station and round the corner from the theatre so I hope it gets plenty of business.
So there you have it. My guide to Winchester. And I am desperate for Pi Pizza now!