A Bit Of Local Lore
Some of the most rewarding tourism is to be had not in well-known capital cities, but rather in less-heralded regional urban centers. We found just that experience when we visited our daughter in Winchester in Hampshire — 70 miles away from London. Winchester has its Cathedral, where Jane Austen is buried – and is known as the focus of a one-off song – but is otherwise a little off the grid.
Still, it’s steeped in history, with interesting shops and marvelous restaurants, packed within an easy stroll — regardless of the weather. Hampshire itself is a hotbed of quality-driven farmers who supply the top restaurants in the UK. So be sure to visit their farmers’ markets, and if you have rented an apartment with even modest kitchen facilities, you’re in for a treat.
My daughter lives on a side street off of the “High Street,” which is pedestrianized with a comfortable mix of chains and independent shops and restaurants. Her little avenue has the Georgette Heyer-ish name of Parchment Street. And it is a delightful tiny mix of residences, eateries, and shops in a few short blocks. The restaurants and cafes alone made me want to weep, they were so good. The shops (which include several exquisite jewelry stores) have genuine individual identities, not the fabricated kind that you find in redeveloped urban tourist sites such as DC metro’s National Harbor.
How To Eat On Parchment Street
Literally, you fall out our Natasha’s front door and cross the street to this very casual pub that has marvelous food and bumpy furnishings with exactly the right cozy feel. Every appetizer, main course, and dessert was delicious — and we sampled many of each. It is definitely child-friendly, and whoever bakes their desserts can come home with me anytime.
A vaut-le-voyage restaurant run by a Japanese couple (he is the chef and she handles the front of the house). They have their own kitchen garden (with wasabi!), and the wines are chosen beautifully to pair with their food. I know this sounds bizarre, but I had a wasabi panna cotta, which was intriguing and delicious. But order several dishes to share, and you will have no regrets. It should be on the Michelin radar screen.We had our first bottle of locally made rose champagne here. I’m happy to report that it stood right up to its French counterparts.
On the second floor, this establishment is worth the climb up narrow stairs. My introduction to a superlative Scotch Egg was here. And what a fabulous introduction it was! Again, very child- friendly, with a nice, affordable wine list and wonderful, wonderful food. You will probably climb that wood-spoon- decorated staircase more than once. They serve only breakfast, lunch, and a delightful tea, so it is perfect for a stop during sightseeing and shopping.
My husband and son-in-law both adored this coffee and breakfast hotspot. It is tucked away in Stone Mason’s Court, so you might miss it. It started out as a food truck and was so popular that they opened in this tiny space. It is truly family run, and their sandwiches, cakes, and “tray bakes” are all hand-done. They only have a Facebook page, but check it out to get the feel of this itty-bitty snack spot. You have to go through Stone Mason’s Court on Parchment Street, pictured at left.
This is where you’ll find good coffee and other healthy drinks with nice pastries, wraps and salads. You can come here with your children too. Don’t let the Vegan nomenclature scare you off (my other half has had some bad experiences in Vegan cafes, and he never lets me forget them). Some of the best Italian-style coffee is found here. The interior is bright and modern and quite near a delightful children’s toy store.
And Now For Some Shopping – Parchment Street Style
This shop was my husband’s home away from home. Lovely selections of wines, some salume and cheese selections, and a big box of fresh eggs from a local farmer on the counter top! The manager is quite wine-savvy without being intimidating. They carry an outstanding Ferghettina Franciacorta Rosé in a keepsake bottle that I have never seen in the US (and we swill lots of Franciacorta).
is a delightful home decor and gift store that clearly is owned by a compulsive shopper. It is more of a comfy or shabby-chic store. You will find something for you or a friend at home, and if you are in Winchester for a longer stay, there are neat 3.5 hour workshops complete with “lashings of tea and cake”.
Perhaps it is the focus on a well curated selection of French and Italian tabletop that made me forget how long I lingered in this shop. Pick out lovely jewelry, a handbag, something for your bathroom, or accessorize your cocktail hour – and have it beautifully wrapped as a take-home gift. Just make sure you have room for it in your checked luggage!
I wish we had a Guy Store like this in Alexandria. Really cool manstuff, plus a cookbook or two. How can you resist Vaders Lost Little Princess? Or Beard Oil? I should have bought one of the Walker umbrellas. The very clever buyers choose from a wealth of totally cool British suppliers of manliness.
Really nifty collection of sketches, watercolors, jewelry, cards, and other pieces from carefully selected artists. Whoever makes their selections has a great eye and a sense of humor without being kitschy.
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes a blog about food in all its aspects – recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food related issues.