Coming Soon: Turtle Bay

January in Winchester is looking up thanks to the forthcoming opening of Turtle Bay. The Caribbean themed restaurant will officially open on 21st January 2018, creating 50 new jobs.

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Artist’s impression of Winchester’s new Turtle Bay

Turtle Bay is all about celebrating the lively, colourful and delicious experiences that the Caribbean has to offer and I think it’ll be a great addition to Winchester’s food scene. Located at the top of St. George Street, where Toni & Guy used to be, there has been an £800k investment in the 3500 sqft site. The end result will be a brand new 166 seater restaurant, which I’m told will be a vibrant, quirky, beach-shack-inspired ray of sunshine! How fabulous – I can’t wait to see the transformation.

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Artist’s impression of the new Turtle Bay’s interior

Turtle Bay’s signature dishes include jerk chicken and curry goat, but there’s plenty for all palates to choose from including a new burger menu, salad selection and a great collection of dishes for vegetarians, vegans and gluten free diners.

And, let’s not forget about the Caribbean cocktails! The Turtle Bay beach shack bar features over 40 hand-picked Caribbean rums.  These are all used to create classic cocktails with a Turtle Bay tropical twist, as well as a magnificent mix of signature cocktails too. Better still, the whole list of cocktails is available ‘two for one’ during Turtle Bay’s happy hour. This lasts from opening to 7pm and then starts up again 10pm till closing time throughout the week – count me in!

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2017: A food filled year

2017 has been a food filled year, packed with celebrations, with three weddings (including my own), and several special birthdays. It’s hard to pick the best foodie moments of 2017 but here are just a few in no particular order…

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons

This was the most wonderful wedding gift from the Digital Blonde team, what an experience it was. The drinks and delicious little canapes to try as soon as we arrived were fabulous. We enjoyed a lovely long lunch with wine and a cheese course too. I loved hearing detailed descriptions of all the cheeses (local ones and classic French ones) and of course, they were all heaven to eat. The food was exceptional, if you get the chance Raymond Blanc’s restaurant is so worth it – just make sure neither of you drives there! We made this mistake and really regretted it. The team at Le Manoir also sent me a beautiful signed book too – the icing on the cake for this amazing foodie memory.

Our Wedding Day

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This is made up of quite a few little foodie moments that combined to make a very memorable occasion. The first of these was being presented with a new gin to try by the Cabinet Rooms after emerging from the registry office as a newly married couple. I guess that’s what happens when you book your wedding on World Gin Day, next door to Winchester’s first festival of gin!

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A huge shout out has to go to Hotel du Vin in Winchester, where we held our wedding reception, the food they dished up was incredible! We had an indulgent afternoon tea, complete with candy floss and enormous warm scones. The canapes received high praise from everyone, especially bacon wrapped prawns. The cheese trolley was spectacular too and the mini fish and chip cones were a hit. Our guests certainly were well fed!

We had a delicious cake baked by a family friend too – can’t wait to get the little bit I have left out of the freezer to tuck into at Christmas!

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All wedding pics by Maddie Waters Photography

Avocados everywhere in California

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Anyone who knows me knows I’m an avocado obsessive. I’ve loved them since before they were cool. So I was very happy with the abundance of gorgeous green avo-centred dishes out in California! I think my highlight was avocados on toast for breakfast in the penthouse restaurant at the Huntley Santa Monica, looking over views of LA.

Sky high dining at Hutong (The Shard)

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This was a fab foodie moment enjoyed with the Digital Blonde team, right at the very start of 2017 as combination Christmas and leaving do. Enjoying delicious Chinese food, with a glass of Champagne and spectacular night time views of the city was pretty magical.

Switzerland 2017

I don’t think I could pick a favourite moment from this trip as the food and drink in the alpine town of Zermatt is just so good. It’s definitely my happy place, fresh air, gluhwein and hearty (cheesy!) dishes that you actually feel you like you semi-deserve after a day of skiing. There was the gluhwein on our last day after coming down quite a scary slope successfully, a perfect lunch time Rosti or some of the best chocolate ever from the little chocolate shop opposite the station. Going here is always a treat for all the senses.

Kyoto Kitchen

I do love the food at Kyoto Kitchen, it’s fresh, delicate and delicious. We’ve had some fabulous meals here this year, with amazing recommendations from the owner Miff,  plus beautifully made gin and tonics or Sake to pair with. It’s always a fun and memorable experience dining here.

The Afternoon Tea Awards

What a brilliant occasion celebrating all things afternoon tea! I was lucky enough to be invited to these amazing awards by sponsor Newby Teas. It was great to see the winners unveiled and of course to sample the afternoon tea offering from the Grosvenor Hotel. I met some lovely journalists and fellow bloggers too, all whilst sipping bubbles and enjoying the full range of teas from Newby.

Thank you 2017, here’s to 2018…

2017 really has been a bumper year of food, fun and (alcohol-fuelled!) celebrations, it’s a wonder I can get into any of my clothes. I loved almost every minute of 2017, it’s going to be a tough year to top. So I’ll just say that I’m hoping for a slightly healthier 2018!

Winchester Life Hacks

I love a good Life Hack…you know, those handy tips and quick fixes that save time and energy. Sometimes it’s the simplest tricks that make the biggest difference. Things like rolling your clothes instead of folding them when packing for a holiday – you can get so much more in and there are far fewer creases!

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I started thinking about some of my favourites tips and tricks for life in Winchester. After a few years of living here, you start to build up your own secret knowledge bank of how to make the most of the city. So here are a few of my favourites…

St Giles Hill – Avoiding the hike

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Views from the top of this panoramic spot in the city are beautiful, you can see out across much of Winchester. I personally love a trip up to the top of St. Giles Hill, however there’s no denying it’s extremely steep in places! The climb can require a certain amount of effort, which is itself rewarding, but if you’re feeling a little lazy or pressed for time, there are a few less strenuous routes you can take. My preferred one is to simply use the footbridge by the Chesil Street Multi-storey Car Park. This cuts the journey and the effort required right down, getting you to the top in no time.

Black Bottle – Make the most of your credit

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Who doesn’t love a trip to the Black Bottle now and again? Winchester’s unique wine vending machine venue is a great place to try different wines and relax with friends. After visiting, I often found I was left with odd small amounts of credit on my Black Bottle card, little did I know you can actually drink every last drop of your credit! Even if you don’t have enough left for a glass of your chosen wine, put your card in anyway and you’ll be rewarded with an equivalent amount of wine (this can work quite well if you pick one of the less pricey wines!). Is it just me who was excited to discover this? And am I the only one who didn’t know about it?

Bombay Sapphire Distillery – No need to drive

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Want to do the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery experience out at Laverstoke Mill but don’t want drive and miss out on all the gin? Don’t be fooled by it’s rural location, there are a few public transport options from Winchester. You can catch the 86 bus, which stops in Overton, from there it’s about half an hour walk from the distillery (or there are shuttle services available). Alternatively, if you can hop on the direct train to Micheldever, there’s a shuttle service running to the distillery too – offering you a perfect, gin filled day out, with no-one having to miss out on the fun.

Christmas market – avoid the crush

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I love Winchester’s Christmas market, it’s my happy place…apparently a lot of other people feel that way too, judging by the significant queues to get in. Avoid the slow-moving squash of bodies to get into Winchester’s fabulous Christmas market by entering from the back. Make your way in via the archway at the end of College Street, where it meets with St. Swithun Street. You’ll get into the market much quicker and avoid the crowded Christmas crush (especially if you go on a week day too). Keep this one in mind for December people! I know it’s summer right now but you could familiarise yourself with the route in readiness for the festive season. There are some lovely independent shops in the area that are well worth a visit.
What have I missed? Tell me yours!
These are four Winchester Hacks that came to my mind immediately, I’m sure there’s many more I’ve missed and even some that I’m completely unaware of. I’d love to hear your tips for getting the best from our fair city, please do share yours with me.

Chocolate, Cocktails and Christmas

Christmas seems to have crept up on me this year – but it’s a little like the Tesco Christmas advert…what starts off as a panic soon turns into excitement. I think we can all agree we need a little Christmas magic more than ever this year!

So, the Christmas lights switch on in Winchester came at just the right time. Winchester is always a beautiful sight but the high street really does look extra special in the build up to Christmas with the lights twinkling away.

After taking in the lights, my sister and I were lucky enough to have tickets to the perfect event to keep the festive feeling alive. We came in out of the cold to Winchester’s cosy little chocolate shop, Chococo, for an evening of special cocktails and sweet treats.

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Chococo-Late was a joint adventure from the Cabinet Rooms and Chococo and what a collaboration it was! Cocktail expertise and chocolate flavours were combined, with just a hint of Christmas thrown too.

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A warm mulled pear & ginger cocktail made with Gosling’s rum was my first tipple of the evening and it truly was Christmas in a cup! I also enjoyed the Chococo Russian and the Sublime Moment – both were beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.

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We tucked into Chococo’s milk, dark and white chocolate buttons as well as a warm chocolate brownie with cappuccino ice cream.  A decadent deluxe hot chocolate featuring cream, marshmallows and chocolate malt balls, also went down well on our table. We didn’t quite have room for the chocolate fondue on the menu but saw another table enjoying this and thought it looked amazing.

We left feeling warm, cosy and full of chocolate…but best of all, brimming with festive cheer. The countdown to Christmas has begun!

Thank you to the Cabinet Rooms and Chococo Winchester for a lovely evening. You can find out more about the brilliant foodie events from the Cabinet Rooms on their website.

New Look for Alresford PizzaExpress

There was a time when I was in Alresford five days a week for work – but since I started working from home, I haven’t been back many times. It’s a shame really as Alresford is a lovely place with some great restaurants, cafes and tea rooms.

So imagine my delight when the team at PizzaExpress wrote to me to tell me about their Alfresford restaurant’s brand new look. Naturally, I went along to see it for myself (and enjoy some delicious pizza of course!).

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PizzaExpress in Alresford’s Broad Street has been totally transformed and features new artwork based on Mid Hants Railway’s famous Watercress Line.

Did you know each PizzaExpress restaurant is individually designed – often using well known places, people or historical events from the area as a basis? With the Watercress Line being one of Alresford’s most well-known attractions, the interior takes inspiration from the railway’s history. Posters in the restaurant portray steam trains and details of their design form the basis for graphic abstracts.

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Back in its day, the Watercress Line used to transport locally grown plants to Covent Garden and I think it’s lovely to see this history reflected in the decor at PizzaExpress. Further along the Watercress Line, Alton’s PizzaExpress has also had a makeover featuring different artwork that plays tribute to the railway.

The new look Alresford PizzaExpress also has two new bars, feature chairs, settles and light fittings. There’s even a new garden area to enjoy.

I loved the smart new look and it made for a relaxing setting to enjoy a fabulous Fiorentina Pizza, with a perfectly cooked egg!

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I couldn’t resist a little something from the Dolcetti menu of mini desserts, served alongside tea and coffee…

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If you’re not already feeling tempted by a trip to Alresford’s newly made over PizzaExpress, the transformation coincides with the launch of a delicious new autumn menu. The autumnal menu includes a Basilicata Romana lamb meatball pizza and the welcome return of the Rustichella Romana pizza, as well as a vegetarian Al Forno Cannelloni. New on the dessert menu is a rich and intense warm Chocolate Fondant. Who’s hungry now?!

Thanks to the team at PizzaExpress Alresford for a lovely meal! x

 

Foodie fun this weekend at Chequers Fest

If you’re looking for a fun, foodie event this weekend you can’t go far wrong with Chequers Fest, at The Chequers in Eversley Cross,  this Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st August.

Okay, so this is a little outside of Winchester but I have reason to believe it’s going to be great, so thought I’d share the news. The whole of the lovely village pub The Chequers will be given over to two days of fantastic live music, bars and artisan food and drink.

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I’m told that the focus for this year’s festival is Great British Produce, with a wonderful array of great home produced things to eat and drink on offer, as well as plenty of opportunities to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.

The pub’s invited some great producers to be there for the festival, with plenty of delicious things to nibble and quaff and lots of free tasters on offer (who doesn’t love free tasters!?). There’s a chance to try some fabulous oysters from the Oyster Bar and some delicious regional cheeses.

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You can get creative and make your own sausages and fairy cakes in a series of foodie workshops for all the family. Then relax over a glass or two of local ale or something chilled from the bar. There will be live music from Off The Record from 2pm to 4pm on the day as well. Sunday is the day for dancing, cocktails and more delectable food. There’ll be a tasty hog roast available as well as the pub’s usual summer menu.

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“Once again we’ll be having some great British produce on offer at the festival and putting on an amazing day dedicated to the good stuff,” says Jordan Marr, general manager of The Chequers.

“We love serving the good stuff here in the pub and this is our way of sharing the best of it with you as well as bringing great live entertainment and fun for everyone over the weekend. Come along and enjoy it all and of course have a brilliant day out,” he adds.

Tickets for Chequers Fest cost £10 for adults and are valid for both days. Under 12’s go free.  As the festival takes over the entire pub for the weekend, entry to The Chequers is only possible with a ticket. Chequers Fest takes place from 12 noon to 4pm on Saturday 20th August and from 12pm to 8pm on Sunday 21st August. The Chequers, Eversley Cross, Hampshire, RG27 0NS. To book tickets or find out more  go to www.thechequerseversleycross.co.uk or call 01184 027065.

A delightful dinner date at Vespers in the Apollo Hotel

I was recently invited a long to dine at Vespers, one of the restaurants inside the Apollo Hotel in Basingstoke. As many of you know, I don’t leave Winchester all that often to eat out, so it has to be good to get me there! I’m pleased to say the food at Vespers was delicious and the staff were very friendly and attentive.

I’d never been to Vespers before but liked the sound of everything on the menu, which included some fantastic ingredients including smoked garlic and a Surrey farmed 28 day aged rib eye steak.

I was out for the evening with my sister for a catch up and some good food, Vespers didn’t disappoint, we had a quiet, corner table and spent the evening chatting away. Being sat in the corner didn’t mean we were forgotten about though, service was excellent. I couldn’t fault the food either, great flavours, portion sizes and presentation.

I enjoyed citrus cured salmon with a tomato, chive, red onion and lemon zest salsa to start, which was very good. I’m a huge salmon fan so I finished it all, including flavoursome salsa.

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A starter of citrus cured salmon

I did have a definite case of food envy over my dining companion’s starter of pan seared scallops with a saffron sauce and pomegranate salad. I’m very fond of scallops and these looked great, beautifully presented and just enough for a starter.

A starter of pan seared scallops

A starter of pan seared scallops

I followed my salmon with another fishy choice of baked fillet of white fish, Atlantic salmon, king prawns, finely chopped fennel & tarragon, topped with a creamed & herb potato mash. This was a generously sized fillet with elegantly piped mash potato on top. The flavours were lovely, creamy without being too rich

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My main course

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Our other main course was the rib eye steak, which came with a large onion ring and chunky chips cooked in beef dripping. Of course for the purposes of the review, I had to sample a few of the chips, which were huge and very crisp, a good accompaniment to a tender steak.

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The steak main course, topped off with a giant, delicious onion ring

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We both enjoyed the chunky chips cooked in beef dripping

We didn’t quite have room for dessert but enjoyed a cappuccino each, which came with everyone’s favourite (especially mine!) a Lotus Biscoff biscuit. A perfect end to a lovely meal.

If you find yourself in Basingstoke I can recommend a meal at Vespers, take a look at the menu for yourself on their website: http://www.apollohotels.com/ – you’ll also find details here of a special Valentines Day Candlelit dinner.

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