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.

Deliveroo launches in Winchester

I’m always saying how lucky we are to have so many amazing restaurants here in Winchester, so I was beyond excited to hear that Deliveroo was launching in the area. If you’re not familiar with Deliveroo, it’s an on-demand delivery service, bringing you food from local restaurants. This even includes some of the city’s restaurants that don’t usually deliver or offer a takeaway service.

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Deliveroo launches in Winchester!

I first came across the Deliveroo team years ago at a trade show I was working at back when the service was first launched in London. I remember thinking it was a great idea but never imagined it would one day come to us here in Hampshire. Naturally, I couldn’t wait to try out the app and what better time than the recent bank holiday weekend?

Currently, there are over 20 local restaurants signed up to Deliveroo including Sakura, Gandhi, Ruby Reds, Loch Fyne, Pi and Zizzi. Initially, I was most excited about being able to get sushi delivered from Sakura. However, with the bank holiday fun, came a bit of a bank holiday hangover – leading me to opt for something a little more in the classic comfort food family! So my first Deliveroo order was for a feast of nachos, sweet potato fries and a burrito from Ruby Reds. I have to say I was impressed at how seamless the whole process was. The app is straightforward and easy-to-use and the tracking facility was accurate and really handy, letting me know when the food was just about to arrive (useful when you have a parrot on the loose at home!). The indulgent order from Ruby Reds was delicious and definitely hit the spot!

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A Deliveroo rider in front of one of the city’s most well known landmarks

I was also impressed by the option to schedule orders via the Deliveroo app up to one day in advance as well as the normal asap delivery. All in all, I’d have to say it’s a brilliant service and one I know I’ll be using again – next time I’ll hopefully opt for something a little healthier!

There’s great news that more restaurants may be added as the service expands and grows in Winchester. Plus, the Deliveroo team tell me that around 50 jobs will be created for local people too.

I can certainly see Deliveroo being a part of my life, adding another great way to enjoy some of the fantastic food we have here in Winchester. You can try out Deliveroo for yourself by visiting the website or downloading the app, which is available on iPhone and Android.  Happy eating!

New Launch: The Wine Utopia Warehouse

It’s all been a little bit wine themed lately at FoodTeaLife (well, I need something to get me through the dark months until Christmas!)…so in keeping with the theme I thought I’d tell you about Wine Utopia’s newly opened wine warehouse.

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The Wine Utopia Warehouse (image credit – Catherine Skinner Photography)

I popped along to the opening evening in October and enjoyed a few fabulous glasses of Hattingley Valley’s Classic Cuvée and some delicious canapés.

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Tom and I enjoying the launch evening (image from Catherine Skinner Photography)

The newly opened warehouse is located on London Road in Kingsworthy, just on the outskirts of Winchester. It was great fun getting to take a sneak peek at the new store before it officially opened and there were some lovely people in attendance too. A very good evening!

I learned that the new Wine Utopia Warehouse is open to both trade customers and the public, offering the same quality wines and friendly service that you get in the Winchester and Stockbridge stores, just with all the benefits of wholesale buying. Sounds good to me! It will be perfect for stocking up for events and parties or just getting a stash of your favourite wine in.

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So much wine! (image from Catherine Skinner Photography)

Parking is easy too, the place literally perfect for filling your car up with wine! I hope to pop in soon and stock up in time for the festive season. If you fancy stocking up too you can find the new Wine Utopia Warehouse at Unit B1, The Foundry, London Road, Kingsworthy, SO23 7QA.

Many thanks to the Wine Utopia team for the invite and a lovely evening!

5 Reasons I’m looking forward to Wine Festival Winchester

Winchester and Wine…two things I love! So, naturally I am very much looking forward to Wine Festival Winchester in a few weeks time and here are just a few of the reasons why…

The brilliant ‘Follow Your Taste’ system

Follow Your Taste at Wine Festival Winchester

Trying to articulate which wines you like isn’t always easy, so Wine Festival Winchester has something a little different to assist with this. In order to help you find wines you like at the festival, organisers Susie and Peter have devised a colour-coded system called ‘Follow Your Taste’. Wine is broken down into six flavour styles and bottles at the event will have coloured neck tags to indicate their style.

English Sparkling Wine

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I think it’s just fantastic to have our very own wine producers creating bubbly that tastes as good, if not better than Champagne. It’s even better that so many great producers are local to the area too. I’m delighted to see that Hattingley Valley, Hambledon Vineyard and Cottonworth are all exhibiting, along with many others. I can’t wait to stock up!

Listening and Learning

I don’t claim to know an awful lot about wine but I do love learning about it and hearing from passionate producers, tasters and sommeliers. Last year I heard some great stories about the production process, how certain wines got their names and even the inspiration for different wine labels.

Trying New Things

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Image credit: Catherine Skinner Photography

The wine festival is great place to step outside of your usual wine comfort zone and try something different. In a restaurant you so often just stick with what you know or make a snap decision when buying wines from a shop. How often do you get the chance to really think about different wines and trying something you wouldn’t usually go for? The festival is the perfect place for this.

Foodie Favourites

Chococo at Wine Festival Wincester

Image credit: Catherine Skinner Photography

Cheese and chatting with the team from Chesil Rectory was lovely last year and I’m happy to see that they will be exhibiting again. Chocolate enthusiasts will be delighted to see Chococo has a stand too. It’s also great to see that some of my farmers market favourites like Devese Farm Animals will be there too. So there’s plenty of foodie experiences to discover as well as wine ones.

These five choices are a mere snapshot of the reasons why Wine Festival Winchester is going to be a fabulous event – I plan to write more about the festival as we get closer to the date (27th – 29th November). Until then, you can find out more at www.thewinefestival.co.uk.

10 Amazing Dishes To Try In Winchester

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I’ve certainly been lucky enough to eat some absolutely amazing meals in Winchester. We have some brilliant restaurants serving exciting, original food made with wonderful ingredients…but enough about how much I love Winchester! If I had to pick my top dishes to enjoy in this great city, this list is where I’d start.

Of course many menus change seasonally and there are always daily specials in certain restaurants – so I can’t promise you’ll definitely be able to find all of these dishes but I know some are still very much menu mainstays. So here’s my top ten in no particular order…

(also sorry, I was too busy enjoying each dish to take photos of all of them!)

1)  Kyoto Kitchen – Winchester Roll

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This is apparently the world’s first sushi roll made with wasabi leaf rather than seaweed and uses locally grown wasabi from Europe’s only wasabi farm, right here in Winchester! So it’s a dish with a great story that’s gained it plenty of attention. It’s also absolutely delicious! The wasabi leaf is perfect addition to this fresh, light and delicate sushi roll.

2) Bugle Inn (Twyford) – Beetroot Cured Salmon

This comes a homemade with smoked mackerel, horseradish & crab pate, crispy whitebait, shallot & beetroot salad, sauce tartar, Parmesan toasts and an aioli dip. It’s just a perfect platter for anyone who loves fish, simply delicious with lots of different things to pick and try. I can’t get enough of it! I should add that many of the Bugle’s other dishes are equally as fabulous, the food is always great.

3) Rimjhim Winchester – Modu Murg

I don’t really do hugely spicy curries so this dish from Rimjhim is just heavenly. If you’re someone who would normally have korma, you must try the modu murg. It’s a creamy coconut and honey chicken dish and comes with crispy parsnip strips on top. Even if you prefer something hotter, I highly recommend trying this dish – everyone I know who likes a spicy curry also enjoys this dish.

4) Bangkok Brasserie – Colin Firth’s Thai Mango Chicken (Gaeng Kari Mamuang) 

While we’re on the subject of curries, this Thai delight from Bangkok Brasserie needs a mention. It’s a a traditional mild yellow curry with added mango that was apparently created especially created for actor and Winchester man Colin Firth. Well, Colin’s got great taste is all I can say. It’s a truly delicious dish, the sauce will have you wanting to dip everything in it. What’s more it’s a sponsored dish with 85p from each dish sold going to charity – so you feel even better about ordering it!

5) Gandhi – Gandhi Special

I promise this is the last curry dish on the list! I don’t think the top ten would be complete without a mention for the flavoursome yet deliciously mild Gandhi Special. This dish is chicken cooked with almond, coconut, sultana and cashew nuts in a special sauce with spices and yoghurt and it comes served with an omelette. It’s a must try if you haven’t had it!

6) Pi Woodfired – Smoked bacon, goats cheese, caramelised onion & asparagus

A relatively new restaurant for Winchester but undeniably good! I haven’t had a chance to work my way through the menu yet but I have to say the bacon and goats cheese pizza was divine. All their dishes look fantastic and I can’t wait to try more!

7) Fish Tale Bar & Grill – Lobster Burger (or the Lobster Surf and Turf)

The lobsimag0903ter burger is amazing, what an invention! It features a brioche bun and tempura lobster, it’s a real feast. I love the varied menu at Fish Tale and try to order something different each time I go but the burger is incredibly tempting I must admit. The surf and turf gets a mention too as my dining companion loves this dish and very often goes for it.

8) Sakura Japanese Restaurant – Teppanyaki Lobster

Sticking with the subject of lobster, here’s another great way to enjoy it, fresh from the teppanyaki grill and cooked in a delicious sauce. You can sit around the grill and watch (and take part) in the cooking fun and theatrics or sit quietly at a separate table – either way it’s a lovely dish.

9) Rick Stein Winchester – Fish and Shellfish Soup with Rouille and Parmesan 

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This is a heavenly dish (which I have reviewed previously) – it’s a taste of Mediterranean summer holidays and I love adding the cheese and garlicky rouille to the soup. I love the whole menu (and the cocktails!) at Rick Stein’s but this starter is probably my absolute favourite.

10) The Avenue Restaurant at Lainston House – Coconut Parfait

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Aha, a delcious dessert makes it’s way on the list. I’m sure desserts of Winchester could be a whole other post – but this one is so good it deserves a mention in the overall top ten I think! I do love coconut, so this is a real winner with me – it comes with a chocolate mousse, caramel, banana and passion fruit – full of flavour! I’m hungry just thinking about it!

So there you have it, some of my favourite meals in Winchester. There are many more I could have mentioned and many other restaurants serving amazing dishes – but ten felt like a good place to stop. Have you tried any of these dishes? I would absolutely love to hear some recommendations from any FoodTeaLife readers for dishes I should try. Leave a comment or tweet me @franini_daze with your suggestions!

xXx

A Taste of Summer with Wine Utopia

The Wine Utopia Summer Tasting Event last Friday made for a fabulous start to the weekend! Set inside Winchester’s picturesque City Mill there were over 30 carefully selected wines to try, all with the summer season in mind.

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I could only stay for an hour but made the most of my time there sampling wines from around the world and thinking ahead to summer days, barbecues, warm evenings and sunshine.

Rot und Weiss

It was a tough decision deciding what to purchase but I opted for two New Zealand wines in the end (Wine Utopia’s speciality). Two Rivers Pinot Noir Rose seemed to be the perfect, vibrant summertime wine to me as did the Tinpot Hut Pinot Gris – so those were my two picks. All I need now is the warm weather to go with them!

Wine Utopia offer free local delivery too, as I live in Winchester I was able to place my order at the event and head off home to await my wine delivery! There’s good news if you live further afield than Hampshire too – you can now get your hands the specially selected wines on offer from Wine Utopia via their new website. 

It was a busy but certainly well-organised event, the City Mill was filled with people looking to get a taste of summer, I wish I could have stayed a little longer!

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There are plenty more fabulous tasting events coming up with Wine Utopia – I recommend taking a look at their website wineutopia.co.uk for more details on these. Alternatively you can pop into either of the shops in Winchester or Stockbridge for a chat with the friendly team.

Happy Valentine’s in Winchester

Well it’s been an absolute age since I’ve written a blog post, sadly when you work for yourself you can end up working ALL the time! But enough of that, I’m showing my blog some love with a love-themed post all about ways to spend this Valentine’s weekend in Winchester. Read on if you’ve not made any plans as yet, these are all ideas you can hopefully still do this weekend, some are even free too.

So you haven’t been organised and booked a table at one of Britain’s top three most romantic restaurants, The Chesil Rectory, don’t panic! Winchester is full of romance, tradition and wonderful places – there are plenty of ways to impress your other half with what the city has to offer.

St. Giles Hill 

St Giles Hill Winchesterb40b02d0c62711e2868f22000a1f97ea_7Okay so these photos were taken in summer time, however it’s still as beautiful and peaceful as ever up there. It’s definitely worth the climb. The viewpoint is a magical spot, where you can look over the whole of Winchester and reminisce about memories and places in the city. I’ve even heard of someone who actually got married up there! It’s so lovely you can see why. If you’re looking for free romance in the city, St. Giles Hill is top of the list.

The Screen Cinema

Screen Winchester

A trip to the cinema might not sound like the most original idea for Valentine’s Day, however The Screen really is a little bit special. It couldn’t really be more different to some of the big chain cinemas in my opinion! I highly recommend walking there and getting a nice bottle of wine to share with your film. Alternatively, if you have to drive they have some lovely coffees too. Choose of a few of the gourmet nibbles on offer as well and it’s a perfect occasion. There’s a few films to choose from this weekend… ’50 Shades of Grey’ is on of course but my choice would be ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ – a cracking film that will definitely be enjoyed by both men and women.

The Black Bottle 

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Whether you’ve booked an evening meal and are looking for something fun afterwards or you just a fancy a cosy evening with some great wines, The Black Bottle can’t be beaten for something a little bit different. Discovering the different rooms and the special wines within each one is fun and finding a comfy spot to pass a few hours sampling the different varieties is just lovely. Order one of their platters to nibble on or bring a board game and while away the evening, it’s a must-do when in Winchester.

Chococo

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Nothing quite says Valentine’s like chocolate does it?! Chococo is the perfect spot for a daytime date. The locally-roasted coffee is great and of course the hot chocolate menu is amazing. I particularly love the DIY Hot Chocolate, where you melt solid chocolate into hot milk, heavenly. There are plenty of yummy savoury treats on offer for anyone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth too. You can also pick up lovely locally-made Valentines gifts in Chococo – a bespoke box of chocolates featuring only your loved one’s favourites makes a very special gift.

French Fantasy

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They say no-one does romance like the French and while a trip to Paris might not be on the cards, you’re certainly not short of French cuisine in Winchester! The Bridge Patisserie is lovely for foodie gifts and a day time date, Froggies/La Place is enjoyable any time of day and don’t forget Maison Blanc and Brasserie Blanc! On Saturday’s you’ll also usually find a lovely crepes and galette food stall in the High Street too. So whether it’s croissants, brie, macarons or French wines you fancy, you’ll find it in Winchester. There is of course Hotel du Vin, but I dare say you’d struggle to get in this weekend.

St. Catherine’s Hill

St Catherine's Hill Winchester

Another free way to enjoy Winchester this weekend and ideal if you’ve got a dog to walk too. The views and vast areas of green are well worth the hike up the hill. Whether you choose to take the steps or climb up the other side, you can’t beat it for a romantic stroll. Wrap up warm as it can get windy up there! The tree swing is fun too, I’m not sure adults are really supposed to go on it, but I have in the past and it’s still standing! Why not extend your walk along the water meadows too? Then you’ll really work up an appetite and will have to stop for a hearty pub lunch somewhere.

Kingsgate Village

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This lovely little tucked away part of Winchester is just a delight to wander around and take in some of its historical charm. It’s all a little bit Hogwarts around there and features some great independent shops. I particularly like Kingsgate Books & Prints, which has some wonderful artwork depicting Winchester scenery. These make perfect gifts, especially if you met your partner in Winchester or spent your courting years there! I always like to pass the spot of the house where Jane Austen died too, she is after all, a wise woman who wrote a great deal about love and relationships. And while you’re in the area the Wykeham Arms is a nice spot for a drink too…and, fun fact: Canon Street next to the pub, was once the red light district of Winchester!

So there you have it, just a few ways to enjoy Winchester this Valentine’s Weekend. There are so many more I could recommend but I think I’ll end it here – hopefully I’ve inspired you all to get romantic and take your loved ones out this weekend! How would you spend Valentine’s Day in Winchester?

Whatever your plans, have a Happy Valentine’s Day xXx

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