My aunt was celebrating her 70th birthday and had invited Steve and myself along for the ride. I finished teaching just after 2pm and hopped in the car still in my ballet gear to get to Winchester in time for pre-dinner drinks.
We had booked ourselves into a quirky boutique bed and breakfast a stones throw from my aunt’s house and the city centre. The Black Hole is situated on Wharf Hill opposite its sister restaurant The Black Rat and next to The Black Boy pub. There is a wine bar too a short walk away called The Black Bottle.
The Black Hole B&B is no ordinary bed and breakfast. It has a prison theme with all the rooms being called “cells”. Complete with thick vintage wooden cell doors that must have come from a pretty amazing reclaimation yard. There are mug shots of prisoners faces on the walls which add to the quirky vibe. You would think it would be pretty morbid in style but it actually felt very light and airy. Our bedroom was cell 6 on the second floor. A spacious room decorated simply (obviously) with striped carpets and wallpaper that recreated the look of wood panelled walls.The Wykeham Arms, was only a ten minute walk from the Black Hole so we decided to walk through the water gardens and Winchester College grounds to get there. It was beautiful in the early evening sunshine. I felt totally relaxed and in a holiday vibe. We ordered our drinks and took a table in the bar to enjoy them. The Wykeham Arms has a great selection of ales and wines alongside a wonderful menu. If we didn’t already have dinner plans then I would have suggested we stayed for food. I have eaten there twice before and haven’t been disappointed. The Chesil Rectory. The Chesil Rectory is a well established restaurant in the oldest, and in my opinion, one of the prettiest buildings in Winchester. They specialise in modern British cuisine from what I could see although we had a limited menu created for us due to the fact that we were a party of 14. Hattingley Valley. A local vineyard in Arlesford. As my regular readers will know, I love trying things that are local to the area I’m in. It just makes sense to me.
Like I said previously, there was a limited menu due to the fact we were a large party. A choice of two starters. Isle of White Heritage tomato salad with a local goats cheese or an asparagus soup with a poached hens egg. Steve and I decided that we would order one of each so we could try both. The tomatoes were heaven on a plate and the asparagus soup was creamy and flavoursome. For me I felt that the poached egg was a little over done but it didn’t effect my enjoyment or the flavours. It just might have been nice if the egg’s yolk had run into the soup a little when cut open.
The main course choices were haunch of venison with a black currant jus and creamed parsnip mash, chicken in a creamy sauce with vegetables plus trout with a light broth. I wish I had taken a picture of the menu to remind me of the correct names of the dishes. Very strange of me not to have done so. I must have been enjoying my Hattingley Valley fizz too much!
I ordered the trout and Steve ordered the venison. My uncle Dai had the chicken so I could try a little of all. My trout was deliciously light and the broth was delicate and fresh. It had an oriental richness about it. Steve’s venison was rich and succulent. The tartness of the black current jus cut through the richness of the venison perfectly. There were lots of positive noises coming from Steve! Dai’s chicken was so moist. I think I overheard Douglas saying it was cooked in a water bath to keep it succulent. None of us could fault our main courses.
The whole evening was a joy from start to finish. It was lovely catching up with my cousins Max and Aaron plus Aaron’s wife Jo. As well as spending time with Lorraine and Dai.
After a good nights sleep in our large and comfy bed we pottered downstairs to sample the Back Hole’s breakfast. The tables were all set up with tin plates, bowls and mugs to resemble prison dining although it was far more luxurious than that. I ordered eggs, tomatoes and veggie sausages. Steve had the full English. There were cereals, yoghurts, croissants and toast available as well as various teas, coffees and freshly squeezed juices. Both of our breakfasts were cooked to perfection using quality produce. Just what we needed after a night of rich food and wine.
See you again soon Winchester. I look forward to discovering more of your foodie delights next time!