Apart from my Dad’s bathroom shop, Winchester hasn’t got an awful lot going for it and it certainly isn’t known for its food (bar Michelin starred The Black Rat which is pretty decent). To hear that both Hugh Fearnley-Twittingstall and Rick Stein were both opening restaurants there, it sounded like only a positive thing.
We thought we’d start by trying Rick Stein’s, which as you can imagine was a wholly seafood offering. White table cloths attempted to create a formal atmosphere but the fact we were seated next to a closed cupboard covered in scuffs; it didn’t quite do it for me.
Again, with an attempt at fine-dining, we were offered an amuse bouche of fish cakes which were pleasant little balls with the flavour and texture you might expect from a pub.
To start, my parents opted for the Cantabrian prawn and crab cocktail (Â£8.95) which was served in a whisky glass. The quality of both the crab and prawn was exquisite.
Slightly less successful was my salt and pepper squid (Â£8.95) which was a touch on the chewy side. It also had very little of the promised salt and pepper flavour. Frenchman’s Creek oysters (Â£2.50 each) were plump and creamy.
For main, my Mutti’s cod and chips (Â£16.95) was fine but not particularly noteworthy. The mushy peas looked like they’d seen better days. But the thick cut chips were quite moreish.
Far from moreish however were the thin chips (Â£3.50) that came with my lobster (Â£29.95), as they were soggy, undercooked and under-seasoned. And then there’s the lobster, served with a huge bowl of mayo that had formed a skin. I opted to have it steamed and the amount of water that poured out as I scooped and scraped the flesh out the shell was really off-putting. The lobster meat was also soft and flabby which wasn’t very nice in the slightest.
My Vati opted for the Dover sole a la meuniÃ¨re (Â£32.95) which certainly wasn’t cheap but it was faultless both in terms of quality and cooking.
For dessert I went for the passion fruit pavlova (Â£6.95) which was a touch expensive for what is essentially a very good meringue and cream topped with half a passion fruit. To be fair, it was incredible. I had a similar desert when I visited Stein’s Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and it was equally as wonderful.
Service had a touch of the manic, rushed CafÃ© Rouge at Terminal 4 about it – our waiter would walk off before you finished your sentence which was annoying. That, along with some expensive but altogether disappointing food, left us doubtful we’d return.