A surprisingly late table reservation time of 9.30pm meant that prior to feasting on delights of the Chesil Rectory we were able to sample the joys of Winchester at night – the illumination of Winchester Cathedral, a moonlit walk by the Itchen river and the sight of YSL clad posh boys preparing to hit Vodka.
Vague memories of a previous visit meant I’d always associated the Chesil Rectory with the musty welcome you’d expect of an old fashioned seaside hotel. But things have either changed a lot in recent years or I have a terrible memory.
Inside the restaurants manages to mix medieval architecture with contemporary design to create a welcoming atmosphere that oozes anticipation.
Produce from the Hampshire doorstep features heavily but there was only minor consternation from the bar staff when I turned my nose up at the Winchester based Twisted Nose (watercress is not my thing but they do other gins that are great). However, it set the scene for service that balanced friendly informality with professionalism – particularly when one of them bellowed ‘old world every time’ when we were trying to choose between the French and Argentian Malbec.
The starters were solid. The addition of granola and rhubarb puree meant the ham hock ballontine verged on becoming a breakfast/dinner fusion. The chicken terrine was combined perfectly with mushrooms that had a mild peppery taste but the chicken crackling became a disappointing treasure hunt within a nicely constructed plate.
The first mouthfuls of the mains were accompanied by a prolonged silence as we both took the time to revel in the delight of the first mouthful. The roast Lamb was slightly caramelised. The hot-pot potatoes rich and creamy. And the pureed carrot and crispy cavolo nero provided a mix of textures.
I disappointed myself by foregoing a desert adventure for the most chocolatey thing on the menu. In the end I got the best both with a very chocolatey praline iced parfait that came with passion fruit sorbet that zinged on the tongue.
The Chesil Rectory is not cheap but it delivers fine dining and excellent service for a fair price. a city full of restaurants, Wessexians are lucky to have it on their doorstep. My only regret – not having the tasting menu. I can’t remember being offered it – I’ll have to go again soon.
Plus they serve port in very big bottle.