One of the best foodie openings in Winchester recently has been the restaurant with rooms No.5 Bridge Street, just beyond the main high street. In a peaceful enclave of this fine Cathedral city, conveniently placed for the Chesil Street Car Park, it is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
The whole building has been recently refurbished to include not just a very spacious restaurant and chef’s open-plan kitchen-dining-room but also 6 bedrooms, should you wish for somewhere to stay that is central and spotless. There is a great deal to see and do in and around Winchester: shopping, visiting the cathedral, art galleries, theatre and cinema. You may well need somewhere to rest your head if you are planning to make the most of your trip, because driving into and around Winchester is a gridlocked nightmare. From No.5 you can walk to pretty much all the main attractions.
As you enter the restaurant you will immediately notice that care and thought have gone into its decoration: earthy, plain colours, wooden floors, natural textiles, painted tiles, plenty of light, eclectic vintage furnishings and clean, uncluttered surfaces. This is the sort of relaxed, cheery place you could take your mother out to lunch to, your could bring your children here after shopping at the excellent food market or you could even arrange a quiet business dinner in the corner. There is space enough for large parties but you need not feel swamped by it all if you just want a quiet drink by the bar.
The service is fast and friendly, staff are young and smiley and if you enjoy looking at your lunch being made then you can sit overlooking the kitchen brigade slicing and stirring. The menus are short and international in outlook, with small plates of celeriac croquettes, chicken liver parfait and beetroot carpaccio to start you off. There are bigger plates of charcuterie (the venison bresaola is very good) and the Old Winchester and New Forest Nanny goat cheeses are firm favourites. Jerusalem artichoke soup and chestnut and chorizo salad are delicious starter choices, and the pork belly and puy lentil cassoulet and rump steak with Barkham blue béarnaise sauce are well sourced and perfectly cooked. The cooking approach is simple, honest, rustic and very similar to the bistro-style that you could once only find in good neighbourhood family French or Italian restaurants in London. There are no drizzles, foams and mousses, no gymnastic balancing acts of contorted garnishes and no pretension whatsoever.
Do make room for puddings because they are a high point of the meal and beautifully presented: chocolate pots, burnt custard creams, chocolate tarts and Judes ice creams are definitely worth trying.
It is high time that an eaterie such as this opened in Winchester, the sighs of appreciation can be heard in and around this historic city. No 5 Bridge Street sits bang in the middle-range budget spectrum, offering good service and value for money in a quiet and serene ambiance where you can relax and unwind in comfort. There are three more establishments in the same Ideal Collections stable that owns and manages No 5: The Bugle at Hamble, The White Horse in Otterbourne and The White Star in Southampton. Hampshire is a beautiful county filled with lovely sights and destinations: we know where we are heading for lunch.
No 5 Bridge Street: www.no5bridgestreet.co.uk
Follow the No. 5 team on Twitter: @no5bridgestreet
Ideal Collections: www.idealcollections.co.uk