Hampshire is nearly conquered for another year, and then I can turn my attention to the funny little island calling from across the Solent.
Winchester (a.k.a. best place to live in the UK) has turned into quite a decent base for us, with a little home for our campervan at No Man’s Land a couple of miles east of town affording a walk into the centre, past cemeteries and public schools, a metaphor for the city.
Actually, we found it very lively on an August Wednesday evening last year, and it was certainly bustling at lunchtime last Tuesday as well.
It’s a patchy place, but the street art is improving. Locals seemed less than impressed with me blocking the alleyways to take photos of graffiti rather than their big church.
Winchester is a good example of the pub-tickers irritation. If we’d had the current Good Beer Guide the same day as London, we’d have been able to visit Alfies and the Eclipse during our visit last year. On the other hand, that would have pushed Mrs RM marginally over the Government drinking limit, and we can’t have that.
In a town centre of OAPs and students, the mobile phone and pasty shops were rather busier than the pubs (just like Cambridge), which is never the best conditions for early weekday beer drinking.
Alfie’s is a cheery café style pub, with service of the “No worries” variety, perhaps because there are no worries in Winchester. The barmaid was singing along to James Bay, which has its pros and cons.
It was very quiet, bar a few ladies who lunch on burgers and diet coke, and the playing of “A little less conversation” seemed entirely appropriate.
So I was entirely surprised to find a quality Good Old Boy, cool and rich (NBSS 3.5), from a tight range.
A pleasant place, with quirky décor in the usual style and wonky tables. The advert for a “BBQ till 3am” revealed the target audience, and it’s probably not old pub tickers.
I’d assumed the name reflected Cilla Black’s historic links with the city (37% of Blind Date contestants came from Winchester), but apparently not so.
Five points for identifying the middle Alfred from a stirring collection on the pub walls;
The Eclipse is a complete contrast in style to Alfie’s, but sadly no busier. It’s hidden off a street close to the Cathedral, but frankly folk in upmarket towns seem to eat in coffee shops and pizzerias, rather than pubs, these days.
A local beer called Long Dog was ambitiously priced at £2.20 a half, and could have done with extra turnover, but the pub is a little unchanged town gem which the locals probably think a bit scruffy.
The chap at the bar doing the crossword searched for a five letter word meaning “nervous“, and a couple wearing caps came in just to declare “Ooh, scampi fries“, before eventually ordering Heineken. Possibly a future BRAPA classic.
We briefly contemplated the Royal Oak, with it’s claim to antiquity, but you can only have so much Greene King excitement in one week.