[Winchester] One Block West
I’m often put off restaurants when they use the industry buzz words to describe themselves. Phrases like “fine dining”, “local & seasonal”,, “farm to table”. You get my drift? Yep, it’s a bit like that.
Well, in spite of it, we found ourselves in One Block West on the first of our two nights in town. You know how it is when you’re only in a strange town for a couple of nights? You can either eat at whatever is the place next to your hotel. Or, you can do some research and see what may be around – dismissing , of course, the comments you can get on sites such as TripAdvisor telling on one post that the food at a place is “awesome” and that it’s the “worst ever” on the next post. If nothing else, I can read an online menu and form a view as to how the cooking might be. Of course, you only validate the view when you go to eat. So, in spite of the restaurant describing its food being “sensational seasonal cuisine, which is marketing speak for fine dining”, we put that complete tosh to one side and went to see if the chef can cook.
Well, yes he can. Maybe not as sensationally as he hopes. But it ain’t at all bad.
There was something of an assembly job with one starter. Bruschetta was a couple of slices of nice bread, lightly toasted. It was topped with a bland, almost tasteless goat’s cheese (why don’t places use properly goaty goat’s cheese), topped with fig jam. A couple of tiny fresh figs decorated the plate, as did a smear of balsamic sauce.
Fried green tomatoes is a southern classic. Here they were coated in cornmeal and briefly fried. Now, not being Southern (or even American), we weren’t sure how they were supposed to come out. We assumed the tomatoes should have a sense of being cooked, but they weren’t. The raw tomato tasted fine and perhaps that’s how they were intended. Alongside, a poky pimento sauce and a dab of houmous worked well.
For mains, Virginia landed John Dory had been simply roasted and was pretty much perfect. The two fillets sat on a pea and carrot risotto which matched the fish well. As did a drizzle of a lemon & olive oil dressing.
Chinese style pulled lamb was the other main course. Whilst I know the northern Chinese eat lamb, I’m not sure whether their cooking style would result in a “pulled” version. Perhaps this was chef’s attempt to localise a dish. It sat on rice and was accompanied by steamed bok choi. The main flavouring was soy and I think I detected a little heat from soething – chilli or Sichuan pepper, perhaps? I liked this. Not an earth shattering dish, but a very pleasant Friday night dinner plate.
As often the case, desserts were not worth the calories or the dollars. They were OK, but nothing more. A raspberry cheesecake was a deconstructed version. The filling sat on the plate as a sort of mousse affair, surrounded by crumbs of the usual biscuit base. There were a few local raspberries which tasted very much of themselves. And a very intense raspberry sauce smeared, artfully, across the plate. Orange upside down cake was a disappointment. There was a well made sponge but it was one with no detectable orange in it – the citrus contribution, such as it was, coming only from a slice of orange on top. Alongside, there was a coconut sorbet which, in itself, was well made but just didn’t work too well with the cake.
So, a pleasant enough meal in a place I’d no doubt return to regularly if I was a local, but for travellers, a destination restaurant it ain’t.