All the March 2014 food news, facts and views from Hampshire

Chocolate heaven

Chocolate heaven - Credit: Archant

Food news from across the county

Success in sustainability

Success in sustainability - Credit: Archant

Success with sustainability

Staff at the Hampshire Life Pub of the Year runner up, The Cricketers in Hartley Wintney, have been bowled over this month when they found out that the pub has been rated alongside the likes of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and River Cottage as one of the most sustainable restaurants in the UK.

It has been awarded Three Stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), which assesses restaurants’ environmental and social impact, rating them on the provenance of their food, how they manage their energy, waste and water and their contribution to the local community.

Since taking over The Cricketers, which is part of New Pub Co, last year, Mark Thornhill has completely transformed the food offering, creating a menu with Chef Hayleigh Cook that features produce from a host of excellent local suppliers. He said: “Since we took over in March, it’s something we have been very passionate about, working seven days a week. Everyone in the team including all the chefs and front of house staff are committed to giving our customers the best local food we can find. I have a personal relationship with all of our suppliers and our customers notice the quality. To get the Three Star rating from the SRA is the culmination of a lot of hard work and it’s an emotional thing for all of us. It’s always been my ambition to be listed in the Michelin guide and we achieved that last year, but getting a Three Star SRA rating is even better. It makes so much more sense to operate this way as it’s good for business because we have a story to tell about our food.”

Customers at The Cricketers can expect to eat entirely free range meat, fruit and herbs from the pub’s garden, cheese from a local farm in Surrey and honey from Crookham Village, just a few miles away is used in the honey roast ham and honey cake – two of the house specialities.

The Cricketers Three Star rating also reflects its support for the village cricket club and a local cancer charity, as well as its use of entirely recycled or reused furniture and offering customers the chance to take home their unfinished meals in a doggy bag.

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Mark Linehan, Managing Director of the SRA, said: “It’s fantastic that The Cricketers has, within just a few months, totally embraced sustainability and made it work. All our research shows this is what diners want, so customers at The Cricketers can now enjoy their meal and leave with a good taste in their mouths.”


Do you want to be a chef?

Exclusive Hotels and Venues are delighted to announce the launch of the Chef’s Academy, a career development programme created to increase opportunities for chefs within the hotel and venues group. Headed up by former executive chef of Lainston House Hotel, Andy Mackenzie, the programme will commence in July 2014 and run for two years.

Offering a wide range of opportunities in the six restaurants and extensive conference and banqueting facilities and drawing on the vast experience of three Michelin starred Chefs; Michael Wignall, Matt Gillan and Richard Davies, as well as Denis Drame, the recent recipient of the Master of Culinary Arts in Pastry; Exclusive Hotels and Venues are proud to uphold a reputation for providing excellent training and career opportunities for their staff.

The Academy will be aimed at commis chefs who have at least one year of experience and has been designed to equip the chefs with the skills and experience needed to take them from commis to chef de partie level on an intensive two year programme.

Based at properties across the business, the chefs will be exposed to the different cooking styles of the award-winning chefs, extensive off-job training involving masterclasses, visits to the producers of the quality ingredients used in the business, and attending workshops led by experts in their field. This will be followed by having the opportunity to work directly with the great quality ingredients, many of which are locally sourced as well as those from the hotels’ own kitchen gardens.

Exclusive Hotels and Venues’ commitment to development will ensure that the focus is balanced between the needs of the individuals and the business and will cover team challenges and competitions involving rigorous assessment.

Andy comments: “Having been a chef with Exclusive Hotels and Venues for over 27 years, I am really excited and very proud to be heading up the Exclusive Chef’s Academy an d am looking forward to transferring my skills to these talented chefs, supported by the executive chefs across the group.”


Country pub makeover

Originally an old country house and once the home of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment during World War II, historic Burley pub, The White Buck Inn, has re-opened after a stunning refurbishment.

The new look is set to cement the pub as an ever-more beautiful country inn, giving guests that home-from-home feeling in the picturesque surroundings of the New Forest.

Fuller’s, who own The White Buck Inn, have added an additional eight luxurious guest rooms to this New Forest retreat, doubling the accommodation offering to 16 rooms. Comfort and indulgence is at the heart of this classic country inn, making it the perfect base for exploring the scenic local area.

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, The White Buck’s stylish indulgence suites combine vintage and modern décor with grand finishing touches. For family breaks, the cosy boutique bedrooms make the perfect place to relax and enjoy a homely retreat away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The delicate renovation has restored many of the original features of this historic property, including the reclaimed oak and stone flooring and original fireplace. Pippa O’Gorman, Manager of The White Buck Inn commented: “We are thrilled with the transformation of The White Buck and can’t wait to wow our guests with our stunning new bedrooms and extended, locally sourced British food offering.

“Our terrace has been extended to seat an additional 30 guests and features an outside wood burning pizza oven, helping us to be the place for a delicious lunch in the summer months when the New Forest is packed with activity-seeking visitors. We are remaining dog-friendly with four of our bedrooms having exclusive facilities for man’s best friend to stay over in equal luxury.”


Chocolate Heaven

Award-winning Dorset-based chocolatier Chococo has chosen Winchester has the perfect location to open its second store.

Customers visiting Chococo Winchester will be able to indulge and delight in the world of fine chocolate with a wide selection of Chococo’s delicious, freshly handmade chocolates on display. There will also be the opportunity to try their unique hot chocolate and freshly made cakes in the café area.

Located at the Guildhall end of the High Street, the new store interior is inspired by the iconic and colourful packaging of Chococo’s chocolate boxes, with some added wit thrown in.

The tempting fresh chocolates selection available features favourites like “Old Thumper”, flavoured with Old Thumper Beer from Hampshire’s Ringwood Brewery, and “Black Cow”, a milk chocolate ganache that uses Black Cow Vodka from Dorset.

Using local ingredients is vitally important to the company and supporting Hampshire businesses is something they are keen to develop. The tea served in the shop will come from Char Tea in Winchester, and the cakes from Little Bee Bakery in Romsey. Find out more at


Putting local wines on the map

The award-winning English sparkling wine producer, Jenkyn Place has joined forces with five other Hampshire-based wineries, Danebury, Hambledon, Meonhill, Cottonworth and Wickham, under the ‘Hampshire Wine Producers’ banner.

The newly-formed group aims to raise the profile of the county as one of England’s top wine-producing regions and will be exhibiting at various trade and consumer events, including a Hampshire Mini-Wine Fest in July 2014.

Simon Bladon, owner of Jenkyn Place, comments: “We wanted to put Hampshire on the wine map as it’s not as widely recognised as, say, Kent and Sussex. We firmly believe that Hampshire, like other counties in the south of England, has all the ingredients needed to produce world-class sparkling wine – the right climate, the right soils and the right geography.”

The Hampshire Wine Producers group recently exhibited at the Wine Gang Christmas Fair at Vinopolis Wine Museum in London, where over 600 visitors had the opportunity to taste Hampshire wines. “Feedback on all of the wines was very positive,” says Simon. “Those in the know (including the wine trade itself) recognise that English sparkling wine offers a very credible and affordable alternative to Champagne. Although distinctly English in style, it is made in the same method, from the same grape varieties and in blind tastings has compared very favourably to Champagne. In fact, our Jenkyn Place Brut has even out-performed some of the Champagnes.”

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