The Little Kitchen Company: all the quirk and charm of an Indy cafe, with a McCafe-drive through's ease of access.
To most of us — raised on Friends and Central Perk and Rachel-Ross’ will they won’t they-ing — brunch culture holds a special appeal: an easy amble to your neighbourhood cafe for flat-whites, poached eggs and papers.
All this disappears in a puff of petrol fumes, when you motor your life and worldly possessions from SW1 into deepest Hampshire.
It’s not that this fine county lacks cafe culture: Winchester, Alresford, Southsea… shrines to the bean one and all, but a short, easy amble? Forget it. Herding children into the car, queuing on the outskirts, cramming into tiny town-centre parks, walking miles with grumpy, hungry children. You arrive, and brunch has just finished, eggs royale firmly off the menu.
But Muddy Readers, may I introduce The Little Kitchen Company’s Bistro: all the quirk and charm of an Indy cafe, with a McCafe-drive through’s ease of access: alleluia. The bistro came highly recommended by Kirsten, Muddy Hant’s Ad and Events Co-ordinator extraordinaire; she’s a Saturday morning regular whilst her two boys play golf next door.
It’s an easy motor up or down the M3/A34, near where the two roads intersect on the outskirts of Winchester (so no glacial traffic lights or one-way hell) and there’s oodles of free parking outside the bistro.
And did I mention that brunch is served all day? Poached eggies past 11.30? Mais oui.
The modern, light-filled space with its roaring fire, bleached wood and chrome lamps has a mixture of lounge-you-like Chesterfields plus tables and chairs.
The staff are friendly and intelligent without being cloying and the space is shared with Wincheter’s Golf Academy so children can borrow clubs for a knock around whilst their parents steal a couple of minutes for the paper: this area is by the carpark, though, so younger ones need hawk-eye supervision.
All this talk of brunch, but it must be emphasised that LKC Bistro also has lunch well and truly covered. The menu is proper cafe food done very well (another arm of The Little Kitchen Company empire was voted Hampshire Wedding Caterer of the Year 2016 and it shows): Cumberland sausage baps; mushrooms, pancetta and poached egg; parma ham, goats cheese and tapenade sandwiches; burgers; artisan pizzas; quiches; warm salads plus a daily soup and braise.
Kirsten and I visited on what might have been the coldest day of the year. With a scouring wind outside, the fire crackling away and a warming Mozzo coffee, I peeled off my fingerless Granny gloves and zero’d in on the menu’s daily braise.
There’s something about slow-cooked meat that sooths the soul, and ’tis true to say that after this bowl of spicy lamb and sweet-potato heaven, I was well and truly warmed right down to my chilly fingertips, the potato’s sweetness bringing out the rich, depth of the lamb.
Kirsten plumped for the warm beetroot and couscous salad dotted with pillowy chunks of goats cheese.
I ended with Jess’ Carrot Cake in all its gooey, cinnamon glory: highly recommended if you need a coffee and cake hit.
Anything else to add? Give yourself the night off by raiding the freezer by the cake counter for the special take-home meals.
Watch out for the supper club on the last Thursday of every month with wine to match, plus Fish and Chips on Fridays and curry on Mondays with a 20-ball driving range.
If you’re heading to Ascot, Goodwood, or Glyndebourne then ask about LKC’s posh picnics. You can order these for weddings too, for a more relaxed festie vibe.
And of course as always, when you visit, say Muddy Hants sent you!
Little Kitchen Company Bistro, At Winchester Golf Academy, Winchester, SO22 6RG, thelittlekitchencompany.com 01962 885600