Rick Stein’s Favourite Places
Naughty bishops, cold baths at Winchester College and lots and lots of pubs.
Think of Rick Stein and you think of Cornwall, more specifically Padstow but, make no mistake, the TV chef’s Hampshire connections run deep. From cold baths at Winchester College, to mushroom hunting in the New Forest, read on for his favourite (and not so favourite) places in this fine county.
“I could start with Winchester. It was not for no reason that we chose Winchester as the first restaurant to open outside of Cornwall, just simply because I’ve had a lot of family history with it because my brother was at Winchester College. I was down to go there when I left my prep school millions of years ago, but then I turned up there and discovered that they were still washing in the morning with a jug and a bowl. Even in the sixties, it was the most old-fashioned thing — I thought, I’m not going to go to a school where you don’t even have a basin to wash in! But it was probably a big mistake because my brother really benefited from being at the school. I used to go there quite a lot to see him.
Winchester Cathedral is probably my favourite Cathedral anywhere. I love the fact that I ended up at New College. Oxford was founded by William of Wykeham as was Winchester College and the thing I loved about William of Wykeham was that he made his money from a string of brothels in London. He was a Gentleman of the cloth and, I thought, nothing really changes!
Apart from the fact that my son, Edward, married a girl from Hampshire, they lived near Earlsfield, so I used to go and see them quite a lot, Winchester is just the perfect city.
Winchester Farmer’s Market
We filmed at the Winchester Farmer’s Market years ago for Food Heroes, and I just remember thinking at the time — this is the farmer’s market by which all others should be judged. For us, being commercial, we always open restaurants in places where we’ve got lots of existing customers who come to Padstow. Just when we were going to open in Winchester we’ve got lots of people coming, saying, “This is SUCH good news, we go to the Cornwall seafood restaurant all the time and the fact that you’re opening in Winch…” My wife is Australian and taking her for the first time, I felt really proud about being English, right, because Winchester’s got an atmosphere that everyone gets instantly.
The Wykeham Arms, Winchester
The Wykeham Arms, God, I love that pub! It’s one of my favourites, so I always go and have a beer there.
Chewton Glen Hotel, The New Forest
I wrote my book Food Heroes at Chewton Glen Hotel, it would have been early 2000’s, 2002 something like that. Long time ago.
The Master Builders, Bucklers Hard
I love Lymington, because I used to come so often I used to stay at The Master Builders. I always remember driving, most of the time I was doing these books it was in the winter, and driving through the frosty New Forest, and these blinking ponies looking really cold and a bit like Eeyore! It’s really gorgeous.
The East End Arms, Lymington
The other place I really like, pubs-wise, is the East End Arms in East End, near Lymington. It’s owned by a mate of mine, John Illsley, who used to be in Dire Straits. I just love that pub, because nobody’s allowed to change the public bar. He’s owned it for 20 years plus, but he’s not allowed to because the locals just say no-way; I think he could change it legally, but the local’s won’t have it. It’s a really nice restaurant, it’s got the character and his wife, Steph’s done upstairs.
So yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time in Hampshire over the years.
Foraging for mushrooms in The New Forest
I don’t know if they’ve banned mushroom picking in The new Forest? They probably have. When they were little, I used to go looking for mushrooms with my kids in North Cornwall, but they were bloody hard to find. You come to The New Forest and it’s like, you can’t believe it, they’re everywhere. I think it’s been banned now. I think a lot of people have been collecting them commercially, there was always a small handful of local mushroom pickers, but I think it just became too intense.
Laverstoke Park, Overton
Jody Scheckter has done lots for local produce with Laverstoke Park. Love that buffalo mozzarella.”