There are certain meals in life that you will never forget. Mine vary from our first meal as a married couple in a South African vineyard, slightly more challenging dishes in a very traditional Japanese resort in Izu, to a wonderful meal that involved slightly too much schnapps at my favourite smørrebrød place in Cøpenhagen (Schønnemann should you need a recommendation). Then there have been slightly surreal meals memorable for different reasons, such as the first plate of hospital food bought to me after a near-death experience (I can recommend Erding hospital by the way - the brewery has a bar in the hospital reception and new mothers are brought bottles of alkoholfrei weissbier with their evening meals as it's deemed good for milk production!), and then.... most recently.... our final meal-out, just a couple of days before the entire country shut down due to a pandemic.
Mr Winchester Eats celebrated a significant birthday this year, we had a pub booked, a band, and had invited friends from all over the place, only to have to cancel with a couple of weeks to go. Determined to do at least something to celebrate on the actual day, I managed to book a last-minute table at The Chesil Rectory.
Given the strange mood descending across the land, we decided to walk into town to help digest what was going on in the news. The quietness was eerily reminiscent of walks home from nightclubs in the early hours (not that I have done that for years) just without the dawn chorus and the fact it was only 7.30pm.
As we walked through the ancient doorway of The Chesil Rectory, it felt like receiving a virtual hug as we were welcomed to our favourite table. Although not the celebration we had planned originally, it was definitely a memorable meal for the food as well as for current events (There's not many problems that can't be solved or soothed at least over a bottle of wine and several courses of delicious food in a decent restaurant!).
Chesil Rectory Dinner - March 2020
And a few hours later, we walked back through the same deserted streets of our city that felt laden with somberness. That was the last meal we would eat out in Winchester for a while - two days later and Boris Johnson told us we had to stay at home for the foreseeable.
I started Winchester Eats through a love of food and in order to help promote/support local food businesses. The lockdown was a good as time as any to help promote those that had to diversify to keep going especially. The Chesil Rectory started their new chapter with wine cases to the door, and then last week, they began Chesil at Home - a three-course Chesil Rectory meal for you to finish preparing at home. We tried it last weekend.
You have to like what's on the menu as (for now) there is only one choice (this will change in the coming weeks) but as I have yet to dislike anything I have ever had at The Chesil, this wasn't ever going to be an issue. For £60 for two, we enjoyed a starter of Nori Wrapped Chalk Stream Trout, Squid Ink Emulsion, Pickled Sea Vegetables, Radish and Cucumber. Followed by the main course of Chesil "Hot Pot", Oven Roasted Lamb Rump, Summer Vegetable Medley, Rosemary Scented Carrots and a Confit Garlic Jus. Then a final course of Dark Chocolate Ganache, Coffee Mousse, Salted Caramel, Pistachio Brittle and Caramelised White Chocolate. Courses were packed into bags (and in veg ware for those worried about all the excess plastic happening) seperately and with clear instructions of what and how to prepare. If you needed a visual guide at any point, The Chesil Rectory's instagram account was on hand to illustrate how the pros do it - we referred to it from time to time. I will admit to going off-piste with the dessert however for photographic reasons...
We loved that most of the hard work had been done for you, it really was a case of picking it up, taking it home, heating, plating and eating. All the extra attention to detail made it feel like a special meal when it came together. Instructions were clear and easy to follow (and apart from the fact we lacked a decent waiter/waitress and the fantastic sommelier), if we closed our eyes (and blocked out the racket from fellow diners - our kids) it was almost like being there...
The Chesil Rectory hopes to reopen as soon as they feel it safe to do so given the historic space within which they have to work. I have to say, that for now at least, Chesil Rectory Home is a really great second best...
PS. If you hurry, I have heard there are still spaces for Thurs/Friday Saturday this week. If returning customers enjoyed their meals as much as we did, there won't be spaces for long!