The Little Kitchen Bean & Bar - Twyford
Having won countless awards for their food (including winning best Hampshire wedding caterer last year) the name The Little Kitchen Company will be no stranger to most.
Cait Salanson started the business from her kitchen back in 2011 and has gone from strength to strength, with the private catering side covering everything from dinner parties to posh picnics to weddings to wakes, as well as a busy Bistro on top of all that.
As was the case with most local food businesses during the lockdown, The Little Kitchen Company had to change direction when doors were closed and bookings suddenly stopped overnight. Instead, they focussed on providing over 130 meals a day for the isolated and vulnerable and cooked countless meals for frontline NHS staff. You could be forgiven for thinking that as we ease out of lockdown Cait and the rest of her team would want to take some time to put their feet up for a little while? This is absolutely not happening as new venture The Little Kitchen Bean and Bar opened in Twyford on the 18th July for breakfast lunch and dinner...
As part of what used to be the post office storeroom (and previously Bean Below), the building works perfectly as a cosy bistro (it poured with rain when we visited on Saturday evening so we got to sample it complete with Autumn/Winter vibes) but the pretty courtyard with its strings of lights has to be one of the nicest outside dining spaces available locally for a warm Summer's evening.
On arrival, Cait showed us to our table and explained a little bit about the menu and her food. Having eaten Little Kitchen food previously on a good few occasions I knew we would be in for a treat.
Cait and I both share the same belief that a meal should not just be about great quality ingredients but that it should also be about a shared experience with friends and loved ones - from the food that is put in front of you, to the time you spend together it should all be equally good. When we cook at home for people, we now find ourselves moving away from preparing overly complex meals to opting for sharing plates of food instead, and that's the ethos at the Little Kitchen Bean & Bar too - lots of big and small plates prepared with delicious local ingredients and made to share (or not if you are particularly hungry!)...
Our meal started with small plates of roast chicken rillettes topped with caperberries, along with a bowl of roasted aubergine, harissa, yoghurt and mint, and a basket of delicious local breads plus a bowl of olives, cornichon, and stuffed pepperoncino. The rillette was beautifully flavoured and served on top of crisp sourdough - the addition of the caperberries worked perfectly. Mr Winchester Eats had chosen the roasted aubergine and I will secretly admit to not being that excited about the prospect, but it was truly delicious - big slices of aubergine perfectly seasoned and chargrilled to perfection and with a pairing of reasonably fiery harissa, a drizzling of yoghurt to take any heat away and a scattering of fresh mint. Cait also gave us a bowl of the slow-cooked smokey pork cheeks in a Romesco sauce to try which were perfectly cooked and delicious. Romesco is full of peppers and tomatoes and I think I have only every had it with fish before, but juicy pork cheeks worked really well.
After deliberating over the choices for two of a Cote de Boeuf, Baked Tunworth Cheese with rosemary, wine and garlic (with pickled baby onions and a walnut slaw), and a fish board, we decided on the fish board for two for our main course. When it came out it was beautifully presented and every component was really good. The griddled squid was succulent and tender (I love squid but tend to be fussy about the griddled variety having had poor examples in the past - no complaints here!). The hot smoked salmon was really great quality and was enough for four people let alone two. The platter also came with large freshly grilled shell-on prawns, potted shrimp, fishcakes (one each - don't imagine that the fish option means a light meal by the way, you are not going away hungry!) and plenty of homemade tartare sauce and bread. For me, the potted shrimp had to be the star of the show here. Forget any cold hard pots of the stuff you might have tried in the past where you risk pinging the contents across the room as you try to prise them out, here it was served slightly warm and you could really appreciate the hints of mace and curry powder in the unctuous butter. For the first time I found myself thinking "this is what the fuss is all about it, this is why it's an actual thing"... So good!
With very little room left after all that, we opted for an affogato (it has to be one of my favourites anyway) made with local Jude's ice cream and with good Cantucci on the side. The perfect end to a really lovely meal.
In these currently weird times, and as people start to venture out again, it's important to note that we felt perfectly safe eating out here. Tables are well-spaced, and we watched as staff sanitised recently departed tables thoroughly. There's also a one-way system through the bistro.
Cait's main aim for the Little Bean and Bar is to provide somewhere with great food and a really lovely relaxed atmosphere. During the day you can pop in for breakfast, coffee and cake, and lunch, and by night the space has more of a bar/restaurant purpose. There's no need to dress up, and you can drop in or book a table as you wish. People can stop by for a drink alone, or enjoy a drink and a small plate or two, or a larger meal (the menu will change regularly and monthly supper clubs look set to start soon!) - it's all about being a slightly informal space to enjoy great food and drinks with friends and loved ones. She hopes that The Little kitchen Bean and Bar will become a regular haunt for locals and maybe a nearby destination spot for Wintonian Foodies. I have to say she has already achieved that last bit - these two Wintonian foodies can't wait to visit again...
The Little Kitchen Bean and Bar