River Cottage Canteen Winchester review

My lovely sister and nephew came to stay on the weekend, it is the first time they have visited us since we moved to Hampshire in September. As a late Christmas present, my sister paid for us all to go out for lunch at the River Cottage Canteen in Winchester. There are a few other River Cottage restaurants dotted about the country, my sister had tried them all apart from this one in Winchester and she said we were certain to have a lovely meal. I was very excited to eat lots of yummy food and maybe try something new.

Winchester is a really beautiful city – Oli, Leo and I have only visited once before when we went to the Christmas Market in December. Our lunch was booked for 12.30, we got to Winchester about 11 so we had a lovely little stroll around the shops and took in some of the sights.

winchester cathedral
Winchester Cathedral
Jane Austen hose
Jane Austen’s house – my sisters favourite author 
Me and my lovely nephew.
winchester catherdral
Walking around the Cathedral grounds.
The River Cottage Canteen is situated in the lovely Abbey Mill Gardens, before we went in for lunch the kids played in the playground. Leo loved the slide as usual but there was lots of other play equipment to keep him busy. Unfortunately, our walk through town had worn Leo out and by the time we arrived at River Cottage Canteen he was in an awful mood.
river cottage
River Cottage canteen. 
When we arrived we were greeted by a lovely member of staff, she showed us to our seats and got Leo some crayons to keep him entertained. River Cottage Canteen is set out over two levels, it is very big but feels cosy at the same time. There are exposed beams on the ceilings, lights bulbs hang from ropes and none of the chairs match. We were sat on the lower level and we could see into the open plan kitchen where the chefs were all busy at work. As we sat browsing the menu, Leo decided to kick off..big time.
Oli drawing pictures to keep Leo happy.

I think a combination of hunger and being completely knackered were the cause to Leo’s horrendous tantrum. He screamed his head off for about half an hour, nothing was cheering him up. The lovely waitress came and brought us some bread so he didn’t have to wait for us to order but he wouldn’t eat it. The brilliant waiter made Leo a warm milkshake and let him play with the card pin machine but that didn’t work either. Amongst all the kicking and screaming we managed to place our food order.

Leo and his milkshake.
The menu at River Cottage Canteen is different from anything I have seen before. Oli and I rarely go out for fancy food, we barely even get the chance to go for a pub lunch these days. At first I wasn’t sure what to go for, there was nothing on there I would normally eat and I wasn’t sure what I would like. The menu changes frequently at River Cottage Canteen and the food is locally sourced, organic and all freshly prepared (here is a sample menu). I decided to go for the venison  salad with cinnamon apples, hazelnuts and cheese. I had never tried venison before so I wasn’t sure what I would think. My sister ordered the same and Oli ordered smoked mackerel. My nephew and Leo ordered flat bread, carrots and hummus to start from the children’s menu, kids get 3 courses and unlimited squash for only £7.
After we ordered, Leo’s tantrum escalated into hell like, never seen before territory and I was ready to just leave. If the staff had not been so amazing I think I would have just taken him outside and joined in with Leo and started crying. As it turns out though, the two people looking after our table were amazing. They didn’t give any grumpy looks or quietly ask us to remove the screaming demon child from their restaurant. They instead brought Leo some chocolates, gave us apologetic smiles and asked if we were ok and if there was anything they could do. It was the milkshake that saved us in the end. Oli managed to get Leo back into his highchair, he then snapped out of whatever angry feeling had consumed him for the past 30 minutes, said ‘sorry Mummy’ before drinking his milk and falling asleep in his highchair, right in the middle of a not exactly quiet restaurant. That is how he stayed for the rest of the meal! It was such a relief.
My very sleepy boy. Tantrums are exhausting.

So, back to the food. Our starters arrived and they were amazing. They were a perfect size and the venison was gorgeous. The hazelnuts and cinnamon apple slices worked really well with the meat and fresh leaves. I am so glad I tried something new and didn’t just go for the soup.

Yummy starter.

For our main course, Oli and I had the pulled pork bap and my sister ordered the plaice with roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree – cauliflower is clearly easily sourced in Winchester! Oli loves pulled pork, I have never tried it but decided to put my trust in my husbands taste buds and give it a try. The pulled pork came in a yummy lightly toasted bap with pickled red cabbage, bacon mayonnaise and perfectly seasoned chips. I should listen to Oli more often, the pulled pork was so good, it was really tender and sweet. The bacon mayonnaise made a great dip for the chips but also tasted amazing spread inside the pulled pork bap. My sister really enjoyed her plaice and apparently cauliflower puree is awesome. My nephew enjoyed his fish and chips, it was a decent sized portion as well considering it was from the kids menu. The staff kept Leo’s main warm and said he could have it once he had woken from his highchair slumber.

Pulled pork, better than your average burger and chips.

We were feeling fit to burst at this point but when the waitress asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu, well, we thought it would be rude not too. My sister had the honey pannacotta with prunes and a spicy biscuit and I had dark chocolate orange cake with orange syrup and cardamom cream. I don’t like ice cream (I know, I’m strange) so it was nice to see the cake came with something else. I have never tried cardamom cream before but it was really nice. It wasn’t what I was expecting, it wasn’t sweet like regular cream and it wasn’t like clotted cream either. I can’t really describe it but I can tell you it worked so well with the cake and the orange syrup, the flavour combination was perfect. Oli declared himself full to the brim so he opted for a Gaelic coffee instead of dessert, who doesn’t like a little, hidden shot of whiskey on a Saturday afternoon? My nephew had his ice cream and honeycomb that was included in his £7 lunch meal.

Oli’s coffee.

Pretty much as soon as we finished dessert Leo decided to wake up and, to everyone’s relief, he was in a much better mood. He asked for chips as soon as opened his little eyes and the waitress went and grabbed his food from the kitchen. It was still lovely and warm and had been put in a little box so we could take it with us. As the meal was a Christmas present I don’t know exactly how much the food came to. The starters were about £6 each and the mains varied in price but I would say the average was about £13. Considering the high quality of the food and the excellent service, I think the menu was very reasonably priced.

This is his ‘I’m sleepy and eating chips’ face,
Lovely sister and nephew,

Apart from Leo’s tantrum when we first arrived, we all had a really lovely time at River Cottage Canteen. I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for somewhere a bit different to eat in Winchester. The food is amazing, you can really taste that it has been freshly made to order, and the price is not extortionate. There are also a selection of soft drinks made of locally sourced produce as well as a selection of ales and ciders. I was concerned it would be a bit too upmarket for a family meal but the staff were so, so lovely (I really can’t stress that enough) and the children’s menu had a few good options to choose from. I would definitely go again but maybe next time Oli and I will go on a date night, that way we are guaranteed a tantrum free meal!

Have you been to the River Cottage Canteen in Winchester? Did you have a nice meal? If not, would you consider eating at a River Cottage Canteen? It’s a nice place to go if you fancy something a little bit different.
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  1. January 18, 2016 / 9:24 am

    Wow, Winchester looks like such a beautiful city & the River Cottage Canteen sounds lovely. I'm so glad your little one fell asleep so you could enjoy your meal, it's tough when they are super over tired & the high chair becomes the enemy. Sounds like a really delicious meal & the staff sound amazing! #AnythingGoes x

  2. January 19, 2016 / 8:10 am

    that does look good, I'm not usually a burger fan but that looks a bit special #TriedTested

  3. January 19, 2016 / 8:13 am

    This restaurant sounds really nice and the service sounds wonderful. It's nice when people go that extra mile. I used to live in Winchester but I'm guessing this is a new addition as I don't remember this restaurant. Glad you enjoyed it (apart from the tantrum).

    Sally @ Life Loving

  4. January 19, 2016 / 8:44 am

    I feel your pain, we've had some lovely meals out with the kids – and others that have descended into screaming chaos! It's great that the staff were really nice about it – it makes all the difference. #TriedTested
    Kiri – Kizzy, Izzy and Baby

  5. January 19, 2016 / 9:19 am

    Tantrums aside it sounds lovely and how nice they had put the meal in a box for you #triedtested

  6. January 19, 2016 / 9:26 am

    It sounds like a wonderful place to eat. So family friendly!
    That food is making me very hungry x

  7. January 19, 2016 / 11:58 am

    Your meal sounds lovely, I'd love to try the venison starter. It's great to hear you weren't made to feel uncomfortable by the staff when your little boy was unsettled. There's nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable in a restaurant. I'd certainly visit if we were in the area, they sound lovely 🙂

  8. January 20, 2016 / 11:23 am

    I'm a bit fan of Rover Cottage and their ethos. I've eaten at River Cottage twice and both times they have been exceptional meals. I've never eaten in one of their canteens though, I need to give one a try. Nice review.

  9. January 20, 2016 / 12:11 pm

    Yum. We are big river cottage fans, I'd love to go. What a nightmare tantrum! we go to Winchester periodically so will look it up. #triedtested

  10. January 21, 2016 / 9:11 am

    It is really pretty. Yes, I was so happy when he fell asleep!xx

  11. January 21, 2016 / 9:12 am

    It was so good!Nothing like your average cheese burger xx

  12. January 21, 2016 / 9:13 am

    We couldn't have wished for nicer staff, they dealt with the tantrum better than me!I'm not sure how new the restaurant is, it is very nice though xx

  13. January 21, 2016 / 9:14 am

    It's so horrible when they kick off in a restaurant isn't it?!Nice staff definitely make things easier xx

  14. January 21, 2016 / 9:15 am

    It was lovely, once Leo went to sleep!Yes it was so nice they kept his food, he ate it all when he woke up xx

  15. January 22, 2016 / 12:41 pm

    It was a lovely surprise to see how family friendly it is there, I will definitely go again. Quick..go eat something! 🙂 xx

  16. January 22, 2016 / 12:44 pm

    It is horrible when the staff in restaurants are not understanding about toddler tantrums, isn't it? The waiters here couldn't have been any nicer if they had tried. You should definitely go if you are ever in Winchester xx

  17. January 22, 2016 / 12:45 pm

    Thank you 🙂 I wasn't sure before but I am definitely a fan now too, the food was amazing xx

  18. January 22, 2016 / 12:46 pm

    It was the worst tantrum EVER! Ohh, you should definitely go on one of your trips to Winchester. It is right by a lovely park so that is a nice little bonus xx

  19. January 22, 2016 / 6:42 pm

    I have never been to the River Cottage Canteen and now I am wondering if it would be a possibility when I am next in the UK. It sounds wonderfully innovative. ##Alittlebitofeverything

  20. January 24, 2016 / 12:29 am

    Wow! Such a beautiful looking building! Great post! #KCACOLS

  21. January 24, 2016 / 8:47 am

    Your meal looks and sounds amazing! I am quite timid in food choices too and usually not very adventurous in trying new places! But the food sounds delish! Thanks for sharing with #abitofeverything…my #1 had a fine tantrum at age 1 in some fancy place and I held him, screaming till he fell asleep 30 minutes later. It helps with supportive wait staff and people around!

  22. January 24, 2016 / 12:57 pm

    It sounds like you had a great time despite the tantrums! It's always a relief to find such great staff. Sometimes that's what makes a place. You're meal looks great!
    Laura xx

  23. January 25, 2016 / 8:44 am

    Ohhh Winchester does look lovely. I have family up that way so may get a chance one day. Food looks great and so good the staff dealt so well with the tantrum. That's a really important factor for me as 3yo son with asd can be very unpredictable and get very upset about little things. I'm hungry now! #KCACOLS

  24. January 25, 2016 / 2:52 pm

    Yes, you should go. The food was amazing and I think it is great how they support local businesses and change the menu depending on what foods are in season.xx

  25. January 25, 2016 / 2:52 pm

    Thank you xx

  26. January 25, 2016 / 2:54 pm

    How awful! It is so hard when they kick off in a public place. At least he went to sleep for you. Tantrums aside, the meal was lovely and I am so happy I tried something new.xx

  27. January 25, 2016 / 2:55 pm

    The staff really were amazing, if they had been grumpy then this would have been a very different review. I made Oli give them a massive tip because they really were so lovely.xx

  28. January 25, 2016 / 2:58 pm

    It would be a lovely place to go for a family meal, you should go. Your 3 year old sounds like Leo, it can be so hard when they have a tantrum and you are not even sure what caused it. The staff were fab, I could have hugged them all xx

  29. January 25, 2016 / 8:49 pm

    We've not tried any River Cottage venues but I'd definitely be tempted.
    Thanks for sharing your review on #TriedTested this week 🙂

  30. January 29, 2016 / 8:01 pm

    Poor sleepy Leo. Thank goodness for you that he woke up happier. Toddlers always love to perform when you are eating somewhere nice, don't they!? And there's such a lovely selection of places in Winchester. I can also recommend The Stable. They were great with families too and the pizza is lush! 🙂 #KCACOLS

  31. January 29, 2016 / 8:08 pm

    I had not been before but I highly recommend (as I am sure you can tell from the review!) xx

  32. January 29, 2016 / 8:10 pm

    They certainly pick their moments! I am so happy he woke up in a better mood. Oh thanks, I will check out The Stable next time we are in Winchester looking for somewhere nice eat 🙂 xx

  33. January 30, 2016 / 2:25 pm

    How lovely to spend the weekend with your sister and nephew!! It is always nice to catch up with your family!! I have never been to Winchester before. It looks lovely. I would love to go to Jane Austen's house. One of my favourite authors too. That food looks so yummy!! You are making so hungry now!! lol Poor Leo he was probably too tired. Glad that he woke up happier. Always having a happier baby makes everything more enjoyable! Great family day out! Thanks lovely for sharing this at #KCACOLS. I would love to see you again on Sunday! 🙂 x

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