Thursday, 13 September 2012


"His fashion is not to take knowledge of those that are beneath him in clothes. 
He never drinks below the salt."
Ben Jonson: Cynthia's Revels 1599.

There was a time when going "over the bridge" on Mill Road towards Romsey Town was a bit like dining "below the salt"  alongside the ordinary folk at the lower end of the master's table.  All that has changed and there is now a wide range of independent shops, bars and cafes flourishing here, in spite of the competition from the new, much-resisted Tescos.

The latest addition, 196 Wine Bar, has already picked up an enthusiastic following, in spite of its quiet, stealth-like opening a couple of months ago.

It has an interesting wine list (by glass or bottle) and the cocktails are generous in both size and colour - try the Strawberry Margarita. Of the three bottled beers on offer, the unusual San Francisco Liberty Ale is nutty and refreshing, a good discovery. Complementing the drinks are simple platters of charcuterie or cheese, with pints of prawns or smoked almonds for snacks.  These have been well-sourced and are far more than just a side-line to the wine and cocktails.

Unsurprisingly, the place is packed, especially the outside tables on these late summer evenings.  It will be just as welcoming and snug as the winter draws in.

Friday, 7 September 2012


This unusual ice cream was devised by Lizzie at Hollow Legs as part of a recipe for Mochi: Chinese ice-cream balls encased in glutinous rice flour dough. I have been unable to master the rice mixture, ending up with rubbery lumps of dough and a snowstorm of cornflour. As straightforward ice cream, however, served with a little fresh fruit, this is fantastic, with its striking, dark grey colour and halva-like, sweet sesame flavour.

200ml   whipping cream
350mi   semi-skimmed milk
2          egg yolks
80g      sugar
7 tbs    black sesame seeds
1 tsp    vanilla

Toast the sesame seeds, watching carefully as they burn very easily; grind them finely.  Stir the ground seeds into the milk, then add the cream and heat to just below boiling point.  Stir in the vanilla and leave the cream mixture to cool for 30 minutes.
Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar until pale.  Stir a spoonful of the cooled cream mixture into the eggs, adding the rest in stages until it is all incorporated.  Put over a low heat and continue stirring until it thickens - do not let it boil or it will scramble.
Strain the mixture (although it works well unstrained, with a slightly earthier flavour).  Once the mixture has cooled, churn it in an ice-cream maker or freeze, stirring occasionally.