"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.