The Black Rat
88 Chesil Street, Winchester, SO23 0HX
In just over a decade since opening in 2007, The Black Rat has gone from strength to strength. It’s the second business venture from David Nicholson, who also runs The Black Boy, Hole and Bottle. Having received a Michelin star within a couple of years after opening, it is clear that this former pub is something special. The relaxed dining environment means that you are able to completely focus on head chef John Marsden-Jones’ superb creations. The building dates back to the 1700s, but also boasts 15th- and 16th-century features such as historic stonework, thick walls and low ceilings. The seamless blend of traditional decor with modern twists is reflected in the creative and exciting menus. The menu changes regularly, and relies on seasonal, local produce to evoke unique and special flavours that you won’t find anywhere else. Living up to its Michelin star, the winter menu we sampled featured five starters; the smoked eel enhanced by Alexanders, spätzle, Jerusalem artichoke and shallots was a highlight with stunning presentation. Mains included the earthy and sumptuous plate of ibérico pork presa, parsley, gnocchi, truffle and locally foraged mushrooms. For dessert, a twist on the classic chocolate gateau: chocolate marquise, yoghurt ganache, sloe gin, nougat and refreshing forest fruit sorbet proved the perfect treat. The seasonal dishes are designed to showcase incredible flavour combinations without being pretentious. The Black Rat’s four intimate, heated outdoor huts make for a quirky yet comfortable dining experience in the enclosed garden, and are the ideal place for al fresco dining. The upstairs bar is stocked with over 150 New World and Old World wines and special, locally distilled gins that appeal to even the most discerning connoisseurs. Aperitifs and digestifs are knowledgably recommended by highly professional staff, who are friendly and attentive without being intrusive. A private dining room above the restaurant sets The Black Rat apart and provides a more intimate experience. Seating between ten and 16 diners, it’s extremely popular with those looking to host an exquisite party, family gathering or business meeting. Tucked away from the rest of the restaurant, you’ll get to experience delicious modern British dining in a cosy and inviting setting with bespoke set menus. As one of only two Michelin-starred restaurants in Hampshire, The Black Rat is truly unique.