Michelin starred venue just outside of Winchester in a building dating back to 1700s
The Black Rat is a Michelin starred restaurant (looking a lot like a pub but is more a restaurant in a building dating back to the 1700s serving modern British food. The head chef since 2016 is Jon Marsden-Jones who replaced Ollie Moore. Black Rat has held star since 2010 under both chefs. My first visit under the previous team was not one of my favourite menus from across the country, however, this second visit was a much more favourable experience. Menus range from £34 for a three-course set lunch, an average of £45 for a la carte and the restaurant is open 7 days a week. There are some attractive dining cubicles in the garden now which are ideal for the warmer months and I was glad that the food on this occasion proved to show a much-needed upgrade but not trying to be too showy and sticking to the simple formulas that work better.
There was a bit of a wait for the bread which came roughly 20 minutes after arrival, 15 after sitting down. Once it arrived, it was revealed as homemade sourdough with courgette and lemon focaccia with salted butter and wild garlic and volcanic salt butter. The focaccia, in particular, was nicely made and unusual with its freshness which actually worked fine to my surprise and the garlic butter was nicely balanced. The only shame was the butter was a little too hard for spreading and would have benefited being out of the fridge longer prior to serving.
Quail breast, leg, liver mousse, quinoa, grapes, Minus 8 dressing & toasted seeds had reasonable ‘gaminess’ to the quail, with freshness from the grapes and a sweet dressing all coming together in a vibrant way. The leg in breadcrumbs was very good and provided a decent, contrasting texture.
Elwy lamb, peas & beans, asparagus, ewe’s curd, nettle and fat potato was a good dish. The lamb was supple and flavoursome, with powerful pea purée and sweetness to the peas, with very fresh asparagus and lovely combination with a brittle rosti. I was less convinced that the nettles actually added much.
Madeleines came with a butterscotch sauce that was very good and a pleasant change using fingers and having essentially a finger food dessert. Petit fours of baileys truffle & espresso Martini truffle were also very pleasant. Overall this was a markedly different experience from my first visit and for the better.
Miscellaneous points from this visit include seeing a reasonable wine list with some very good options for only twice the mark up of retail. The garden is very nicely decked out with a private dining room upstairs. There are approximately 50 gins to choose from in their bar as well which will be a significant uplift for gin lovers.
Because of a new chef between visits, an average score is not used; instead, the score is based on the previous visit alone (and future visits under the same chef will be the average scores of the same chef/team).
Food Grade: 74%
This was not a waste of time as there are numerous rave reviews and the location of the gastropub by the river is quite charming with some very quirky and lovely other pubs just opposite. However, do not be fooled by the word gastropub – it is not a pub with the ability to eat inside, it is an old pub, completely hollowed out to only have tables for eating and is, therefore, a restaurant inside an old pub (for clarity and to prevent disappointment for those who think they will be getting both). The food, unfortunately, was somewhat of a bridge too far for my palate – no question of the skill, but I simply did not find the flavours memorable and the menu was an example of forgetting the true purpose for a diner, which is to wow the mouth and eyes as opposed to just the eyes, which is what I thought this did. No need to return in a hurry for me sadly.
Food Grade: 49%
Location (Click google logo for directions)