Introducing Club Epicure: Winchester’s New Supper Club

Hampshire residents, listen up; Winchester’s new supper club is here!

Set up by Masterchef 2017 quarter-finalist Alex Parker, Club Epicure aims to bring local foodies together in a relaxing environment to enjoy fine home-cooked food, using locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible.

As a big foodie myself (but a pretty reluctant cook) I wanted to learn more about Alex and why he and his partner chose to set out on this venture.

Here’s what he had to say…

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I currently live in Winchester with my partner, Hatty. I grew up in London, went to University of Southampton, did some years in Perth, Australia, and now reside in leafy Hampshire. I work as an engineer in the day, and mostly cook at all other times.

How did you get into cooking?

Cooking became an interest of mine when I returned from Australia a couple of years ago. Since then, I’ve gone from meat and two veg to more and more elaborate dishes, inspired by a rapidly growing collection of cookery books. It’s not all soufflés, emulsions and purees though – I love a one pot wonder (although I don’t cook them enough, according to Hatty).

Why did you decide to set up your own supper club?

The idea for Club Epicure stemmed mainly from my desire to cook for more people, and Hatty wanting to exercise her creative and marketing skills outside of work. Hence, our supper club project began!

Supper clubs are huge in London, but in other cities the concept has barely taken off. In the age of Instagram, communication between fellow foodies is easier than ever – it seemed like a no brainer to at least give it a go.

So what can we expect from a night with Club Epicure?

We will aim to serve four courses throughout the evening for ten guests, with a few surprises thrown in along the way. The emphasis is on flavour, season and locality – in that order. I want people to experience foods that they might not normally have the confidence to try in a restaurant, for example seaweed, gochujang and tahini. If our guests have any favourite foods then we ask them to let us know, so we can possibly try to tailor our menu accordingly!

What do you hope to achieve?

We want the guests at our evenings to be as comfortable as possible, like they’re our friends, rather than ‘punters’ in a restaurant. The inimitable A.A.Gill once said, “If the food is the star of the dinner party, then it’s a bad dinner party”. As much as these evenings will be about trying and enjoying my food, we want our guests to leave having enjoyed the whole experience.

And finally, describe to us your perfect meal…

That’s a tricky one. I like all food – and my tastes change weekly! I’m a huge fan of fish, so possibly oysters to start and turbot, or a very well made bowl of Ramen for main. Dessert would be something creamy, like a custard tart, ideally followed by some smelly cheese!

Lovely!

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Club Epicure’s first supper menu

To read more about Club Epicure, book tickets for their upcoming events and enquire about private parties, visit www.clubepicure.uk.

Next supper club events:

Sunday 15th October

Thursday 19th October

Instagram

@clubepicure

@alex_cooking

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The Best Coffee Shops in Winchester

My favourite places to go for coffee in my favourite city!

Before moving to Winchester in January this year, I was oblivious to the great foodie and coffee culture here. I even remember searching online for “Best Coffee Shops Winchester” myself, trying to seek out the best spots in the city.

Seven months in, there’s so much to choose from, whether it’s coffee, lunch or even speciality gins – which I’ll save for another blog post! The rise of the independents is very apparent, even in the short time I’ve lived here, and each spot offers something unique that makes Winchester such a charming, characterful place to visit.

I’m no coffee connoisseur, but these are just a few of my personal favourite cafes in Winchester that I’d recommend you visit if you’re looking for excellent, authentic coffee…

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  1. Coffee Lab

If you follow me on Instagram, this choice will come as no surprise. With Coffee Lab’s original location just a couple of minutes walk from my house, it’s become an almost daily routine to pay this lovely bunch a visit.

With expert baristas, a cool cosy feel, and fresh coffee beans in two different blends, Coffee Lab is a hugely popular hangout for locals. Upon walking in, you’re greeted with warming coffee aromas and can instantly sense the authenticity of the business. If you need a hand, just look to the chalkboard for an explanation of what actually makes up each popular drink – or better still, ask one of the guys behind the counter and they’re always happy to help!

A special mention also has to go out to Chocolate Lab’s incredible brownies – a chocaholic’s dream! If you visit here, make sure you give one a try… you will not be disappointed!

Address: 6 Saint Thomas Street, Winchester SO23 9HE

Coffee beans: The Roasting Party

Best Bit: The staff in here are great and really know their stuff. When I’ve been trying to find my perfect cup o’ Joe, they’ve helped me try new things to discover what I like best!

2) Josie’s

Owned by former England rugby captain Chris Robshaw, Josie’s was the first cafe my boyfriend and I visited when we moved to Winchester. We’d heard great things from friends who had been there so on our first morning we popped out for brunch and weren’t disappointed; they have a huge menu with lots of tasty dishes, from oats to eggs to breakfast burritos!

Coffee wise, whether it’s an Aeropress, a V60, an Americano with dairy-free milk or just a good old-fashioned cappuccino, Josie’s will have it covered. They also go beyond the standard variations you’d expect, with options like the healthy foodie favourite matcha lattes, so there’s always something new to try.

Note that if you visit on a weekend they get extremely busy (always a good sign!), so I’d suggest planning a little bit ahead to make sure you get a great seat!

Address: 28 Jewry Street, Winchester, Hampshire SO23 8RY

Coffee beans: Monmouth Coffee Company

Best Bit: While Josie’s coffees are great for a quick caffeine stop, their brunches are also to die for. Be sure to make a morning of it and try the whole hog!

 

3) The Dispensary Kitchen

Newly opened in May this year, The Dispensary Kitchen has quickly become one of the most popular coffee shops in Winchester.

Located at the edge of the cathedral grounds and right by Winchester square, this chic venue offers high-quality coffee, pastries and light meals during the day, transitioning to a lovely dinner venue in the evenings. Its modern furnishings and charcoal walls blend with the building’s Victorian roots to create a sleek, Scandic-style interior that is a favourite with Instagrammers.

The baristas here know how to make a really good coffee, and the sense of community makes The Dispensary Kitchen stand out as one of the best coffee venues in Winchester.

I’m yet to have more than a drink here, but did catch sight of a mouthwatering egg and mushroom breakfast when visiting recently – definitely next on my list!

Address: 5 The Square, Winchester, SO23 9EX

Coffee beans: The Roasting Party

Best Bit: Their charming modern interior makes The Dispensary Kitchen a nice place to be, and with views of the stunning Winchester cathedral on one side, you can nab a great view over the beautifully busy grounds while you enjoy your coffee.

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These are just a few of my favourite spots in Winchester, but be sure to add the following to your coffee/snacking list – there is just too much to choose from!

Rawberry – 52-54 St George’s St, Winchester SO23 8AH

Caracoli – 100 High St, Winchester SO23 9AH

Forte Kitchen – 78 Parchment St, Winchester SO23 8AT

Cafe Monde – 22 The Square, Winchester SO23 9EX

Have I missed anywhere? Tell me your favourite Winchester spots in the comments below!

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Networking & Breakfast with Women Who Do

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of joining a lovely group of ladies for a networking breakfast held at Winchester’s oldest coffee shop, The Bridge Patisserie.

The event was arranged by Women Who Do – an organisation set up by Emma Downey, whose mission is to bring together professional women at any stage of their career.

Over great coffee and pastries, I chatted to other women from Winchester and the surrounding areas about their personal business journeys, which ranged from switching corporate careers for pilates, social media consultancy, and working in matrimonial law.

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As a keen marketer and young professional myself, it was really interesting to hear each person’s career story and what they plan to achieve in the future. Along with being surrounded by strong, driven women, I left feeling positive and encouraged about my own goals. Not only this, but as a fairly new resident to Winchester, it was great to get to know some local faces!

In the next few months, Women Who Do have various seminars and workshops planned to continue expanding their community and educating women in new areas they might want to improve.

When speaking to Emma about why she set up Women Who Do, she said; “My ambition is to have WWD as a go-to for women who are looking to network in their area and develop news skills with workshops that are accessible to all. Our goal this year will be to open networks in Southampton, Exeter and Bristol with the same success as we have had in Winchester. And to eat more cake.”

Wise words.

The next Women Who Do event will be held on Thursday 7th September at my personal favourite coffee shop in Winchester, Coffee Lab. During this session, Laura Turner – founder of independent fashion retailer Hero (another of my favourite spots) – will be advising on ‘Building Your Brand’, drawing on her own experience from setting up her business. To learn more about the event and book your space, click here!

If you’d like to keep up with more news from Women Who Do, make sure you follow them on social media for the first looks, and I’ll be sure to update you on my experiences with this great organisation in future!

Facebook: @WomenWhoDoUK

Twitter: @WomenWD

Instagram: @WomenWhoDo_UK

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The Art of Balance

For my first blog post in 7 months, I decided to write about something a bit different – something I feel will be very relatable to lots of people, also contributes to why I haven’t written for so long…

How many times have you written yourself a page-long To-Do list for the day, only to end up substituting stuff you needed to do with something ‘easier’?

Some days I’m the queen of multitasking, putting my fingers in lots of pies and feeling like a total girl boss for completing a ton of things.

Other times, I’d rather lie on the sofa and watch episodes of Eat Well For Less that I’ve already seen before, because the thought of actually getting on with what needs to be done is far too mentally strenuous.

Without sounding like the ‘I’m so busy I don’t have time for anything’ stereotype, I feel pretty busy. I have a busy job, always schedule in an hour a day for the gym/yoga, am studying for a degree-level course in Marketing, and also clinging on to that childhood dream of being a successful songwriter. This is along with generally wanting to be awesome at everything and juggling the grown-up tasks required when moving out of your family home, which I have recently learned.

Phew. I feel exhausted just thinking about it, and am already reminding myself of things I must get done later.

But luckily, I’m starting to learn that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and good things take time.

I’m also realising that it’s just not realistic to expect so highly of yourself that even you know you won’t be able to fit everything in. Queue the art of balance.

My boyfriend frequently reminds me that it’s better to plan a couple of important tasks that I know I should be able to finish than to rush through 5 or 6 things. Now, my weekday strategy is to use my snazzy Collins To-Do pads to lay out my main priorities for the day, with rough timescales for how long I’d like to spend on these things, and scheduled time away from my laptop to take a breather.

For me, having balance in my life is absolutely key. I’m just not one of those people who can work through the night or skip meals to get more done – and I’m also not willing to. In the end, I believe this will lead to a burn-out, poorer performance and cause unnecessary stress.

This is one reason that I cherish my beloved gym visits. No, I don’t ‘need’ to workout every day, and there are days when I decide to stay home and chill instead, but essentially, the gym – and yoga especially – provides a break from the outside world that allows me to reboot. Plus, the endorphins are so real!

Having this balance in my life allows me to embrace being ‘imperfect’ and encourages me to give myself a break when I don’t feel like I should – I’m sure a lot of people reading will be able to relate to this.

Dog with macaroons

How do you find balance in your life?

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