Claire’s Restaurant Radar
On of my all-time favourite passions in life is dining in restaurants. I’ve enjoyed eating in local restaurants since I was a child and it’s always been an immersive experience for me.
From selecting the place to dine, to sitting at the allotted table and getting stuck into my meal of choice, the entire process is one to savour.
I’m the first to admit that food is always a pleasure and never just a fuel for me. The look, the feel on the fork to the aroma and the taste on my tongue, food enfolds me in its comforting embrace. A few of my favoured flavours and cuisines are: Italian, Indian, Pan-Asian, Greek, Chinese (think more authentic restaurant not takeaway-style), French, and gastro English pub grub.
When I talk about local restaurants. I’m really encompassing those eateries that are about a 30-mile radius from Basingstoke, my adopted hometown. It’s interesting as some of my best places to eat over the years are still in existence after two decades maybe more; but others have sadly closed. The following towns hold the majority of my top eating places: Farnham, Reading, Farnborough, Winchester and, of course, Basingstoke.
Now the following entries are in no particular order, but I’ve narrowed my selection of favourite restaurants down to five. I’ll give you the links to their websites at the end of this article. All have their respective benefits, enticements, and individual styles.
Cosy Club - Basingstoke
This characterful and bright eatery has been very much the go-to place in Basingstoke town centre since it opened in October 2019. With its vintage-style decor and welcoming staff, the whole place just provokes a smile from all who enter its doors. They are known for their mix of Continental, Pan-Asian, and British fare. What I really like is the atmosphere – either at lunch or dinner – which is lifted by the background music (and is never loud or intrusive).
Cosy Club has been the site of many meals with friends and family, as well as dining as a couple with my husband James. I can highly recommend the drinks, particularly the cocktails. It’s one place you definitely have to book in advance, as it is so popular with the local community.
As a footnote, I have never been disappointed by any part of my dining experiences with this restaurant.
Caffe Piccolo – Farnham
As a family, we have been going to Caffe Piccolo in Farnham for more than 25 years. It is a slice of Italy, located in Surrey. The friendly welcome you receive when you go through its doors is one to cherish. From then on, it’s a culinary journey of pasta, pizza, meat, and fish dishes. The atmosphere is relaxed, fun and full of escapism.
It is one of those restaurants that you can’t help going back to, time and time again. There’s something unique in the ethos and the flavour of that place. Elements culminate together to bring out a serene quality to the restaurant too, that stays with you long after you’ve gone home from a meal.
I asked my husband James what his favourite dish is that he’s eaten at Caffe Piccolo, and he said the Calzone that they serve. A folded pizza encompassing delicious ingredients, including salami, pepperoni, and Italian cheese, it’s a filling and flavoursome main meal. My personal favourite dish is the Tagliatelle Al Salmone. As you might guess it’s strips of pasta, but they change the traditional style to spinach flavour and colour to make a wonderful green hue on the plate. Accompanied by salmon and peas this is a taste sensation to say the least.
Once you have sampled the sights, aromas, and tastes of Caffe Piccolo I can guarantee you will want to return – frequently where possible!
Rick Stein – Winchester
This seafood restaurant is in central Winchester – handily placed for a walk from the train station or any of the town centre car parks. Like the eateries highlighted above, it is one of my favourite places to dine.
Full disclosure, this restaurant is quite pricey – maybe because of Rick Stein’s renown and the reputation of his cuisine historically. But to counterbalance the higher menu prices, the food is top quality and beautifully served. You can feel the passion and energy of all the staff around you when you sit down at your table and interact with them.
The ambience at this place makes you want to linger for a long time. Speaking of which, the occasions that I’ve spent at Rick Stein’s have always been relaxed and I’ve never felt rushed. One of my favourite dishes there is the Sea Bass, superbly seared and served with either pak choi and potatoes, or seasonal vegetables with spices.
I would recommend anyone to visit this restaurant, for either lunch or dinner reservations. And yes, you need to book in advance as a rule. You won’t be disappointed at the standards of the cooking or the service from the excellent staff. It’s equally perfect for families or couples, and I imagine for solo dining too. I personally can’t wait to get back there for another delicious meal very soon.
The Snow Goose Pub – Farnborough
The pub and restaurant in Farnborough has been a prominent community feature in the town for many years. It was given a new lease of life in autumn 2015, by its owner Kate Hayden, who proudly runs it with her fabulous and friendly team. I think they’ve worked hard over the last nearly 8 years to get the pub and restaurant to excel in so many areas. It is a family eatery, a sports bar, and a relaxed Sunday retreat.
I went there (after not visiting for some time I admit), during the Covid-19 pandemic. I was hoping for a welcoming and warm experience and was not disappointed. Both the food and the customer service are of top quality.
Firstly, I had enjoyed a Saturday evening meal with my husband and mother. If I recall, I had the seared tuna steak with seasonal vegetables and couldn’t get enough of it. All our dishes were cooked to perfection and washed down with wonderful cocktails.
The hard-working team is on the go all the time – certainly in the busy times – and deserve credit for a smooth operation. It’s this, in combination with the delicious food and drinks that make for a brilliant atmosphere. There’s one more trick up The Snow Goose’s sleeve (or wing!) – which is a mini zoo in the back garden. The hutches and pens hold sweet rabbits and guinea pigs, next to endearing pigs nestling in with their mother. Such a great draw for families and couples alike. My top tip for a meal in Farnborough any day of the week.
Veeno – Reading
I first discovered this particular eatery when I was looking to book an afternoon tea for James in 2022, as a birthday treat. We had a voucher and when I researched it, Veeno, was our most local venue.
So, in late January 2022, we visited Reading by train and then sped along to our destination. It’s handily situated on Valpy Street – convenient for rail users and car drivers alike, as a central location.
We were given a table by the window, which was perfect for one of my other favourite pastimes: people-watching. When the food was brought out it was stunningly presented on a tiered afternoon tea stand. Imagine if you will an Italian take on the traditional English afternoon tea. Instead of tea, we had coffee – I’ve never been a tea-drinker, so it was good to go with the latte! And instead of regular English brown or white bread we had ciabatta and focaccia sandwiches. These were filled with Sicilian hams and tasty Italian cheeses, adorning the platter. For dessert there were slices of lemon and chocolate cake, and scones with mascarpone and strawberry jam. We lapped it all up.
The Veeno staff were kind and attentive, making sure we had all we needed. As with the other restaurants I have highlighted, the service and warm, relaxed atmosphere makes Veeno a well-recommended place to visit over and over.
I hope you have enjoyed my restaurant radar – please let me know your thoughts and feedback in the comments section.
These are the links to all the featured restaurants:
Happy reading and dining!