Posts Tagged ‘Alton’

Christmas dinner at O’Connor’s Secret Garden

December 17, 2015
O'Connor's Secret Garden

O’Connor’s Secret Garden

Wednesday evening, on my way back from a visit to Winchester Christmas market, I alighted off the bus, walked through Alton, to eat at O’Connor’s Secret Garden.

I knew what I wanted. Peter welcomed me in. We do not  have pork medallions on the menu, but we can do for you.

Why did I have two menus? One was a Christmas menu.  I was going to treat myself to steak. The Christmas menu was cheaper than having steak. Against my better judgement, I decided on the Christmas menu. A mistake, as not very good. Unusual for Peter, as food usually excellent.

I recommended he ditched Hog’s Back Brewery and instead bought in from The Little Beer Corporation.  And certainly not serve rubbish such as Fosters.

Dinner at O’Connor’s Secret Garden

September 10, 2015
dinner at O'Connor's Secret Garden

dinner at O’Connor’s Secret Garden

vegetables

vegetables

O'Connor's Secret Garden

O’Connor’s Secret Garden

O'Connor's Secret Garden

O’Connor’s Secret Garden

Wednesday is street food day in Winchester.

Excellent cappuccino off Jimmy Bean, but then I expect nothing less. I also had lunch, mozzarella cheese and tomato in bread hotted up in an oven, which was excellent. For dessert ginger shortbread, which was also excellent. Jimmy Bean, one of the few places in Winchester to get not only decent coffee, but also something decent to eat.

Afternoon wandering around Winchester,  bus to Alton Station.

Bus arrives at Alton Station as train leaves. Either pop into Waitrose (I did not need anything) or find somewhere to eat. I decided on O’Connor’s Secret Garden.

I alighted at one end of Alton and walked through Alton. Peter was surprised to see me, as not Saturday. I could have had gammon, but decided upon pork medallions with vegetables and colcannon potatoes. It was excellent, but then I expect no less in O’Connor’s Secret Garden.

He asked what would I like to drink. I said tea, meaning the beer. I was served tea. Easy enough mistake to make.

I did not think I would make the train, stayed for crumble. Not up to the standard of the main course, crumble should be crunchy.

I washed it down with tea.

I made the train with a couple of minutes to spare.

No 64 Bus Winchester to Alton

September 3, 2015
Alton Station bus stop

Alton Station bus stop

This week a new timetable came into force on this route, though you would not notice, as no timetables on the buses

For some years, the 64 has been timed to leave Alton Station at the same time the train arrives, guaranteeing most people miss the bus and have to wait half an hour for the next bus.

The good news on the revised timetable, is the bus has been re-timed to leave five minutes later, meaning connection with the train, assuming of course the train on time and not delayed.

That is the good news. The bad news the ongoing journey to Guildford.

The 64 bus, would at Alton station, continue onwards to Guildford as the No 65. And likewise the No 65 from Guildford, continues onwards from Alton Station to Winchester as the No 64.

Not any more. Buses go as far as Alton Station, then return from whence they came, the passengers having to change buses at Alton Station.

No timetables on the buses. No announcement that necessary to change buses at Alton Station.

The 65 passes by Alton Station, through Alton, then back to Alton Station to pick up passengers for Guildford.

Drivers are under no instruction to wait for the connecting bus.

These buses, or at least this route, was to have been cut. It has been granted a temporary reprieve until July 2016, with the passengers numbers being evaluated in March.

Lunch at Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori

July 29, 2015
latte

latte

Excellent lunch at the little Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori. Courgette soup with garlic,  followed by sea bass served with  new potatoes and beans.

The soup not quite piping hot. The sea bass delicious.

Started outside in the garden, then had to rush indoors when it rained.

On last visit, the service was awful, today exemplary. Why the service was so bad on the last visit, I do not know, as not the norm. At a guess, maybe  a new girl who had only started and did not know what she was doing.

Afternoon in Alton

July 29, 2015
The Old Curiosity Shop

The Old Curiosity Shop

water meadows

water meadows

Heron at Kings Pond

heron at Kings Pond

A dull, cool, cloudy day. Hazy sun broke through and it warmed up a little. Then it rained and temperature dropped.

Looked in The Old Curiosity Shop.

Excellent lunch at the little Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori. Courgette soup with garlic,  followed by sea bass served with  new potatoes and beans. Started outside in the garden, then had to rush indoors when it rained. On last visit, the service was awful, today exemplary.

A walk to the source of the River Wey. The stream bed still dry. Through the water meadows, then a walk around the Kings Pond.

From Kings Pond, I found an alley that ran alongside the railway line that led to Alton Station.

Arrived at Alton Station, just in time to catch a train before it departed.

Dinner at O’Connor’s Secret Garden

July 18, 2015
O'Connor's Secret Garden

O’Connor’s Secret Garden

pork medallions

pork medallions

selection of vegetables

selection of vegetables

I looked in on Peter O’Connor in O’Connor’s Secret Garden.

Peter offered me a drink.

I mentioned Brock’s being closed, Mog’s Deli closed and the general state of Alton. He said Brock’s had closed several months ago. A shock as an excellent butcher. Peter said the lease due for renewal, therefore at a guess another local business driven out of business by rent hikes.

Alton a few years ago had an excellent food festival. That was where I first met Peter giving a cookery demonstration. What happened? Sponsorship by Costa one year,  Iceland another year, which somewhat lost the plot for a celebration of local food. Then taken over by Hampshire farmers markets, which killed it.

What is Alton Town Council doing? Godalming Town Council is very proactive. Maybe the example of Frome should be followed, a Flatpack Democracy revolution, ordinary  citizens take over the Town Hall.

I decided to stay and eat, even though it was turning cool and looked like rain. I was though a little disappointed to learn Peter was not cooking, but I need not have worried. The meal was excellent.

A lovely garden out the back, but as it was getting cool, I sat inside.

Pork medallions, covered in a sauce, served with vegetables.

The pork medallions, were more like slices of pork. I do not know what the sauce was, but delicious. the vegetables cooked to perfection, not overcooked, not undercooked, piping hot and served in a piping hot dish.

The potatoes, a choice of new potatoes, chips or colcannon potatoes (an Irish dish and a speciality of O’Connor’s Secret Garden). I chose colcannon potatoes as not something you get elsewhere.

A stunning blonde waitress, charming and competent.  Peter has a knack of choosing good staff.

I complimented Peter on the meal, adding that I had been worried that he was not in the kitchen.  He told me that the two of them had worked together elsewhere in the past, and yes, he had a good chef in the kitchen.

A few years ago O’Connor’s Secret Garden had very nasty fake reviews on TripAdvisor. It was therefore pleasing to see he had received a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor. He said it came in  the post.

O’Connor’s Secret Garden is not simply the best restaurant in Alton, it is the best in the area.

On leaving, it was, as I had feared, raining.

Afternoon in Alton

July 18, 2015
vintage bus

vintage bus

vintage bus

vintage bus

old watercress beds

old watercress beds

A pleasant warm sunny afternoon, though later it clouded over and turned cool, or cooler.

I just made the train to Alton.

As the train pulled into Alton, I was tempted to catch the bus to Winchester, but thought no, I need to pop to Brock’s Farm Shop, and there are decent paces to eat in Alton, which there are not in Winchester.

Guerilla gardening by ALFI (Alton Local Food Initiative) at Alton Station.

Sometimes I find a stream train at Alton Station, but not today. I would have if I had hung around.

I looked in Alton Bookshop.

The Old Curiosity Shop. A very interesting shop.

Brock’s Farm Shop was not open. Closed early? Everything in Alton closes early. Maybe but it had the look of dereliction about it.

Excellent lunch,  roast pepper soup, followed by tortellini, in the Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori. Service was appalling. Why, I do not know, as they were not busy and service is not usually a problem.

A coffee at Mog’s Deli. Shock, it had closed down. It had only opened last year.

To the fruit and vegetable shop, then back to the Italian coffee shop.

I wish they would get better tea. They pride themselves on sourcing quality ingredients, then serve teapigs, not only serve but have on sale. Teapigs is not quality tea. Marketing hype does not make quality tea.

On leaving the Italian coffee shop, walk back down the street, then out and along the water meadows, old watercress beds.

Walking through the town, many closed shops, drunks roaming the streets and outside the pubs.

Alton is the source of the River Wey. The stream bed, had dried up. All that was left was murky pools of water. No longer the flowing chalk stream.  This is only the second time, or second summer, I have seen it dried up. Though the last time, there was not even the pools of water, there was grass growing in the stream bed.

My sandal snapped in half. Hobbling along, I walked up the the Parish Church, then headed to the main road. I saw a man working in his garden. I asked did he have any super glue? He said no, but went to his van and brought out a brand new roll of duct tape.  A hasty repair was effected. I thanked him profusely.

I looked in on Peter O’Connor in O’Connor’s Secret Garden.

I mentioned Brock’s being closed, Mog’s Deli closed and the general state of Alton. He said Brock’s had closed several months ago. A shock as an excellent butcher. Peter said the lease due for renewal, therefore at a guess another local business driven out of business by rent hikes.

Alton a few years ago had an excellent food festival. What happened? Sponsorship by Costa one year,  Iceland another year, which somewhat lost the plot for a celebration of local food. Then taken over by Hampshire farmers markets, which killed it.

What is Alton Town Council doing? Godalming Town Council is very proactive. Maybe the example of Frome should be followed, a Flatpack Democracy revolution, ordinary  citizens take over the Town Hall.

I decided to stay and eat, even though it was turning cool and looked like rain. I was though a little disappointed to learn Peter was not cooking, but I need not have worried. The meal was excellent, pork medallions with vegetables.

On leaving raining. Waitrose closed. Entrance to station blocked, footbridge closed, I made the train with seconds to spare.

Dysfunctional public transport

December 19, 2014

Would I make Aldershot Station in time to catch the train to Alton? Luckily yes, three buses in a convoy.

I make the station with five minutes to spare.

Train to Alton running two minutes late.

The No 64 bus from Alton Station to Winchester, the bus stop clearly marked as bus train interchange, is timed to leave at exactly the same time as the train is timed to arrive. The bus usually leaves as passengers are coming out of the station.

Now you have to been a completely brain-dead moron determined to piss off passengers, for a bus to leave as passengers are pouring out of the train station.

I know, to leap off the train, run out of the station, if I am lucky, I catch the bus, delaying my ticket in case others are hoping to catch the bus, if unlucky I see the bus leaving the bus stop.

Today I was unlucky. I knew I would miss the bus, unless it was running late.

Half an hour wait for the next bus.

A few minutes early a No 64 bus turns up, windows filthy. I leap on the bus. Luckily the bus driver asked where I wished to go. I said Winchester, he said wrong bus.

Now you have to been a completely brain-dead moron determined to piss off passengers, to design a timetable with two different bus routes with the same route number.

I am now joined by a lady who has come off the next train.

A further wait of half an hour, by now chilled to the bone.

A No 65 bus comes in. I ask, just in case it is displaying the wrong number.

No, it is going to Guildford. I ask the driver where is the No 64? He says due now. I say what about the one due half an hour ago? Pig ignorant driver extremely rude, says how does he know, he only drives this bus.

Finally a No 64 bus arrives, 5-10 minutes late. Over an hour wait in the cold. Now not even worth going down to Winchester, my afternoon trip to Winchester all but ruined. I ask driver what happened to previous bus? He expresses surprise that it failed to turn up.

The bus is freezing cold, no heating, though not as cold as outside. The windows are filthy. A freezing cold draught, though no idea where it is coming from, no windows open. Maybe a window open upstairs.

New double-decker buses running on this route, not the clapped-out double-decker buses Stagecoach usually run.

But this is a new new bus, different design. Instead of luggage rack up front, two seats, with a tiny totally inadequate luggage space behind the seat.

At Alresford, I see a doubled-decker in front. As we get near, I see it is a No 64. Where did that come from?

I usually get off and walk down the hill into Winchester, but today too late. I stay on until bus station. I would have gone into the office and created hell about their disgraceful service, but it is now 4-15pm, day wasted without wasting more of the day.

I would have arrived around 1500 I arrive 1615.

Once again a day out ruined by Stagecoach.

On my return, bus then train to Aldershot. Bus I found has wifi, but does not connect to anything. At Aldershot, no bus, 20 minutes wait in the cold for next bus. Bus should have wifi, no wifi.

Train service is run by South West Trains. Bus service by Stagecoach. Stagecoach own South West Trains.

Stagecoach and Richard Branson have recently been handed the successful East Coast Mainline, successful because in public ownership. Are they fit and proper to run? No.

Stagecoach, has a live twitter feed, no mention of missed No 64 bus, explanation or apology.

Someone’s idea of a sick joke, when nearly every bus is not only leaving, but arriving more than ten minutes late.

At Alton, the buses must have an instruction to wait for passengers to alight from the train and catch the bus.

All drivers must wear name badges.

Buses must be equipped with gps, live updates at bus stops.

An app for smartphones and tablets, live updates, wifi at bus stops.

Mog’s Deli

November 15, 2014
Mog's Deli

Mog’s Deli

olive oil

olive oil

Mog's Deli

Mog’s Deli

I passed a shop I had not noticed before, Mog’s Deli, a coffee shop cum deli.

I bought some ham, which proved not to be very good. I would have expected a deli to have much better quality ham.

The coffee, a brand coffee, why not from one of the many small coffee roasters? Union hand roasted, Winchester coffee roasters, Allpress?

Very charming and helpful girls.

I had chat with one of the girls, and she said they had all been trained in coffee making.

Large glass jars full of olive oil. These used to fill lovely glass bottles, which are then corked. Customers can bring their bottles back for a refill.

Nicely done out.

Mog’s Deli, another example of clueless in the use of social media. If you want people to read your tweets, do not use facebook robots to send out meaningless tweets. If you cannot be bothered to write a tweet, why expect anyone be bothered to read them?

Afternoon in Alton

November 15, 2014
Alton at dusk

Alton at dusk

I was on my way to Farnham, but as I would not make where I wished to have lunch, I decided to catch a train to Alton. I almost carried on to Winchester, but decided too late, so Alton it was.

On the train down, fields between Farnham and Bentley flooded.

The ground is saturated. Bodes ill for winter flooding.

Thursday night, River Wey in Guildford was high and very fast flowing.

No steam trains.

I looked in on a jumble sale at the Catholic Church near Alton Station for all of five minutes. Junk, not worth the visit.

A quick look in Alton Books, but nothing I desired.

An interesting conversation in Brock’s Butcher. I was curious why the name change, it used to be Brock’s Farm Shop, did they no longer have the farm? It still was Brock’s Farm Shop, the canopy had changed and they had changed the name to reflect they were a traditional butcher, but there was another reason, public perception a farm shop is expensive. People sadly shop for food on price not quality. A pork chop/ Will it be as good as the butcher in Downing Street in Farnham?

mushroom tortellini

mushroom tortellini

Excellent mushroom tortellini in the Italian coffee shop. I would have had tea, but it is teapigs which is not quality tea, a totally owned subsidiary of Tetley.

By now starting to get dark, even though not long gone four o-clock.

I passed a shop I had not noticed before, Mog’s Deli, a coffee shop cum deli. I bought some ham, which proved not to be very good. I would have expected a deli to have much better quality ham. The coffee, a brand coffee, why not from one of the many small coffee roasters? Nicely done out.

<em>Revolution half price in Waterstone’s. It was half price in WHSmith, then they bumped the price up.

Greengrocer has a good idea. Samples to try. The clementines were excellent.

Museums in Hampshire have been transferred to a trust. Or dumped in a trust, depending upon your perspective. A good idea? Funding guaranteed for a few years. Where future funding? Last thing we want is going cap in hand to business. Where was the public consultation?

Service Waitrose Alton far better than the piss-poor service at Waitrose Farnham. Cups by the coffee machine, free coffee in coffee shop, newspapers to read no queues at checkout.

I ordered a free pot of tea. I thought I had missed the tea cup, was about to go back, when the store manager pointed out the clever design, the tea pot nestled in the top of the tea cup. Not seen that before.

Although it means travelling down to Alton, maybe I will shop here rather than Farnham. Hassle free shopping, I can leave when I know the train is due, and as as the train sits for some time at the station, can sit and read on the train. In Farnham, wait in the cold and wet for a bus, which in winter is not good when it is raining, especially when the buses are erratic at best of times.


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