Posts Tagged ‘Alton’

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.

Lunch at Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori

October 25, 2014
Bottega dei Sapori

Bottega dei Sapori

Excellent pumpkin tortellini at Italian coffee shop Bottega dei Sapori.

Followed by cioccolato creme brulee and tea.

I am no great fan of Italian cakes.

Tea, tea pigs, rubbish tea from Tetley.

For a restaurant that prides itself on sourcing quality, they really must do better than tea pigs.

Coffee is single sourced from Monte Sion Estate in El Salvador.

For quality food, need quality ingredients and a skilled chef to weave his magic.

Why can people not see the same applies to coffee? Yes source quality coffee beans, but also need a good espresso machine and someone skilled in making coffee.

Bottega dei Sapori is in Alton, next door to the building that once housed the bank belonging to the brother of Jane Austen.

Afternoon in Alton

October 25, 2014
Lord Nelson on loan from  the National Railway Museum

Lord Nelson on loan from the National Railway Museum

A few days cold, a few days warm. Tuesday and Wednesday were cold. Thursday and Friday warm. Today warm, but not as warm.

On arrival at Alton Station, steam trains.

A gang of bikers outside Station Cafe. I helpfully told them Wednesday night, Bikers Night. But why not ring ahead? They would probably have stayed open. And as there was a lot of people milling around for a steam rally, seems foolish not to have been open.

Dropped in Alton Books, quick word. Mentioned Guildford Book Festival last week, bookseller WHSmith. Do they appreaciate the extent to which they are alienating people? Do they care?

Brock’s Butchers, used to be Brock’s Farm Shop, closed. They close at four o’clock. Maybe I may have made it had I not dallied. But I was there before four o’clock. Their loss, simply means I called in Waitrose later.

Small retailers whinge they lose out, but they are their own worst enemy. Do they want businesses or not?

Late lunch at Italian restaurant.

Whilst there, sun was shining, clear blue sky. When I left, cloudy, already getting dark,

Although getting dark, I decided to walk through the water meadows. Source of the River Wey.

I was surprised how dry the river, a mere trickle.

I cut up the hill, via St Lawrence Church. I do not know why, but this route always seems shorter, as it brings me out at the top end of town.

Lights on in the church. There was last time I passed by, even music playing, and yet the door closed. This time open. As I entered, two young musicians left. I had the church to myself.

In the corner by the door, an ugly plastic monstrosity. Sacrilege this was allowed to be built to desecrate the church.

A stage set, high quality microphones, mixing deck, speakers and yet no one about, no indication what for, no posters.

I looked on a table and found flyers for a concert tonight at 7pm. It was 6-15, I did not fancy hanging around.

The set up would be ideal for Jewelia to give a concert.

I looked in O’Connor’s Secret Garden, and said a quick hello to Peter O’Connor. He was hosting a private party. Fortunate I am not wishing to eat, I said. He offered to serve me in the front parlour should I wish to stay.

By now dark. It feels like late night, and yet only 6-30.

Unbelievable greedy selfish bastard in Waitrose, scooped up everything priced down and piled up in his trolley.

Station Cafe

September 10, 2014
Station Cafe breakfast

Station Cafe breakfast

Station Cafe Wednesday night bikers night

Station Cafe Wednesday night bikers night

As I learnt two weeks ago at Station Cafe, Wednesday night is Bikers Night.

The place was packed outside and inside with bikers.

Apart from the charming young lady serving, I was the only non-biker there.

As I had 35 minutes to wait for a train, I decided to have something to eat, and chose the smallest breakfast, egg, bacon, beans, fried bread and sausages. Not wanting egg, I asked could I have something else. I chose mushrooms, a mistake, as tinned mushroom not fresh mushrooms.

The breakfast came surprisingly fast. I also added chips, which were brought as a bowl of chips, plus I had a mug of tea, served from a great big tea pot.

The breakfast was good, apart from the sausages and the mushrooms, excellent bacon. No excuse for the sausages and mushrooms, not when Alton has an excellent butcher and greengrocer. It would probably cost a little more, but I am ok with that.

I missed the next train.

Station Cafe is a black shed by Alton Station.

Bikers night is Wednesday night, in winter last Wednesday of the month.


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