Tucked away off the beaten track and with a French chef for a little added je ne sais quoi, Phil Sampson approached this Hampshire eatery with high expectations...
There is nothing like a French chef to get the culinary juices flowing. Flamboyance, flair, finesse, gastro-skills – they’ve got the lot. Some of them even do humour; superstar Raymond Blanc once told me, “It was not until I came to England that I learned fish have fingers,” (I’ve been waiting years to retell that one…!)
Having discovered the Nook & Cranny now has a French chef – the same one who used to serve fabulous fish dishes at the now-defunct Ferry Restaurant in Old Bursledon – it was with high hopes and a resounding cheer of bon appétit that we headed off to the back lanes of Warsash for dinner.
The Nook & Cranny appears modest from the outside, but in reality is something of a Tardis, with two dedicated restaurant saloons and a seating area for casual drinkers.
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On arrival, we were ushered into the rear saloon, which is situated in a sunken area a couple of feet lower than the rest of the building. In keeping with our French aspirations for the evening, the table we were offered was what restaurateurs refer to as “bistro style”. Unfortunately, I find the alternative description “too small” rather more appropriate.
So we asked to be relocated and were duly accommodated on a larger table abutting the bar lounge area. This was fine, except the difference in floor levels between us and the bar meant our table top was positioned at the perfect sniffing level for visiting dogs. Happily, their owners kept them in check.
Watched over attentively by a pair of doe-eyed fidos, our food was every bit as good as we had hoped. In particular, the Roquefort cheese soufflé with celery, apple and roasted walnut dressing starter was exceptional. Knowing the chef, the mains had to be seafood and here we were spoilt for choice:
Swordfish Siciliana (served with tomato, raisins, onions, capers, pine nuts and olive oil); skate wing with an almond, lemon and parsley butter; or moules marinière with frites. We opted for the swordfish and the skate, a decision we did not regret for one moment as both were delicate and full of flavour.
To round the meal off, the Nook & Cranny offers a selection of industrial- strength desserts. Feeling brave?
Why not try an Affogato – a shot of espresso coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and the liqueur of your choice. We were driving, so instead opted to share an Oh So Caramel sundae, a magnificent beast large enough to feed a coach party. Or in this case, and with due deference to our French host, a charabanc.
Getting there by boat
Located east of the river Hamble, the nearest marina to the Nook & Cranny is Universal. For those mooring up on the west bank, although being only around 1.5 miles from Hamble Point as the crow flies, it’s an 8.5-mile trip by road. For anyone not used to the Hamble tides, timing your arrival and departure times either on the slack or during the young flood stand is advised. The river looks a picture but is full of nasty surprises when the tide is running.
Cost: £85-95 based on a three-course meal for two with a bottle of house wine
Times: Tuesday – Saturday 1200-1500 and 1800-2100. Sunday 1200-2100 (Sunday roast served until 1700) Bar open Tuesday-Sunday 1200-2230.
Verdict: The remote location will make this a cab hop for most visiting boaters, but it’s well worth the fare, especially if you like seafood.
MBY rating: 4/5
Tel: 01489 807250 / nookandcrannyrestaurantbar.co.uk