As you know, I am a big fan of good food (aren’t we all). I am also, you may have noticed, a fan of ‘local’ food, be that veg from the back garden or the Farmers’ Market, locally reared pork or blackberries foraged from the hedgerows round and about the village.
Where we live we have some great independent shops, one of which is a wine merchant, Caviste. I should say now that I don’t pretend to buy all my wine here, or, in fact, that I know much about wine at all. On the other hand, I do like a good glass or two, and Caviste is where I sourced the Prosecco for my 40th birthday party earlier in the year. If we are having people for dinner, I will head there with my menu in hand and a budget in my head and come away with bottles of loveliness and delight . When I have done this in the past, the wine that I have been recommended has always complimented the meal beautifully.
If you’d asked me before we moved here whether I would have bought wine from an independent wine merchant, I would have probably explained that it would be far too expensive. However, the reality is that it isn’t. They can, or course, sell you a bottle of wine costing £30, £50 or even (I believe) £500, but they also sell a fantastic range of ‘everyday drinking wines’ starting at £5 a bottle. Again, I can’t pretend to have tried them all – partly because the stock changes, but I have always enjoyed what I have come away with.
Now. What does all this have to do with local food? Well, I’d been aware that the shop had been refurbished and that a couple of tables had appeared in the windows, and thought nothing of it. Imagine, then, my excitement, when I walked passed a few days ago on the way back from a particularly muddy dog walk and spied a big sign outside announcing: Hampshire Tapas. I had to find out more, and deciding that there was no time like the present, I told the dog in no uncertain terms to be on his best behaviour, and went in.
Well, she who dares, wins, and as a result of that, I was delighted to be invited back (without the dog) on Friday lunchtime to have chat with Graham Devereux, the General Manager, over a platter of said tapas and a glass of extremely delicious red wine, which I can tell you was a 2012 Meerlust red from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa.
Hampshire Tapas is, I think, a totally genius idea. The tapas concerned are locally sourced, from independent producers in the county. The idea is that the intentionally limited selection will change according to the seasons and as Caviste discover more producers. When I had originally seen ‘tapas’, I had imagined the Spanish version made from local ingredients, but how much better to serve up the best of Hampshire in this form: a slice of pork pie, Scotch egg, mozzarella made from a buffalo herd grazing the fields around Overton itself, and Tunworth cheese, all served with slices of rosemary and sea salt loaf and a lovely chutney.
The pork pie is hand raised by Peter Lane whose business name ‘I Cook You Eat’ says it all. The pie was meaty and well seasoned, a gorgeous pink, the jelly and pastry just right. I also got a sneaky sample of his game pie filling – now the Husband makes a pretty good game pie, but this is in a different league altogether. The Scotch Egg is from Newlyns Farm, made with their own pork and eggs. The egg was perfectly cooked and the ‘scotch’ (the sausage meat casing) was meaty and not too peppery, firm and not at all greasy – if you thought you didn’t like Scotch egg, the time might have come to change your mind. 2 cheeses: The Tunworth cheese is just a mouthful of heaven – honestly, if you ever come across it you must try it – it’s a soft brie type cheese with a subtle, nutty flavour. Not surprising that it is considered one of the best British cheeses, but what is amazing is that Stacey Hedges and Charlotte Bruce have only been making it since 2005. Finally, ‘Hampshire Tapas’ in Overton wouldn’t have been complete without something from the brilliant Laverstoke Park. I often encounter the Laverstoke herd of buffalo while walking the dog, so very appropriate that the platter included 2 little balls of creamy, smooth mozzarella, produced just outside the village.
|2 of Jody Scheckter's Laverstoke Park herd of Buffalo|
You can imagine what heaven I was in – amazing food and delicious wine in great surroundings. I have always loved the feel of Caviste – very calm and measured (and quite unlike the frantic pace of my usual day to day) and that hasn’t changed with the refurbishment – only now, you can sit down and drink it all in. I also love the idea that the selection of tapas on offer will change so you never quite know what will be available, only that it will be of exceptional quality. And I should say that while the food isn’t yet available for online purchase, the wine most definitely is...
As you’ll probably have gathered, I was lucky enough to have been invited to try the tapas, but I can tell you that the platter I ate was their ‘Vineyard Platter’, for which I would have gladly paid £7. You can also choose to have the individual dishes. In addition, while I wasn’t required to provide a positive review, you will appreciate that it would be hard not to, given everything I have described. I can’t for an opportunity to get a babysitter sorted and head up there with the Husband for an early evening aperitif, as a great kick start to an evening.