I had always thought that Winchester was a million miles away from London. But d'you know what? It's actually less than an hour on the train. Huh.
England so cute and small.
My dear uni pal Stef now lives in Winch (too familiar? I feel we're on Winch/Rach terms by now) so I decided to shimmy on down to pay her a visit.
Fun fact: Winchester used to be the capital of England. This is something I only learnt recently and I feel like it is not common knowledge.
But I love a town with some good history behind it so was excited to see what the former capital had to offer.
I arrived at Stef's on Friday evening to find dinner on the table - what a dreamy welcome.
As does tend to happen when two girlfriends haven't seen each other in a few weeks, the evening flew by and it was suddenly time for bed to ensure we had enough energy for the weekend ahead.
We kicked things off with brunch at Josie's - and we brunched hard.
It only opened about six months earlier, is a pretty big cafe, and there are always queues for brunch at the weekend - annoyingly you can't book.
But guys, wait it out. It is WORTH IT!
The menu is fab and I felt totally spoilt for choice - the pancakes looked EPIC but then I also wanted a smoothie and so would something savoury then be better?! The struggles of deciding what to have for brunch. I know you feel me.
We started with tea for me and OJ for Stef. But then I tried Stef's juice and realised it was freshly-squeezed so had to have one too. So good!
Thanks to my pre-brunch Instagram stalking (don't pretend you don't do it too) I knew Josie's had recently teamed up with Meridian on an array of peanut buttery creations and as you can imagine this excited me greatly.
Then came the main affair: both Stef and I went for the bubble and squeak cakes in the end (we have pretty similar tastes) but whilst I added halloumi and avo, Stef went for bacon and halloums. Aaaand we shared sweet potato fries too lol.
I'm definitely going to go back for the pancakes though.
Having brunched ourselves barmy we were so in need of a slow amble, and thus my private guided tour of Winchester commenced.
Most fortunately, the sun had decided to make an appearance which made everything look extra beautiful.
We walked down the main streets, popping in and out of cute boutiques and admiring the lovely architecture.
It's very much a yummy mummy town - whilst there's no Topshop, Zara or Cos, there's Russell & Bromley, L K Bennett and The White Company. You catch my drift.
We saw the Guildhall...
Climbed up St Giles Hill and admired the view from the top...
This had been hooouuuurs since our brunch to end all brunches, so you won't judge me too much when I say we went home for tea and cake will you?
We'd been unable to resist the white chocolate and raspberry blondies at Josie's so had got a couple to take away. They were amazing and it was the perfect pick-me-up.
So we spent or evening drinking prosecco, painting our nails, braiding each other's hair, doing face masks, watching a film (I may have also forced Stef to watch the tennis for a bit but hey it was an important Davis Cup match) and eating lots of delicious food. Ideal.
The next morning Stef whipped us up some dreamy banana and blueberry pancakes before we set off to visit her parents in a village not too far away.
And after a cup of tea and a little walk it was suddenly lunchtime, and there was only one place we were going to go.
Stef had told me about a cafe called Offbeet MONTHS ago. Not just told me, but waxed lyrical about them and tormented me with her Instagrams of their amazing food since.
Offbeet is a vegan, gluten-free cafe in the most unlikeliest of locations: it's in a mill in a sleepy little village called Wickham. But the type of food is more likely to be found in London, Brighton or, well, Bali tbh.
I'd been desperate to visit for yonks and it did not disappoint. With just one meal to be had though, I had to choose wisely.
Wanting something warming, I decided to go for the gnocchi.
I loved it - super flavoursome, incredibly fresh and gloriously nourishing.
The cafe was packed and every table was reserved - I was so glad Stef had booked ahead!
After our virtuous dishes, we both felt we had room for a little something sweet (plus the cake counter was just too hard to resist).
The cakes change all the time but on the day of our visit there were gluten-free, vegan brownies on offer, as well as a selection of raw cakes which are refined sugar-free too.
At £3.95 a slice, they're not the cheapest things ever, but then again healthy sweet treats never are because the ingredients are expensive, plus they totally would've been at least £6 each in London.
They were sensational. To me, it didn't taste like 'health food', but that may be because I'm kinda into vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free shiz.
And that afternoon it was time to hop on the train back to the big smoke! But an utterly delightful weekend it had been. Go to Winchester. I recommend.