Southampton is your gateway to the best food of the South of England; the chalk streams and vineyards of Hampshire, salads from the Isle of Wight and the artisan food producers of the New Forest. Here are some places to eat fresh and local in Southampton and the foods to look out for, especially if you’re visiting on a cruise. You may also like to read my article on Top 10 things to do in Southampton.
1 Mettricks: for coffee and brunch
Mettricks is a locally owned café, close to the cruise terminal, that’s on a mission to bring great coffee to Southampton. The decor is homely, with scrubbed pine tables and mismatched chairs and they work with many local suppliers for the best quality meat and bakery products.
If you’re on the hunt for free wifi, this is the place to settle down for an egg and crispy bacon sandwich or tea-time treat of home-made cake and coffee. We especially like the original cafe at 117 High Street, which stays open in the evening for cocktails, wine and real ales with light bites and bar snacks until 10pm.
Mettricks: Branches at 117 High Street, 2 East Bargate and opening soon at 1 Guildhall Place.
2 The Pig in the Wall: a stylish place to try local produce
The Pig in the Wall is a boutique hotel, set into the old city walls of Southampton, with a deli bar serving light dishes, homemade flatbreads and cakes from mid-morning to 10pm. As the name suggests, they specialize in charcuterie, with a fine selection of ‘piggy bits’ such as pork crackling and apple sauce or Honey Mustard Chipolatas. The decor is shabby chic with exposed brickwork, easy leather chairs and a touch of the potting shed. All the produce is all locally sourced with New Forest pork, Hampshire cheeses and Isle of Wight tomatoes on the menu. Their sister hotel, The Pig at Brockenhurst, is well known locally as a foodie stop and well worth the 30 min taxi ride, but best to book in advance.
The Pig in the Wall, West Esplanade, Southampton.
3 The Dancing Man: for real ale and pies
This micro-brewery, bar and restaurant is housed in The Wool House, an atmospheric medieval stone building that once stored wool on Southampton’s quayside. Behind the bar is the micro-brewery where around 20 different beers are brewed in rotation with seven on tap at any one time.
Look out for the Pilgrim’s pale Ale and The Last Waltz, named after the song playing on the Titanic as it went down, as well as guest beers from other local breweries. The menu is deliciously British, with pies a specialty (served with buttery mash and greens) and a popular Sunday roast.
The Dancing Man, Town Quay, Southampton
4 The Grand Café: for an elegant afternoon tea
Around Southampton and the historic towns you may visit on your cruise excursions, you’ll find plenty of tea-rooms serving tea and cakes. If you want to take the oh-so-English ritual of afternoon tea up a notch, head for The Grand Café, originally the historic South Western Hotel, used by first class passengers on the Titanic. Afternoon tea is served from 2.30-5pm (book in advance) and you’ll be served at a table with an array of delicate sandwiches, scones with cream and jam and a selection of cakes. It’s a meal in itself, so you’d better miss out lunch to do it justice. If you’re visiting Beaulieu, another elegant afternoon tea stop is the luxurious Montagu Arms, for tea in the lounge or courtyard garden.
The Grand Café, Southwestern House, SO14 AHS, Afternoon tea £17.50
5 Oxford Street: Southampton’s Restaurant Quarter
If you want to find a selection of great restaurants all in one place, head for Southampton’s lively restaurant quarter in Oxford Street, just a 10 minute walk from the cruise terminal. At weekends and in the evening, the pedestrianized street has a buzzy atmosphere and you’ll also find good value lunch menus from many of the restaurants. We especially like the lively Oxford Brasserie serving a cosmopolitan menu using local produce, Olive Tree offering classic French bistro food, and the White Star Tavern, specializing in modern British cooking using local Hampshire produce.
Head for: Oxford Street, Southampton, SO14 3DA
You may also like to read my article on Top 10 things to do in Southampton for cruise visitors.
6 The Duke of Wellington: a traditional pub in the Old Town
If you’re looking for a cosy, traditional pub for some real ales and hearty home cooked food, try the Duke of Wellington, opposite The Tudor House in the heart of the Old Town. The timbered building dates back to the 13th century and has been a public house since 1494 when this was just a stone’s throw from the bustling town quay. They serve a wide selection of draught and real ales and on the menu you’ll find pub favorites such as fish and chips, steak and ploughman’s with ham or cheese, as well as options from the specials board and sandwiches at lunchtime. This is a good choice if you want to dip into traditional English pub culture.
The Duke of Wellington, 36 Bugle Street, Southampton
While you’re exploring Southampton and other parts of Hampshire and the New Forest, look out for the following local specialties.
7 Vineyards that produce Hampshire’s answer to Champagne
The chalk soil that characterizes much of Hampshire is ideal for wine growing and close to Southampton you’ll find some of England’s best-known wineries. The still and sparkling white and rosé wines feature on many restaurant menus, especially such as those made by Nyetimber and Hambledon that aim to rival the best champagne. Near Southampton you can visit the Three Choirs vineyard at Wickham (30 min taxi ride) where they have regular tours, daily tastings in the shop and you can also have lunch in their elegant restaurant.
8 Watercress: the crop of Hampshire’s rivers
One of the seasonal foods that Hampshire is renowned for is the peppery, green watercress, and a Watercress festival is held in the market town of Alresford every May. The watercress grows in beds that span the Itchen and Meon valleys, thriving in the clear water flowing over chalk beds. There’s even a steam train that runs from Alresford past the watercress farms, known as The Watercress Line, that was used in the 19th century to transport watercress to the markets in London. The watercress is available all year round, but look out for it on restaurant menus in the spring and summer when it’s at it’s best.
9 Isle of Wight tomatoes
With a mild climate and hours of sunshine, the Isle of Wight is known for its fresh produce such as asparagus, cherries, apricots and especially tomatoes. The island is just a short ferry ride from Southampton and can be visited in a day, but look out for the tomatoes and other produce on restaurant menus in Southampton. The glass houses and tomato growers like The Tomato Stall sell the sweet and flavorsome tomatoes through supermarkets, local delis and farm shops.
10 Ice Cream from the New Forest
Well you wouldn’t be on holiday, if you didn’t have an ice cream, would you? The local New Forest ice cream produced at Lymington is widely available in shops and cafés around Southampton. A few other artisan ice cream producers are worth looking out for while visiting attractions near Southampton; there’s a delicious selection at Sundae’s Child, who have an ice cream parlour in Romsey, and at Beaulieu chocolate studio in Beaulieu village.
You may also like to read my article on Top 10 things to do in Southampton for cruise visitors.
More information to plan your visit to Southampton
Note: I originally wrote this article for a cruise website but it was never published so I am republishing it here, hoping that it will give some useful tips and advice for cruise visitors to Southampton.
Southampton is one of those cities on England’s South Coast that’s easy to overlook. Heavily bombed in the war, it’s not the most picturesque of places, but as one of Europe’s major cruise ports, millions of cruise visitors pass through every year. Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that Southampton offers museums and cultural attractions as well as an interesting old town with medieval walls and houses.
The port is gateway to the beautiful Hampshire countryside and the New Forest with many places of interest that can easily be visited in a day. So if you are visiting Southampton on a cruise, here are some of the things I’d recommend you visit in and around the city. You may also like to read my article on Top 10 places and things to eat in Southampton.
1 Walk Southampton’s old city walls
Just a short distance from the port you can walk the medieval city walls of Southampton that encircle the old town and were built to preserve the town from attack from the sea. You can still see the arcades that formed the entrance to warehouses where wine barrels were stored and walk along the top of the walls that would have overlooked the beach, a fashionable spot for sea bathing in the 18th century. At weekends there are guided tours of the wall starting at Bargate or pick up a self-guided walk leaflet from The Tudor House.
2 Step back in time at The Tudor House
In the old quarter of Southampton, a short walk from the cruise port is the recently restored Tudor House, dating back to the 15th century. An audio guide takes you through the rooms to uncover the history of Southampton over the centuries.
There’s a pretty Tudor knot garden, views over the city walls, a kitchen laid out with food that the Tudors would have enjoyed and a glass-sided cafe overlooking the garden. For another dive into the history of Southampton, visit the nearby Merchant’s House that is furnished and preserved, as it would have been in the Middle Ages.
Getting there: Walking 10 min from cruise terminal. Adults £4.75 Children £3.75, Family ticket £13.50
3 Shop till you drop
If you enjoy shopping for international brands you’ll find them all in one place in the West Quay shopping mall in the center of Southampton. The major stores are John Lewis and Marks and Spencer with a wide range of fashion, lifestyle and technology stores as well as plenty of cafes and restaurants. If you’re looking for designer names at bargain prices you’ll find them in at Gunwharf Quays outlet shopping center near Portsmouth Harbour, which can be reached by train from Southampton, close to the other attractions of Portsmouth.
4 Nautical connections at SeaCity Museum
The SeaCity Museum explores Southampton’s connection with the sea over the centuries, with travellers from all over the world passing through the port. In 1912 the Titanic set sail from Southampton with most of its crew coming from the city. A poignant street map on the floor marks each person lost with a red dot, over 500 people from the city alone.
There are many interactive exhibits such as the Disaster room where the 1930s enquiry into the Titanic’s loss is replayed. An exhibition of Port Out Southampton Home (until June 2017) evokes the romance of the golden age of cruising from the 1920s to the 1950s.
Getting there: Walking 20 mins, Taxi 10 mins from the cruise terminal. Free shuttle bus from the terminal to SeaCity museum running 1 per hour. Adults £8.50 Family £25 Open daily 10am-5pm
5 The Southampton City Art Gallery
Next to the SeaCity museum is the Southampton City Art Gallery in the light and airy space above the public library. Under the high arched ceiling of the main gallery you’ll find everything from contemporary and twentieth century art to old masters and impressionists such as Monet.
The side galleries hold regularly changing exhibitions and look out for the wood panelled gallery with a series of Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Sir Edward Burne-Jones showing the Perseus story from classical mythology.
Getting there: Walking 20 mins, Taxi 10 mins from the cruise terminal. Free shuttle bus from the terminal to SeaCity museum running 1 per hour. Free entrance although a donation is appreciated. Closed Sundays.
Read my article on Top 10 places and things to eat in Southampton for cruise visitors
6 Beaulieu Motor Museum, Palace House and Abbey
Put together a national motor museum, 13th century Cistercian abbey and stately home of the Montagu family set beside a lake, and you have the ingredients for a fun packed day out for all ages and interests. The Beaulieu motor museum is the big draw, housing over 250 vehicles from motoring history but the house is also beautiful with a lived in feel and interesting displays in the Victorian kitchens.
Wander through the orchards and gardens, or get around on the high-level monorail or the open top vintage bus. If you have time, drive 10 minutes further to Buckler’s Hard, an 18th century village where ships for Nelson’s navy were built.
Getting There from Southampton: Taxi 30 mins, or Beaulieu can be booked as a cruise excursion. Entrance Adults £24, children age 5-17 £12, family ticket £64 with discounts if you book in advance.
7 The Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth
At Portsmouth Historic Dockyard you can visit some of Britain’s most historic ships including Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory and the Tudor warship Mary Rose. Around the waterfront are plenty of pubs and cafes for a bite to eat. The harbor scene is dominated by the 170 metre tall Emirates Spinnaker Tower, for views over the harbor from the skywalk and cafe in the clouds. A short walk away is the designer shopping outlet at Gunwharf Quays and one stop further on the train you’ll find the trendy area of Southsea with boutique stores and independent eateries.
Getting There from Southampton: taxi 30 mins, train 1 hr with 2 per hour.
8 A taste of rural Hampshire in Romsey
For a flavour of rural Hampshire life visit the pretty market town of Romsey, gateway to the Test valley. Behind the tourist office is the medieval King John’s House which brings to life 750 years of history in Romsey, with a pretty garden and tea shop. Nearby is the imposing medieval Romsey Abbey containing beautiful religious art and treasures. You can join the long distance walking path, the Test Way following the River Test, past nature reserves and Broadlands, the home of the late Lord Mountbatten. Finish your day with an ice cream at Sundae’s Child or a traditional afternoon tea in one of the many cafes.
Getting There from Southampton: Bus 30 mins, 2 per hour. Taxi 25 mins. Train 30 mins, 2-3 per hour.
9 England’s ancient capital of Winchester
Once King Alfred’s capital, the small cathedral city of Winchester is a quintessentially English place to visit. At its heart is the ancient Winchester cathedral where Jane Austen is buried and farmer’s markets are held at weekends. Stroll along the river to see a working water mill at Winchester City Mill and the ruins of Winchester Palace, home of the Bishops of Winchester. Further up the hill is the Great Hall with a replica of King Arthur’s round table and the 18th century Peninsula Barracks with several military museums. With plenty of pubs and cafes, Winchester is a great day out for all ages.
Getting There from Southampton: Taxi 30 mins, Bus 1 hour with 2-3 per hour. Train 20 mins with 2-3 per hr.
10 Salisbury and Stonehenge
Stonehenge is one of the best-known pre-historic monuments in Europe, featuring in many a selfie moment. The stone circle is a masterpiece of Neolithic engineering built from stones transported long distances using only simple tools, yet no-one knows for sure why it was built. Start at the new visitor center with exhibitions and Neolithic style houses, and then walk around the stone circle (but not inside it). Your visit is easily combined with a visit to the cathedral city of Salisbury, with elegant houses inside the cathedral close such as Arundells, the home of British Prime Minister, Edward Heath. Read about my visit to Stonehenge.
Getting There from Southampton: Train Southampton to Salisbury 30 mins, 2-3 times an hour, then bus from Salisbury station to Stonehenge 30 mins, 2 per hour. Salisbury and Stonehenge are typically offered together as a cruise excursion.
You may also like to read my article on Top 10 places and things to eat in Southampton for cruise visitors
Guide Prices if you want to arrange your own cruise excursions
Taxis are available at the Southampton cruise port terminal and prices are agreed with each driver but typically a 2-3 hour return trip to attractions within 30 mins drive is £80-100. Train fares for a return ticket to places mentioned are from £5-12 return depending on distance and time of day. Bus tickets are generally a little cheaper than train but may take longer.
More information to plan your visit to Southampton
Note: I originally wrote this article for a cruise website but it was never published and has since closed so I am republishing it here, hoping that it will give some useful tips and advice for cruise visitors to Southampton.
More locations in the South of England:
If you’ve been watching the latest David Attenborough moments in Planet Earth II, you may be wondering how you too can photograph the illusive snow leopard or soar with the eagles. While most of us won’t get the chance to film tigers in the wild, there’s plenty of fun to be had photographing wildlife in the woods or parks near where we live, as I discovered at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey.
I was at a workshop hosted by Panasonic UK, learning how to improve my wildlife photography using the Lumix GX80 camera, under the expert tuition of top wildlife photographer, Phil Gould. Phil told us about the 4 P’s of wildlife photography: Passion, Patience, Perseverance, Practice, as well as giving us his top tips, before we were let loose to photograph the different animals around the centre. Read my review of the Lumix GX80 here.
If you’d like to capture better wildlife photos, here are 6 things to consider;
1. Get down low
For the most natural photograph, your camera needs to be at the eye level of the animal, so that it feels less threatened. I quickly noticed that the wildlife pro-photographers in our group, like Jason of Wildlife Gadget Man and Ben from Ben Porter Wildlife were down on the ground, trying to get at the same level as Elwood the otter.
As the grass was wet and muddy I don’t think any of us wanted to go as far as actually lying down, but the Lumix GX80’s tilt screen meant that we could rest the camera on the ground and still be able to compose the picture on the screen. I noticed that Ben took some lovely shots with blurred grass framing the animals, which you can see in his article from the day here.
2. Get up close and personal
Phil showed us some close-ups of wildlife that he’d taken, and I tried to capture something similar with this photo of Florence the Tawny Owl holding me in her inscrutible gaze. In order to capture the close up shots, I needed to switch the standard 12-32 lens for a zoom lens like the 45-200, which I had the chance to try during the workshop. This photo was taken from a few metres away and then I cropped it further – the original is at the beginning of the article.
Here’s another photo of the Scottish wild cat taken by Phil which shows how getting close up with your lens or even cropping your shot can really add to the impact.
3. Capture the story
When you’re out photographing wildlife, the most memorable shots can be those that tell a story about the true nature of the animal you are photographing, or capture an illusive moment. Phil told us to observe the creatures we were photographing, to understand what they were likely to do next and use that knowledge to anticipate the best shot. For instance deer are naturally curious and will often come towards you if you stand patiently and wait.
With this in mind I used the 4K option on the Lumix GX80 to take a series of shots of Biscuit the fox as she swung around and then picked the one that I felt captured the moment. I was trying to capture an image of the fox as if out hunting, at that moment when she had just spotted a rabbit.
4. Take advantage of the natural light
When photographing wildlife outside, you can’t control the lighting as you would in a studio, so you need to be much more aware of the natural light. You need to keep the sun behind you so that it will be lighting up your subject in the photograph and keep an eye on any patches of light and shade that can be used to good effect. I liked that way the sunlight lit up the face of McAverty the Scottish Wild Cat and the blades of grass, while the log in front of him was in shadow.
5. Watch your background
While we were out photographing during the workshop, Phil reminded us to keep an eye on the background behind the animals we were photographing. Ideally you want a clean background without too much distraction so that you can focus on the animal itself. By just shifting your position slightly you may be able to move that pole or bench out of shot.
I was trying to do this when I photographed Dale the red squirrel but although I succeeded with a nice background of foliage, the rope kept popping into shot behind him. When I got home I was able to crop the photo to the image below, cutting out the rope and some of the metal pole to improve the image. Don’t be afraid of a bit of post-processing to improve your shot!
6. Use the camera settings to your advantage
Although I confess to not being a very ‘technical’ photographer and mainly shooting on auto, if you want to take your photography up a notch, it’s worth experimenting with the camera settings. Phil’s photo of the squirrel below shows how he has used the aperture mode to create a depth of field, blurring the background to make the subject stand out more clearly. It’s a useful technique for portrait photography generally which Hannah from Make do and push, who was at the workshop, uses to capture lovely shots of her children.
Discovering Lumix Unmissable Moments
If you want more inspiration on how other photographers are using the Panasonic Lumix G range, check out the Lumix Experience website where you’ll find galleries and video tutorials to show you how you can get the best from your Lumix camera. You can also follow the conversation on social media with the hashtag #UnmissableMoments.
Wildlife photography at the British Wildlife Centre
All the wildlife photographs were taken in a wildlife photography workshop at the British Wildlife Centre in Surrey, where you can see and photograph some of the wild animals that are native to the UK. The centre also runs regular photography workshops where you can improve your wildlife photography, with tips from the experts. The workshop I attended was specially arranged to enable our group to try out the Panasonic Lumix GX80 camera.
British Wildlife Centre, Eastbourne Road, Newchapel, Lingfield, Surrey, RH7 6LF, Tel: 01342 834 658
About the Panasonic Lumix GX80
You can read my review of the Panasonic Lumix GX80, which is ideal for travellers and photographer who want to get great pictures without having to carry a large, heavy camera around. I loved the smaller body and the ability to change the lens to suit the situation, for instance you really do need a zoom lens like the 45-200 if you’re photographing a lot of wildlife.
The body is sturdy, with a textured and slightly retro feel and has a comfortable finger grip at one end. The 4K feature enables you to take a series of photos and then choose the best one and there’s in-body stabilisation and fast auto-focus to enable you to capture those #unmissablemoments, whether it’s a squirrel in your garden or your kids having fun.
This camera would make a fabulous gift for anyone who’s a keen photographer but wants a camera that’s light and easy to use – or why not treat yourself? You can buy the Lumix GX80 on Amazon here.
Key information about the Panasonic Lumix GX80
- 16-million-pixel Four Thirds sensor, no optical low-pass filter
- ISO 200-25,600 (ISO 100-25,600 extended)
- Dual IS: 5-axis in-body stabilisation working with 2-axis in-lens
- 4K video recording and 4K Photo mode
- 76-million-dot equivalent EVF (16:9 aspect ratio)
- 04-million-dot 3-inch tilting touchscreen
- New low-vibration shutter: 60sec – 1/4000sec (1sec – 1/16000 sec electronic)
- £509 body only, £599 with 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
Thanks to Panasonic UK who invited me to the workshop and gave me a Panasonic Lumix GX80 for the purposes of this review.