Woodies Wine Bar & Brasserie, Chichester

Woodies Wine Bar and Bistro in Chichester
Woodies Wine Bar and Bistro in Chichester
Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Situated along Restaurant Row, aka St Pancras, Woodies is the oldest wine bar in Chichester and the only one in the city today.

But it’s better known as a restaurant owned and run by the Beaton brothers – head chef Shane and Matt, who is front of house. They make a formidable team and have fought off competition thanks to their skills and expertise.

Shane spent three years at Claridges Hotel in London, then went around the world picking up culinary treats to transfer into new menus on his return. Matt also travelled and Sydney was his culinary home for several years.

As owners of Woodies for six years, Shane and Matt’s ethos is keep it simple, keep it consistent and keep it friendly. But do they succeed?

Simplicity is certainly found on the menu, snippets of the Orient and the Med seeping into many of the dishes under the umbrella of New European.

There’s a chilli mango avocado chicken salad; Moroccan lamb shank terrine with spiced aubergine relish; tuna fishcakes with ginger and spring onion and smoked eel salad with pancetta crisps and garlic croûtes for starters, alongside crispy filo king prawns with roast peppers and basil mayo, most dishes around the £6 mark.

Mains are equally fancy-free but done with imagination. There’s braised Funtington pork with celeriac and a lentil and bacon cream; plaice paired with sticky lemon rice and curried scallop broth and tuna fishcakes flavoured with spring onion and ginger.

There’s a chargrilled rib eye steak, the most expensive main at £17.50. Some are £10.

A lunch menu offers mainly tried-and-tested alongside inventive dishes including a club sandwich, Cumberland sausages with parsnip purée and onion gravy and a crayfish bisque.

Pictures of iconic movie stars hang on the walls of the modern brasserie, which is divided into a darker, narrow space and a light conservatory. The wine bar adjoins.

My chicken salad was nothing short of luscious, a vibrant mix of Oriental and Modern British, portions on the generous side.

For my main I chose the calves’ liver with crushed potatoes and a wine sauce. Shane has a light touch with liver, the excellent, pink offal aided and abetted by a good, gutsy sauce, potatoes mingling with the juices. A shiraz cabernet from a medium-priced wine list was perfectly acceptable.

Puds include an apple strudel with spiced apple ice cream and a banana and rum brûlèe.

Matt runs the front of house with remarkable ease, his team brisk and efficient, the only drawback the music which could merit a dial turn to the left. But this is food with a personal touch and know-how from the heart. My bill came to £25 not including service.

Woodies Wine Bar & Brasserie

10-13 St Pancras, Chichester PO19 7SJ

Tel : 01243 779895

Open: Mon-Sat noon-2pm, Mon-Thurs 5.45pm–10.30pm (Fri-Sat 11pm)

Food: Four stars (out of five)

Service: Four stars

Atmosphere: Four stars

Disabled access: Good

How to get there: Take the A27 to Chichester, exit at the Witterings roundabout, pass the station and continue along the main road which becomes Market Avenue and then St Pancras. Woodies is on the left (look for a distinctive green awning). Parking is behind in New Park Road.