I was intending to review a pub near Bishop’s Waltham. But the untidy, un-cared-for place, with no food on offer despite a website offering the moon, had me fleeing for the town centre in search of a suitable alternative.
I put the brakes on when spying Josie’s on the High Street, a smart double-fronted café. But it is much more than a café - there’s wine, a deli, hot and cold food plus a homemade takeaway shop. The eye-catching deep blue frontage is punctuated by outside smart chairs and tables. More Vancouver than Paris, it shouts quality and attention to detail.
A long grey-painted serving bar is Josie’s focal point. Several young, cool girls who know their stuff are in charge of the proper Monmouth coffee machine, making must-haves including an impressive latte.
There are cakes in all their glory. Six of the luscious beauties, including four home-made ones, are on view. The eye is also caught by rolls with crayfish and rocket or roast beef and horseradish; baguettes which look far better than any of their rivals on other high streets; croissants with ham and cheese; cinnamon doughnuts; giant biscuits; muffins; mascarpone and blackcurrant choux buns.
Or come here for breakfasts or light lunches which may include a broccoli soup; croque monsieur or madame (with an egg); scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and eggs benedict with an Hollandaise sauce. All pricing is in the medium range, around £6 for a main course, cakes for £2.50.
But first, a scan of the rest of Josie’s. Turns out this was a wine shop, the new owner Kevin Latouf (is it the talented South African-born cricketer?) taking over the premises four months ago.
He has cleverly left the wine racks surrounding the light, snazzy space. None of this copious range is to be found in supermarkets, much like the food on offer.
Oddly, tantalisingly, you can buy the wine to take away but not by the glass – no licence yet – and the deli choices are minimal, only olive oil and tea on offer. But these early days have demonstrated quality kitchen preparation, an excellent eggs benedict my choice.
They don’t skimp on the size. Two chargrilled sour dough bread rounds supported great swathes of ham, perfectly-poached eggs and some very good Hollandaise, excellent value for £6.50. A bottle of Welsh sparkling water added another £1.60 to the bill, ice in the glass without asking getting my vote too.
A slice of orange cake (£2.50) was bought to take away, another feather in Josie’s cap.
Josie’s is following the trend for opening tea and coffee shops over full-blown restaurants. In my book, it has jumped to the top of the pile thanks to its staff’s engaging energy and smartness, quality food and drink. They have caught the mood of 2011 perfectly, an affordable treat in delightful, inclusive surroundings
Josie’s, 6 High Street, Bishop’s Waltham SO32 1AA
Tel: 07837 512291.
Open: from 8am–8pm daily, Sundays 8am–4pm
Food: Five (out of five)
Service: Five (out of five)
Atmosphere: Five (out of five)
Disabled access: Fine
How to get there: Follow the signs to the A32 off the M27 towards Wickham, then to Bishop’s Waltham. The High Street is off the main roundabout. Josie’s is on the left along the street. On-street parking or nearby car park