Review: Proudfoot & Co, Winchester



I was always going to be drawn in by Proudfoot & Co, a “refreshment room” offering distinctly abnormal cafe beverages down a tiny sidestreet in Winchester. And I was not disappointed. I’m not sure there is anything else remotely like it in the country right now. I hope there will be.

First off, if you aren’t familiar with Winchester then you deserve a day-trip there. Or a weekend break, if you’re not based in the south. There’s a wonderful tangle of historical lanes and backways around its majestic cathedral, a growing selection of independent shops, cafes and restaurants worth your time, and ten minutes stroll along the River Itchen finds you in the bucolic Hampshire countryside. Bit muddy in December, but can’t have everything.

What they are doing at Proudfoot is dipping deep, deep down into the well of local foraged ingredients, British recipe history and experimental techniques of ferment and more. And they have very deliberately stayed non-alcoholic.

Native Roots "Coffee"

Native Roots “Coffee”

The very location speaks to the level of dedication. It would have been far more obvious to open a venture like this in London. But the Itchen valley and the chalk hills around Winchester are an absolute cornucopia for foraged rarities, compared with Hampstead Heath. So here they are.

The “Native Roots Coffee” includes all manner of native roots and spices, including sweet cicely, wood avens and burdock to namedrop a few oddities. It’s served through a Vietnamese drip onto a dollop of condensed milk and the result is nothing short of magnificent. The flavours are powerful, warm, earthy and woody. I’m in raptures. This is better than the best Indian masala chai.

The “Woodsman” is based on some truly magical five year barrel-aged maple syrup that is infused in the barrel with some of the same native roots. You stir it up with chicory milk and some elegant cold brew to make as fine a non-alcoholic cocktail as you’ll find.

These drinks’ll set you back £6 or so each, but this is not Starbucks nor even your local independent coffee shop. Immense care and effort has gone into using foraged ingredients and alchemical techniques to produce drinks that are utterly original and utterly delicious.

Hope they do well.

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