Tucked away in the south east corner of Hampshire on the shore of Chichester Harbour, Emsworth is an attractive, vibrant town.
Tucked up in the sheltered left armpit of Chichester Harbour, it is hard to believe that sleepy Emsworth was once home to James Duncan Foster, who built the 110ft Echo, the largest sailing fishing vessel ever built in England. You can see her model in Emsworth Museum.
Emsworth has two sailing clubs and one marina. You can bring your boat alongside the quay outside the wonderful red brick mill (tide and keel permitting) that is home to Emsworth Slipper Sailing Club. Or there is a visitors’ pontoon with access to the quay along the coastal path.
With winter approaching the quay was bustling with boats dismasting ready to come into the yard. Warm sunshine and sparkling water, it is an idyllic scene though perhaps quieter now than in the past – with prized boat builders, oyster catchers and ancient mariners.
The Slipper Sailing Club has a great bar upstairs and far reaching views out to sea, over the intriguingly named Slipper Pond, where model yachts race. The club does not do food, so I move on.
There is a friendly bunch enjoying breakfast outside Flintstones, next door to the renowned restaurant 36 on the Quay. Then Fat Olives is a couple of doors up on the right and has an equally good reputation for fine dining.
A noticeboard outside the flower decked Blue Bell Inn offers a ‘husband’s crèche’ for busy shoppers, and then I see Woosters, all retro styling, offering good wine and live music on top of decent food.
It seems that Fat Olives is becoming the favourite for the special night out from the food point of view, but the locals are enjoying Woosters’ wines and the live music. The hands down winner for best pub is the Blue Bell.
I head to Emsworth Deli for my first coffee, beans roast in Arundel by Edgecombes, and chat to Ben Laycock about his produce and customers. He gets his bread from fourth generation Westbourne Bakers, but I am told that Heidi’s Patisserie on the High Street also have fresh bread and pastries delivered from their bakery in Havant daily.
Emsworth is a pretty town with everything you need to hand: a good butcher, veggie shop, baker, hardware and wine shop, and a terrific choice of places to eat. It is still too early for lunch so I check out the wine shop VIN, and notice that the cafe a friend recommended called Driftwood, is full to bursting.
VIN is a neat shop, filled with bottles and offering some interesting wine courses, teaming up with Fat Olives for lunch. The shop is new and cheerfully run by Jonathan Rogers, who has 25 years experience in the wine trade.
If I walk past Dolphin Quay and follow the path along the waterfont I get to Emsworth Yacht Harbour with around 250 berth holders and the bustling Deck Cafe upstairs run by 21-year-old Ed Collison. The specials are going down a storm as is the burger and home made cakes. With plans for an open kitchen and winter evenings I am sure the berth holders are delighted with this new opening.
The Blue Bell. Just up from the quay and with a fine line in blackboard humour. The pub is pretty full by 12 and there is a nice mix of people reading the papers over a coffee, ordering their first pint and reading the specials.
I notice they were listed in the Sunday Times best fish & chips honours and that they have an interesting looking beer on the pumps called Mainsail. I was told that it was a relatively new beer made just up the road by Emsworth Brewhouse.
They are proud of Grant and his award winning craft ale nano-brewery, sustainably brewing Mainsail, Flotilla and Woodhouse bottled beers, with a run of 100 bottles each brew, then delivering locally via zero emission electric vehicles. Grant is currently working on a hefty seven per cent US IPA style beer called Skipa for Christmas.
Chef Tom Babb is a gifted cook and the specials include haddock Mornay and a chicken and leek pie, made properly in a tin with pastry top and bottom. The infamous fish & chips are up on the board, as is treacle tart – heaven.
Driftwood. Now back to Emsworth for lunch, and what a tough choice. If you are on your own then Driftwood is a great spot, with Union Coffee (you can buy the beans here), lovely crisp bottomed quiches and a dangerous display of cakes. The quiche of the day is red pepper, bacon and brie, with proper short pastry, followed by lemon meringue pie.
Big night out
A happy foursome head into Fat Olives, just over the road, and explain that they love coming here once a month. They actually live in Petersfield, around fourteen miles away, and so have many good choices locally. Fair praise indeed.
The Solent Way ends at Emsworth, so head back over to Langstone for a decent six mile circular walk along the coast, enjoying the twitching of seabirds one way and the graveyard at Warblington the other. Mill ponds, ducks and pubs, you could be in Suffolk. With a choice of pubs for lunch, The Ship seems popular.
www.conservancy.co.uk – for all mooring/ visiting queries
Penny’s Blog: hopshikesandbites.blogspot.co.uk