I’ve been visiting The Beech Cafe for over five years. I know this because I have photos of their cakes dating back to then 😉 The cafe serves vegetarian/vegan dishes and cakes. They use mostly local suppliers where they can, such as Hill Farm Juice who do a large selection of (mainly) apple juices and Winchester Coffee Roasters. Their bread is hand baked daily using locally produced organic flour as are their vegan cakes.
The Beech Cafe is at the Sustainability Centre (opposite what was HMS Mercury) and is on the South Downs Way. They have a natural burial ground on site (which is where I’m going to be buried, in a wicker basket 🙂 ) a hostel and much more – see last paragraph. There are lots of walks around there, not just the SDW, there’s a nice one over to East Meon which we’ve done several times.
To be honest, the cafe isn’t the prettiest inside – nor the outside of the building it’s housed in for that matter – , although it’s a lot better than it was. Gone are the gloomy post apocalyptic type pictures on the walls (thank God) but the food is very good and that’s what it’s all about I guess. I believe they have permission to rebuild the whole place in the next few years, not knocking it down, which I originally thought they were going to do but ‘transform’ it – they’re currently taking donations.
It’s a popular place for both cyclists and walkers. I love to cycle all along that top ridge which takes you to Old Winchester Hill and down into West Meon.
It’s a beautiful part of the country. On one side of Old Winchester Hill you have the Meon valley, with black sheep in the fields on one side and people flying model aircraft on the other, with views across to Portsdown Hill and the familiar destroyer radar thingy on top. A little further along on the right, past the sheep, looking over towards East Meon and beyond you can sometimes see hot air balloons from here and in a field close to the road lots of paragliders flying around with buzzards circling overhead. Further still a right turn takes you down the hill to the fly-fishing at Meon Springs, whilst the left turn will take you down to either Chidden or towards Soberton and Droxford. The last turn on the right takes you into West Meon (a narrow gravely road, not great for a car, I’d suggest you take the left fork which takes you towards Warnford and got to West Meon from there). If you need any other directions I suggest you inbox me hehe.
Anyway, back to the Beech Cafe. As well as their regular menu which has sandwiches, panini’s, wraps and salads they also have a specials board which has a soup/quiche/curry/burger of the day.
In the past, 9 times out of 10 I would always go for just a flapjack and a coffee. I was even given the recipe for the flapjacks once but they never turned out quite as well as theirs. I’m sure they omitted to tell me the secret ingredient 😉
Once we visited by car for a walk and decided to have lunch at the cafe. It was so good that ever since then we’ve returned several times, even by bike and had a meal. Well, it is mainly all down hill for the next few miles home. On another occasion, last year in fact, we cycled there for elevenses, cycled a big loop around for a couple of hours and returned again for lunch.
I think my favourite ‘go-to’ dish is the quiche, which is always very light and tasty and is served with a lovely fresh and colourful salad with a slightly sweet dressing and some home-made potato salad.
The curry was very nice too, very flavoursome. No photo unfortunately.
Personally I found the burger to be a little dry, so too the potato wedges.
I never used to like their cakes much – this was a few years back mind – either they’ve got better or my taste buds have changed, which is another reason why I always used to order just the flapjack but recently I tried a slice of their vegan chocolate cake and it was absolutely amazing! It was light, moist and fresh with a superb chocolate creamy topping and shavings of vegan chocolate.
There is an outside seating area amongst the flowers, birds, bees, and trees which is nice. The Sustainability Centre hold courses such as Kitchen Gardening, Spoon Carving, Wooden Stool Making courses and much more. In fact, I’ve just been browsing their website (it’s worth a look, see link in second paragraph) and they have so much there, a shop – which I’ve never known about nor seen – beekeeping, camping in your own tent, hire a yurt or stay in the Eco Lodge.
The cafe is not open on Mondays nor a few weeks after Christmas and into January.
Return? Yes, we do fairly regularly.
Living life, loving cake.