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O'Neills's Review ~ 2011
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O'Neill's Steak Pie
O'Neill's Pub & Grill
90 – 91 High St, Winchester. UK

A Winchester Restaurants Dining Guide Review

O'Neill's is an Irish Pub & Grill situated at the top of Winchester High Street, approximately 5 minutes walk from the train station. The venue has fast become very highly praised for the quality of it's food and unbelievably decent prices/offers.

Arrival. We visited late 2011 on a dark winter's evening – a ubiquitously quiet Monday, arriving around 6.30 pm to a warm greeting, friendly smiles and the soft Irish lilt of Ursula, the Manageress. The entrance to this beautiful building leads into a vast space and what strikes you as you step inside is an immense, immaculately presented bar set against décor that exudes a sense of warmth and invitation.

Inside. The interior stretches across several levels, each with plenty of space, lots of dark wooden furniture and good lighting – resulting in a very cosy feel. Interesting memorabilia covers the walls but, save for a discreet Guinness Toucan picture, the Irish influences are subtle.

Décor. O'Neill's has a tasteful and realistic old fashioned feel reminiscent of an 'olde worlde' pub – yet with a modern twist. There is also a heated, well–protected courtyard at the back of the building and covered tables/seating just to the right of the entrance.

Drinks. Ireland has a famous stock of drinks – other than Guinness – including Irish Whiskey (spelt differently from Scottish Whisky), Irish coffee, Irish cream and brown lemonade! Feeling a little un–adventurous we decided on a pint of Smithwicks and a lager then departed the bar to choose our table. There are several large, well–furnished and nicely laid out dining areas across the venue, in the end we plumped for the cosy lower area at a discreet table by the front windows.

Choice. It wasn't long before the waitress arrived to take our order. There are several menus from which to choose with the main menu offering an extensive selection of tasty, traditional favourites (pies, Guinness battered fish & chips, stews, etc), and some new dishes we hadn't heard of before. I must confess that after a long, cold winter's day work we weren't thinking 'could murder a lasagne' – oh no, we wanted pie and mash! However, we decided to leave our starters and mains dish choices to Chef (with fingers crossed for pie!).

Starters. We were very quickly delivered our first course – Mushroom Melt and Spicy Prawns, each presented in a bowl on a charming wooden platter.

Mushroom Melt – a combination of chunky pieces of mushroom in a thick, creamy Cashel blue cheese sauce smothered over slices of toasted Ciabatta. If you're not a fan of strong tasting cheese, don't worry, this was not overpowering but had enough character to leave you in no doubt that it was there. Purists might tell you it shouldn't work, but who cares – it was delicious!

Spicy Prawns. These were juicy, mildly spiced, crispy and not in the least bit oily – spot on! The chilli dip was sweet, not too fiery, and complemented the spice infused prawns well.

Main Course. While we waited in anticipation for the next course to arrive a friend, John, popped over to say hello and rave about some of the other food available – special dispatches were mentioned for the deluxe burger; by all accounts it is very tasty, very big and very filling! After a short while our mains arrived and we were pleased with Chef's choices of Steak and Guinness Pie and the Lamb Shank.

Steak & Guinness Pie – served with Colcannon, peas and a little gravy boat. Now there are pies and then there are pies; this pie was exceptional for many reasons; the size for one (it was on the large side). It comprised a filling of chunky steak, mushrooms and onion in a thick gravy encased in a substantial, yet light, crusty pastry – supremely good!

We were told the pies are made especially for O'Neill's – ours must have been designed jointly by a thermo–physicist and structural engineer as it was filled to the rafters and not a hint of gristle or air! Sticking our forks in we met pieces of succulent steak again and again and every mouthful stayed piping hot until the very last.

Vegetables. The peas were nicely cooked and a good side dish for the pie. The Colcannon, which comprises mashed potato, kale/cabbage and butter, was a tasty and very pleasant change to the usual.

Lamb Shank. The generous cut of Lamb looked meaty and moist. It was presented coated in a minted gravy alongside Roasted Root Vegetables and Mash. The Lamb Shank cut is lean, tough and essentially Lamb's shin, the bit below the knee bone. It requires long, slow, moist cooking to make it succulent and we were delighted to see the meat fall away from the bone at only the merest of touches. The Lamb was indeed luxuriously tender and tasted superb!

Vegetables. The Roasted Vegetables were deliciously sweet and the mash was exactly as it should be; light, fluffy and perfect with the thick, beefy onion gravy – a real treat.

To Finish. There really wasn't much room left in our tummies for dessert but after much deliberation we decided to share a Barmbrack Bread & Butter Pudding with Custard. A large slice soon arrived and looked the business – easily worth it's £2.99 price tag. Each mouthful was moist, filled with juicy sultanas, flavoured with cinnamon spice and complemented by the custard which was thick, creamy and smooth – altogether a pretty honest, hearty pud.

Verdict. Every dish was beautifully prepared, nice and hot, extremely delicious and offered at a price that won't break the bank! The waiting team were great throughout: attentive but not overly so, knowledgeable, friendly and with smiles all round. Each of the staff members we met said they enjoyed working there – and boy does it show!

We truly relished what has to be one of the best pub meals we have ever had and agreed that O'Neill's is a 'craicing' place to eat – the whole experience was terrific. We have visited a number of times since as it's a great retreat for an afternoon's shopping break (or lively evening out) but will definitely return for more of their delicious food though – and soon!

O'Neill's Pub & Grill. 90–91 High Street, Winchester. Hampshire.
Tel: (01962) 844001

For menus, special offers, events diary, photos & contact details:
Click to visit the O'Neill's Website

Special thanks for a super dining experience are warmly sent to
everyone at O'Neill's – together with our compliments to the Chef!

Review by
Paula & Richard

O'Neill's entrance

O'Neill's Entrance

Mushroom Melt

Mushroom Melt

Spicy Prawns

Spicy Prawns

Lamb Shank

Lamb Shank

Bread & Butter Pudding

Bread & Butter Pudding