Note: the following comments were written in August 2014. Since then the Bell has changed hands yet again. The ‘new landlady’ referred to below is not the one who is now running the pub.
The Bell Inn, on the southern edge of the city of Winchester, is that increasingly rare thing – a genuine local with wide appeal and a pleasant atmosphere. I first got to know the Bell over thirty years ago, and it was one of the nicest pubs in Winchester. With lovely Marston’s Bitter and a super set of regulars, it was my home from home for a decade. But then Alan Riggs, who made the pub what it was, decided to move on, at just the time when Marston’s were losing the plot and chucking out decent tenants in a bid to prove that an unmotivated manager can ruin any pub. So I took my custom elsewhere. I’ve been in from time to time over the ensuing twenty years, but what I’ve found has not encouraged me to make a habit of it – until now [August 2014]. A new landlady [not the one who took over in late 2015] has been turning the pub around, and its star is in the ascendant again.
In addition to beers from Greene King, the Bell also sells ales from local micro-brewery Red Cat. Very nice they are too.
There’s a wide choice of food, from sandwiches and snacks to starters, main courses and desserts. The Bell also has the unusual benefit, for a city pub, of a good-sized car park and a garden.
Behind the pub is the St Cross ‘hospital’, the oldest charitable institution in Britain. With its magnificent Norman chapel, it is well worth a visit. A short private road connects the pub and the hospital, so it’s easy to combine a visit to both.