Emsworth was originally a busy fishing village, specialising in oysters.
That was until The Dean of Winchester and two others died of food poisoning at a Mayoral Banquet in the early 1900’s. The industry collapsed overnight and it has become a quaint, sleepy coastal harbour served by excellent rail and road links to Portsmouth, Chichester, Brighton and London.
There is a vibrant sailing community with two sailing clubs and a marina. The village has two tidal mill ponds, a picturesque harbour, characterful local pubs, good local primary schooling, and several excellent restaurants. It is served by both a local Coop, Tesco Express, two newsagents, two butchers, a hardware store and a greengrocer selling fresh produce. Emsworth has a thriving community, is well sought-after with half a dozen estate agents offices and a Travel Agency.
The south part of the town is particularly pretty, with a variety of period cottages and houses, and there are some beautiful walks along the harbour side.
Interesting is always tucked around the corner, a little more difficult to find.
Vin Wine Merchants operate from a listed building dating back to the mid 1700’s offering a range of wines from all over the world which are racked using old fruit crates as shelving.
They run courses and tasting events which are held in a tasting room.
Woith a small wine bar in the upstairs lounge offering wine and fizz by the glass, local and international beers or a tasty G&T as well as sharing platters with crusty bread, olives and dipping oils .
During the warmer months there is courtyard garden to enjoy some al fresco drinking. Quiet and relaxed its the perfect place to unwind and escape for a bit.
I not really that familiar with Indian restaurants but I believe that Darbar is one of the better choices that one is going to find on this part of the the South Coast.
I am a lot more comfortable with Thai food. Indian curries are not as robust and are a lot less spicy. Despite this I have thoroughly enjoyed the couple of meals I have had at Darbar in Emsworth. Together with its sister restaurant Thyme & Chilli I have no doubt that they rank among the best Indian restaurants in and around West Sussex and Hampshire.
I was introduced to it after I stopped at Thyme & Chillies on the way to West Wittering in Chichester Harbour. Run by the same owners, I was assured by a particularly friendly and enthusiastic waitron, that they only prepare authentic Indian cuisine and I have no reason to doubt his word.
But it was the Indian rice pudding I found on the menu at Darbar that I go back for. Its something I used to order many years ago in a small Indian restaurant in Corlett Drive in Johannesburg. Not quite what I recall. But it still brought back fond memories.
I keep a bicycle at the Chichester station which I use to cycle to work at the factory.
A routine which gets complicated when one finds that the tire that should have been replaced months ago, has finally burst and is not going anywhere. Except onto the train and back to Emsworth Cycles.
Didn’t think twice about it.
The first time I used them was after buying a couple of bikes off the net, for a colleague at work. One of them needed new brake pads as well as a service so I took it in and left it with them.
But collected it the next day as my friend had decided he would service it himself. I apologised profusely for messing them around. But the lad I was dealing with, assured me it wasn’t a problem and undertook to keep our card in the queue. Saying he would phone me when it was next in line, just to check if there had been a change in plan.
This he did.
And whilst we didn’t need it at the time, it was a gesture, the sort of customer service which is rare to find.
Carriages Cupcake and Coffee Shop was my introduction to Emsworth.
It is different , very different.
Situated on the platform at the Emsworth station it is neat, organised and welcoming. They also do very good cup cakes.
But it was the book exchange which captured my interest.
That and a simple sign, inviting you to simply “take one”. No two for one, no fees, no obligation. Something that says all you need to know about a family run cafe which offers something special.
They offer a limited menu but have something for most and are open from around seven in the morning till lunch time.
“It started with the new waiting room when customers were asked what they wanted. It was a cafe. So a business plan was put together by the Emsworth Residents Association and Southern Rail.”
Everything has been recycled – from the shelves, which were a CD rack, to the suitcase trolley which now holds crisps and confectionery, to the counter – which Garry made from a door.
And the community pitched in, helping to start a small business in a village that has managed to retain it’s charm.
And if you are a visitor looking for information about Chichester Harbour or what to do in and around Emsworth this is a good place to start. Carriages serves as an unofficial Information Office and Visitor Centre for Emsworth and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy offering useful advice and tourist information about the area.
One is spoilt for walking trails around Emsworth and Chichester Harbour. The Emsworth to Langstone walk is about five miles on shoreline paths and inland past the Warblington Church. There are plenty of benches and places to stop giving one the time to stop and admire the view.
There is also the Mill Pond Walk in the village as well as a trail around Thorney Island which I completed after a few false starts and wrong turns.
One skirts around Island through two MOD control gates. Passing a church and sailing club. There is also a bird watching hide overlooking a hidden sandy beach.
But its a long hike.
Took me three to four hours and towards the end, I was definitely counting the steps I had left to finally reach The Deck at the Emsworth Yacht Harbour.
The cake which had something to do with apricot and pistachio, was a treat. This followed by fresh hake.
Its the first time I have have been presented with a minted pea salad which is a lot more interesting than the usual mushy peas that I find bland and unappetising.
A meal I thoroughly enjoyed on the outside deck overlooking the boats moored at the marina.