TOUR de France fever has hit Winchester as cyclists from all over Hampshire slip into their Lycra to visit a cycling cafe.

Cyclists are flocking to the South Downs Social in Kings Walk, where owner Neil Wyatt is showing the Tour de France on the big screen.

And he has introduced a new platter to mark the special occasion.

The cosy cycling cafe first opened in December 2021 and has since undergone renovations.

There are cycling caps and jerseys hung from the ceilings, while Neil's own artwork is displayed on the walls.

Hampshire Chronicle: Tour de France platter at South Downs Social

Neil said: "We wanted to create a really interesting space with a relaxing atmosphere that anyone can come in and enjoy.

"Growing up, I used to watch football in the pub with my mates. It would be a Sunday afternoon and we'd be having a pint with our mates. I wanted something similar, but for cycling. I wanted to offer a place where people could come in and watch cycling in more of a social way, rather than in their living room."

Since opening eight months ago, the cafe has hosted event with guest speakers such as local chef and cyclist Alan Murchison and MV Fit owner, Phil Gough.

He said: "The best days have been when people have come to watch the tour and attend talks and then you realise they're all chatting about the racing. It's what we wanted, a space for like-minded people to have a chat, as well as others to come and see how great the coffee and atmosphere is."

Hampshire Chronicle: South Downs Social cafe

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During the Tour de France, Neil has created a platter keeping up with the French theme, serving a board of grapes, pate, cheese, olives, pickles and saucisson.

Hampshire Chronicle: Tour de France platter at South Downs Social

Neil said: "With the platter, I had a vision that our menu will change with the rhythm of the cycling season. We have done a French platter this season, starting with a meat and vegetarian option. August will also be a Spanish themed platter. We wanted to create something that was great value, tasty and perhaps a little different to something you'd get in Winchester, and that's the reason for the platter."

Since the removal of a wall outside, which used to attract anti-social behaviour, businesses within Kings Walk have collaborated to make Kings Walk more appealing for shoppers.

Neil said: "It was quite challenging when we first opened, but we've done a lot of work with the police and council since we first opened. We have really invested in making that area look as attractive as possible, with planting, bunting and lights. As tenants, we're all working hard together to improve this part of town."

Review by reporter Harvey Lindsay:

As my first time entering the South Downs Social, I had absolutely no idea what to expect, except, you know, bike stuff. However, upon my arrival, I could clearly see this was a social hub suited to the needs of those looking for a quiet cup of coffee in a cosy location, but on the contrary, the perfect spot for cycling enthusiasts.

I was greeted by two friendly baristas who allowed me to choose a seat, while taking my order. Moments later, a smooth hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream was brought to my table while South Downs Social manager, Neil Wyatt ordered two meat platters.

While waiting for the platter to arrive, I scoped the room, taking note of the bright lighting and colourful cycling caps and jerseys that hang from the ceiling. Neil's artwork hangs on the walls.

He said: "We wanted to create cycling art that non-cyclists wouldn't object to having on the walls of their house.

"Our thing is to make sure everything is really good quality and to tell a story that resonates with cyclists, which also resonates with the South Downs Social."

The platter arrived shortly after ordering it, which came as a board of toasted sourdough, pâté, grapes, cheese, olives, pickles and saucisson.

Neil began to talk me through the idea of the platter while I eagerly spread the pâté onto the warm sourdough, which allowed it to spread like butter.

Hampshire Chronicle: South Downs Social cafe, Winchester

It was hard to choose what to go for next and like a kid eating a pick n mix, I delved into the cheese and was not disappointed. It was light, smooth and creamy. Then the grapes, the saucisson then back onto the pâté.

Combined, the flavours worked very well together and was the right amount to not get too full.

South Downs Social also offers a vegetarian platter and to keep with the cycling theme, will be offering a Spanish platter from August.

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