IT’S fast becoming the home of the celebrity chef and the south’s culinary capital.

Winchester has lured one of the country’s top ‘real food’ campaigners to the city.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has signed a lease to take over the historic council-owned Abbey Mill, off Colebrook Street.

His River Cottage Canteen & Deli is now set to open in about a year’s time.

The city council has confirmed it has agreed lease terms on Abbey Mill in Winchester’s Abbey Gardens with River Cottage Canteen & Deli.

Like the two other River Cottage restaurants, in Axminster and Plymouth, it will also offer cookery courses.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall has written numerous best-selling books championing locally-produced food, presented several TV shows on Channel 4 as well as campaigned on issues such as fishing and factory farming.

The city council owns the listed building and has been looking for a new tenant since moving its own engineering department a few years ago.

Rob Love, managing director of River Cottage, said: “Our first priority is to create a dialogue with residents and the local community to share our ambitions and intentions, and we look forward to meeting with them soon.”

Letters have been sent to people living in the Colebrook Street area.

The news will add another famous name to restaurants in the city. Raymond Blanc and Jamie Oliver both have restaurants in Winchester.

TV celebrity chef James Martin, who was head chef at Hotel du Vin when it opened in 1994, later owned a deli in Winchester which closed earlier this year after a massive rent rise.

River Cottage says its new venture would add vibrancy to the city, and offer employment and training, and opportunities for local food producers.