Review: The Tasting Room, The Vineyard Hotel, Berkshire

By Margaret Hussey

8 months ago

Food for thought


The Tasting Room at The Vineyard Hotel in Berkshire has all the right ingredients for an evening of discovery and fun, says Margaret Hussey.

Review: The Tasting Room, The Vineyard Hotel, Berkshire

Sitting down for our gourmet meal at The Tasting Room, we thought the room had been freshly painted as there was a waft of white spirit. The smell was not, we discovered, a decorating remnant but the start of a night to open our senses.

The spirit comes on a board with peppercorns and apple marigold oil, which we are encouraged to sniff. ‘It’s all playful with our sensory board,’ says Romaine Bourger, director of wine and beverage. ‘When you smell the white spirit along with the others, it does affect how you taste the wine.’

The board kicked off an incredible multi-course journey through smell, taste, sight and sound the latter mainly being the noise of a cork popping at The Tasting Room, the newest offering from The Vineyard, the five-star luxury hotel and spa in Stockcross, Berkshire.

With olfactory senses opened, our first wine camr served in a black glass, hiding its colour. A sniff and a sip and we all managed to guess at least partially correctly a dry white. But that’s as far as my knowledge went. This one, it turns out, was a Riesling.

In an unusual departure from most tasting menus, here it is driven by the wine. Unsurprising, really, given the heritage of The Vineyard, which has a substantial collection of 30,000 bottles thanks to owner Sir Peter Michael. He owns a vineyard in California’s Sonoma County and the hotel showcases his enthusiasm for all things vinous.

For executive chef Tom Scade, who trained at The Ritz, London, it is a welcome departure, allowing him even more scope to be inventive.

Courses like crapaudine beetroot, a heritage vegetable, are accompanied by a glass of Pinot Noir Rosé from Simpson’s estate. Then there’s Cornish turbot with champagne and bergamot, paired with a Rockburn Pinot Gris.

Tom says: ‘I can be influenced by the wines. Usually it’s the other way around. It’s a nice dynamic to work with.’

Sustainability is big on the menu too. ‘We work with lots of small suppliers and use as much local produce as we can,” says Tom. ‘The fish is all British, we get it on the day from Cornwall. All the meat is from a 15 to 20 mile radius.’

They also use Good Earth growers and have plans for their own kitchen garden next year. And for vegetarians, the tasting menus have been especially adapted to mirror the meat and fish dishes.

‘There’s nothing worse than fobbing off,’ says Tom. ‘A lot of people go for the plant-based menu anyway. It is a popular choice.’

I can vouch for that. Instead of the Cornish turbot, I had pumpkin with hazelnut, apple and bergamot, theatrically grated on top. And instead of the third course of venison, the salt baked turnip with quince and onion was so delicate and bursting with flavour.

Midway, the playfulness continued when we were presented with two reds one French and one Californian and had to guess which was which. This was to reflect the Judgment of Paris in 1976 when, to everyone’s surprise, New World wine beat the Old World in a competition with some of the best tasters in France. Sipping both, and guessing correctly again, we could taste the youth of the Buccella from the Napa Valley against the more robust Château Lassègue from Bordeaux.

Puddings were a delight of hedgerow blackberries and Dulcey blonde Chocolate, whimsically shaped like a cork, obviously, and all finished off with a glass of Ca’Rugate’s Soave.

With just 28 places and three nights’ availability each week, booking is essential. This intimacy adds to the event. The Tasting Room, although packed with original art from Sir Peter’s collection including Degas’ L’Enfant Bleu, feels welcoming and unstuffy. Guests are encouraged to ask questions and you can feel how much the staff like the interaction.

The Vineyard is just 40 minutes from London and easily accessible from the surrounding counties of Hampshire, Wiltshire, Surrey and Buckinghamshire, making it a fabulous gourmet destination in the Shires. And with the menus and wine changing seasonally, there’s all the more reason to visit again..

The Tasting Room starts from £95pp for 5 courses, with paired wines for an additional £75pp. Open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Room rates at The Vineyard start from £295 for a luxury double room, including breakfast.

For more information, visit the-vineyard.co.uk