You’ll know from my recent reviews how important I believe weekend breaks to be when you’re living in London and battling against the rat race every day. I used to think a weekend break wasn’t a trip away unless it was abroad (I’ve been to Amsterdam about four or five times). However, recently I’ve come to see just how marvellous the UK actually is. The quintessential English weekend away has quickly become my preferred way to relax. So on a particularly sunny weekend, Daniel and I packed up our things and headed just under two hours away from London to foodie heaven, aka The Vineyard. “We love wine. We eat, sleep and drink it” is their tagline so obviously partial to a glass of wine, I knew this was going to be divine.
Rooms at The Vineyard (five AA Red Stars) failed to disappoint. From the quality of the bedding right through to the toiletries (all REN), even the robes and slippers that were supplied for the spa. It’s one of those luxury hotels where you can walk around in robes and no one cares, (yay!). Everything is tasteful and elegant.
After a quick catch up on the news while sat on the our terrace, we popped down to the spa for a massage (25 mins, price £55 each) and a dip in the jacuzzi. The massages here are on another level and superior to many that I’ve paid for in London. Staff are attentive without being annoying and the aim is for you to completely relax. To end the stay, I also had an opulent 25 min Darphin facial (prices from £45) which completely hydrated and nourished my terrible, dried out complexion. Hey, if it’s good enough for Parisians…
Peppered around the hotel are some incredible art, owned by the owner of the hotel. My favourite included the epic ‘Judgement of Paris’ painting (first image above, more on that later). The hotel is home to works by artists such as Henri Martin, Ronald Searle, Boris Smirnoff and Doris Zinkeisen. If the grand art isn’t enough to keep you interested, there are also connotations reminding you that this hotel is focused around the Award-winning wine list. There are in fact over 30,000 bottles of wine in their impressive cellars. They’ve also won the 2015 European Hotel Wine list of the Year so naturally I couldn’t wait to get started on tasting some of the beautiful French and Californian wines. The Chardonnay on arrival had already got our taste buds revved.
After a relaxing day at the spa, we headed down for the evening meal. The Vineyard is renowned for its stunning five star dining with its 3 AA Rosette restaurant. We had been booked in for the magnificent Judgement of Paris eight course meal with pairing wines (price £184 per person). Let me tell you, it was undoubtably one of the best gastronomic experiences of my life. Each course was sumptuously tasty with twelve superb tasting wines to go with the meal.
Each time a course was served, the Sommelier brought two glasses each with little labels turned upside down. Our challenge was to guess which was French and which was Californian. This was to represent the ‘Judgement of Paris’ itself. In short, in 1976 inside a small Parisian room a blind tasting session was held with some of the leading French wine aficionados of the day. After a debate between them it was concluded that Californian wines were chosen over France’s very best. This was much to the embarrassment of the French and those who had suggested that Californian wine was better. Needless to say, it was also a debate for Dan and I and an unparalleled experience.
Led by Head Chef Robby Jenks, their menus are inspired by the freshest seasonal ingredients and the simplest of combinations. There’s no denying that the lamb is the best course. Hello, take it from a Welsh person – this is the way all lamb should be cooked. Forever. And ever.
We began the exquisite experience with an amuse bouche of cheddar and passion fruit in a pastry case. First course was a tartar of Longhorn beef with sorrel granita, lime and pickled shallots. Next up, we had the Loch Duart salmon (a kaleidoscope of colour, above). The was followed by some Hot Label Rouge foie gras, Devonshire cod with cauliflower, curry and coconut and then the lamb. In addition, dessert was delicious and of course we had to have the cheese to finish. Red wine and cheese equals me being told to stop making such noises! Find the other menus here. Interestingly, one of the courses were served with wine in a black glass – so you didn’t know if it was red, white or rose. You’ll have to test yourself on that one so I won’t give it away.
At The Vineyard, there’s a lot of care and attention that goes in to ensuring the stay is the best. The Sommeliers had such an impressive amount of knowledge and we did come away more knowledgeable as to how soil and climate etc can affect different types of wine.
All in all, I cannot wait to visit again. The experience is a must for any wine fan or foodie, or those just looking for a romantic escape with a loved one or a girly weekend away.
Here’s what else you need to know:
There are 32 suites and 17 bedrooms all named after iconic wines from around the world at The Vineyard
Award-winning “5 Bubbles” spa
Privately owned by the Michael family since 1996, who also own the highly regarded Peter Michael Winery in California
Impressive private art collection including the Judgement of Paris
Exclusivity is a speciality.