The Judgement of Paris dinner at The Vineyard is reason enough to visit Newbury
PUBLISHED: 12:00 29 November 2015
Take a trip to Newbury and you’ll find plenty of hidden attractions in the town and the surrounding west Berkshire countryside.
At Highclere Castle, famously known for being the set of Downton Abbey, visitors can explore the fortress, view the Egyptian exhibition and stroll through the grounds depicted in the ITV programme.
Donnington Castle is a beautiful, dilapidated ruin where history lovers can visit the 14th century twin-towered gatehouse where Henry VIII and Elizabeth I both stayed in the 1500s.
And in the town centre the nineteenth century Watermill Theatre has been entertaining audiences with its productions since the 1960s.
But everyone knows a weekend of sightseeing is made truly special by staying in a grand hotel.
Add to that a fine restaurant with a set menu to die for and you’ve got yourself a luxurious treat.
The Vineyard is the answer to anyone searching for a special weekend in the area. It does what it says on the tin in boasting one of the most celebrated wine cellars in the country. This hotel is all about wine and specialises in Californian bottles. It has 30 thousand finest vintages to its name at last count.
If you’re splurging then the Judgement of Paris dinner is the thing to splurge on.
The idea comes from the staged blind tasting competition of French and Californian wines in 1976.
In a small room in a Paris hotel Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, encouraged a number of French wine experts to take part in the assessment and he found they favoured unknown Californian wines over well-respected French wines during a blind testing.
The Vineyard’s Judgement dinner pairs two wines with each of its seven courses – one Californian and one French. A couple of blind tastings are thrown in too, served in black glasses to really test your knowledge.
The dinner kicks off with a deliciously creamy fois gras and a sweet onion veloute and is followed by a coarse rabbit and parsley terrine.
To offset this rich fare a delicate cod with coco beans is up next followed by a fresh halibut with rocket oil.
A juicy duck dish with beetroot, peach and ginger is the pièce de résistance and is as mouth-wateringly exquisite as what preceded it.
A raspberry milkshake presented beautifully in an ice cube cup starts off the desserts and the meal ends with a bang by way of a fromage blanc sorbet with chocolate and salted caramel.
There’s no doubt about the care and precision of this cuisine, each course put together carefully to showcase the wine.
And just like the original wine competitors of 1976 I also preferred the Californian wine over the French on nearly every occasion. And, similarly, I rarely had a clue which was which.
Seven courses down and God knows how many glasses of wine later, my guest and I stumble up to our suite and sink into the king-size bed. In keeping with the theme each room is named after a wine.
We struggle to make room for breakfast the next morning but find, once again, the hotel doesn’t miss a beat. The morning spread includes everything you could wish for (before noon).
Mornings can easily turn into lazy days in the spa here. We sail between the sauna, steam room and plunge pool. The relaxing rooms are the perfect remedy after an evening sampling the wine cellar’s finest.
The Vineyard’s spa treatments take luxury to a new level. I was indulged from start to finish during my deluxe pedicure: a warm neck pillow and eye mask add a lavish touch and I’m able to take home a goody bag of foot freebies.
So, despite being slightly off the typical tourist trail there’s scores of reasons to visit west Berkshire. And while there, the Judgement of Paris dinner at the Vineyard Hotel is definitely not to be missed. But don’t take my word for it, go and judge for yourself.
The Judgement of Paris dinner is available daily with the seven course menu priced at £184pp, including twelve tasting wines
£247.00 B&B per room per night
01635 897 589 (the-vineyard.co.uk).
First Great Western runs a service between London Paddington and Newbury three times an hour. An open return costs roughly £34.