The Vineyard at Stockcross
The Vineyard | Stockcross Newbury, West Berkshire RG20 8JU | 01635 528770
From having a quick peep at the Vineyard website to see what was in store for me, I had an idea of the luxury of the hotel. Upon arrival, however, it became clear that you have to actually be there to appreciate the immediate comfort and relaxing atmosphere that the staff bring to the place.
Once an 18th Century Hunting Lodge the Vineyard is now designed on the owners own Californian vineyard in the Napa Valley, with large external windows over looking the courtyard and huge shimmering water sculpture, just one of the pieces of art commissioned by the owner to symbolise a changing moment in his life.
The tiresome checking-in process, so often taken as standard in other hotels, is completely reformed by the open plan entrance, with the staff quietly milling around tending to the customers. They come to meet you, take your name, and lead you over to the bar for an aperitif whilst your bags are taken to your room.
There is a real feeling of indulgence and luxury in the décor of the bar and restaurant, with a grand piano to create a relaxed and elegant mood.
The waiting staff is comprised of passionate people, incredibly knowledgeable in their fields. We were presented with the hotel’s new menu, offering as few or as many dishes as one would like, but based around five, or seven courses, aimed at making their food more accessible, and breaking down the traditional three course structure. This enabled my partner and I to try 10 different dishes, which is wonderful when you find a menu difficult to choose from. A fantastic encyclopaedia of wine is available to accompany the food; some 25,000 bottles. If the pressure of choice is too much, simply ask the incredibly enthusiastic and passionate sommelier, Yohann, who incidentally managed to match aspects of our dishes with wine from a region in Italy we mentioned we’d visited the year before. Yohann was UK Sommelier of the Year 2011, and he informed us he is now aiming for the European title.
Whilst I would love to describe in detail all 10 dishes, the two that stood out the most for us were the garden pea tortellini with pea and mint sabayon starter, and the Cornish scallops, which were the best I’ve tasted. Although both used simple ingredients, the chef’s techniques were reminiscent of experience in distinguished kitchens.
By no means do I have a large appetite, but I finished the five courses, with accompanying wines with delight, mainly owing to the 3 hours we took savouring the experience, with the waiters being highly attentive, yet seemingly invisible when not required.
Following our deserts, which resembled art rather than food, we were led up to one of the hotels impressive and newly renovated grande suites. Beautifully furnished with a carved four poster bed, elegant lounge pieces and dressers, the rooms are simply designed for your comfort, with open fireplaces for added ambience and cosiness.
The bathrooms are well stocked with luxurious bathing products; the perfect accompaniment to the rainforest shower or lush roll top bath.
The lavish furnishings of the rooms make it very difficult to leave them, but come morning we left our sanctuary to visit the hotel’s spa and treatment rooms, which continued the theme of relaxation and elegance. I opted for a 25 minute facial, which included a 5 minute consultation, and ended with personalised advice on your daily skin routine, which refreshingly didn’t include the beauticians attempting to sell their own beauty products. The spa, again, was like a work of art styled on the original French wine-press, with service from the kitchen if desired, and enough luxury to keep you there all day.
We were then treated to a tour of the hotel by the General Manager, Hayden, who was kind enough to explain every aspect of the changes made to the venue, down to the reclaimed tiles on the floor, originally from a French chateaux. All guests are able to see a large portion of the wine cellar, set beneath toughened glass in the entrance hall, which frames a large commissioned painting depicting “The Judgement of Paris” a wine competition in 1976 in which Californian wine was deemed superior, much to the surprise of the French.
The Vineyard was an experience unable to be represented via a website. It’s impossible to take a photo that fully encompasses the atmosphere of the place, and how sad we were to leave it. I cannot find fault in this venue, and it deserves it’s full five stars.
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