It seems almost a prerequisite, that a Hotel with a name like “The Vineyard” would have an award winning wine list. But there is plenty more than vino to keep warrant a visit to The Vineyard Hotel in Newbury – including the vast collection of contemporary art, and excellent Spa.
With a buzzy atmosphere, even mid-week, the hotel has the bar set high with its reputation for fine wine and dining. Situated conveniently near the M4 motorway, one might not imagine the extravagance which greets you on entry. A gravel driveway and feature pond, surrounded by tables and chairs filled with afternoon visitors soaking up late afternoon sun are bound to make any guest feel at home.
As soon as you enter the beautifully peaceful surroundings, you can tell that modern art is something that the proprietor, Sir Peter Michael, is keen to share. With a compilation of Nadia Benois, Henri Martin, Doris and Anna Zinkeisen, Ronald Searle, William Pyre, Stephen Dunne and Katherine Palmers-Needham, artwork on every available wall space and throughout the grounds, it makes coming to the country a rather cultural affair, and expect images as eclectic as the wines on offer. If you are a fan of Boris Smirnoff, you will be in heaven! As I was reliably informed that the Sir Peter’s father purchased the entire studio collection after the artist’s death in 1976. It is worth a stroll around to soak up the portraits of the rich and famous and look further afield to see his collection of nudes.
Looking beyond the art, The Vineyard is also highly recommended for its spa facilities. I took advantage of a speedy ‘Shimmering Gold Taster Facial’ which was much appreciated as I was experiencing post-Budapest holiday blues. My skin feeling the back-to- the-grind tightness, and general lack lustre (the equivalent of a teenage strop!) However, the relaxing and invigorating facial plumped up my chops, and gave me some extra sparkle, just in time for dinner, and only took 30 minutes!!! Perfect for those who are facial impatient.
Dinner, well what can I say?! Go hungry, and be prepared to sample the wine cellar. Myself and my companion (equally awkward eaters) requested a non-meaty version of the Judgement of Paris tasting dinner, (which should have included foie gras, veal and truffle). However, our diva demands for veggie/pescie options were favourably received, and even complemented by a side order of chips. (Which helped soak up the vast amounts of vino!)
The notion of dinner is based on the actual ‘Judgement of Paris’, a wine competition which took place in 1976, where two judges had the arduous task of blind tasting French and Californian wines and choose their favourites, with much at stake.
The dinner consisted of small plates and two different wines with every course, with guests choosing their preferred wine, to mimic the actual Judgement. By the fifth course, this became slightly giggly, but thankfully there was a jolly atmosphere in the restaurant so nobody seemed to mind our guffaws! However, if you are looking for a romantic break, the restaurant also offers plenty of nooks and crannies for couples.
After a night of indulgence, I would advise a luxurious lie in, in the particularly comfortable beds; Breakfast is served until 10, and the cheese omelette is highly recommended.
With the rest of the morning committed to the Spa- its circular pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, were a welcome sight, and a great hangover cure. With a garden and loungers through the patio doors, this could have been anywhere, and a perfectly relaxing way to end the trip. Conversely, I was also informed that the on-site gym was open 24 hours, but I can’t say I managed to make it there. You can have too much of a good thing.
Whether you’re here on an amorous weekend break, celebrating an anniversary, or just getting together over a sumptuous dinner, or afternoon tea, you’re guaranteed to enjoy a very special experience at The Vineyard Hotel in Berkshire.
To book, check out the website www.the-vineyard.co.uk