The Vineyard | Stockcross (UK)

All the ingredients were there to deliver the ultimate al fresco dining experience.
This kitchen can do great things when unleashed to its full potential!

The Vineyard in Stockcross, Newbury, is a high-end 5* hotel and member of the prestigious Relais & Château and Pride of Britain. Hotel owner Sir Peter Michael (one of the founders of Classic FM) purchased the property, originally an 18th-century hunting lodge, in 1996 and relaunched it as ‘The Vineyard’ in March 1998. He is very well-known in the world of wine too as the winemaker behind Peter Michael Winery in northern California. It also explains the 30,000 bottle wine cellar at The Vineyard! His wines often beat their French counterparts in blind tastings, which is noted throughout the hotel with strong features around The Judgement Of Paris.

The restaurant of The Vineyard is quite renowned as well. It received a Michelin Star not long after it opened and in 2007 was awarded a second Michelin Star under Head Chef John Cambell (now owner of The Woodspeen * less than a mile away). Unfortunately the restaurant lost the two stars after John Cambell left in 2010.

Current Head Chef is Tom Scade, who joined The Vineyard in June 2019. Essex-born Tom studied at the Bournemouth and Poole College. He initially trained under John Williams at The Ritz *, before running his own business as Chef and General Manager at The Mariners in Rock, Cornwall (currently owned by Paul and Emma Ainsworth). Tom also worked as Head Chef for Martin Blunos at Lettonie ** in Bath (closed since 2001) and then opened The Crab and Boar in Chieveley as Head Chef. In 2016 Tom returned to The Ritz as Sous Chef, the year the hotel received its Michelin star.

To cope with the COVID-19 restrictions, The Vineyard moved the restaurant temporarily to a bohemian pavilion setup on the hotel’s lawn.

The Inside Out pavilion
the Inside Out pavilion

I loved how they decorated the interior of the pavilion. Really capturing that bohemian atmosphere very well. This is classy al fresco dining and it sets high expectations for the dinner to come.

The Inside Out experience is open until 30 September 2020. Bookable on Thursday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. The menu offers 3 Salads (at £7/£14), 3 Starters (at £11-£13), 4 Mains (at £15-£22), 2 From the grill (at £15-£33), 4 From the sea (at £9-£35), 5 Sides (at £5), 3 Desserts (at £9-£11) and a Cheeseboard at (£12).

We had dinner last week Friday. No Tasting Menu at the moment and a limited menu compared to what they would normally offer. But we had no issue selecting our three courses.

Bread & Butter

Sourdough bread with traditionally churned salted butter from Netherend Farm in Gloucestershire.

Berkshire Pork, Turnips, Apricot, Wild Garlic Capers
Berkshire Pork, Turnips, Apricot, Wild Garlic Capers (£11)

Like a deconstructed terrine. With beautiful ham hock from Berkshire pork and pickled turnip with mustard, dots of apricot puree and a fennel jelly. Great combination and a pretty picture. Love this dish, absolutely delicious!

Heirloom Tomatoes, Olive, Goats Curd and Tarragon (£12)

Tasty yellow and red tomatoes, with fresh goats curd, green olive and a nice aniseed flavour of the tarragon, bathing in intense tomato water. Delightfully delicate! On the side plate we had tomato tapenade on toast. Unfortunately the bottom piece of toast was more soggy than crispy and the top piece was chewy. The tapenade was a bit heavy in taste and didn’t really belong to the big plate. Portion also felt small compared to the other starter.

Whole Lemon Sole Meunière, Samphire and Peas (£24)

Classic sole meunière. Perfect cuisson of the lemon sole with brown butter. Loved the peas and samphire, complementing the fish nicely. The sole was on the small side of what I’m used too. But more important, the plates of the mains were not that hot, so the food cooled off quite quickly.

Hereford Beef Ribeye Steak, Mushroom Hollandaise, Watercress & Shallot Salad (£33)

I felt a bit underwhelmed when my main arrived. Fine quality ribeye, seasoned and cooked perfectly. The salad of watercress and crispy shallot was nice as well. But the plate looks unfinished. Would have liked a sauce with it or something. The chips that came with it were good. But it just felt overpriced to me.
I didn’t realize at the time, but when I looked at the menu while writing this review, I discovered that the steak should have come with mushroom hollandaise. A real shame that nobody noticed, because it could have made all the difference.

Californian Spiced Fries (£5)

We ordered a side of Californian spiced fries. Not knowing the ribeye would come with chips as well, as it wasn’t mentioned on the menu and the staff didn’t inform us either.
The taste of the fries was fine with a smoked paprika bbq seasoning. But not crispy enough and already a bit cooled off on arrival. Disappointing.

Passionfruit Cheesecake, Caramel and Mango (£10)

No base on this cheesecake, but a donut shape ring of the filling with sharp passionfruit coulis in the centre. Caramel snap on top adds the needed crunch, while holding a tasty mango sorbet surrounded by some dots of mango puree. A gorgeous dessert with a harmonious pairing of flavours and textures!

Lemon Tart and Raspberry Sorbet (£9)

Classic lemon tart, with a sweet and cookie-like crust. Filling was delicious with lemon curd flavour, tangy but not too sharp and an almost creamy mouthfeel. Great balance of flavours together with the thin layer of caramelised sugar on top. Nice raspberry sorbet, with a pleasant and natural taste. But when tasting together with the lemon tart, the sorbet completely disappears. Different sorbet would be better (Limoncello maybe?) to bring harmony on the plate.

The staff was rather impersonal. Not formal or anything, just not interacting with the guests, not explaining the dishes, just serving food. Quite rushed as well. Clearing plates like the Americans are used to and not enough time between courses. To illustrate – Just 1.5 hours after we arrived, our dessert plates had already be cleared.

Mix feelings about this dinner. Some excellent dishes, like the Berkshire Pork, Lemon Sole and Passionfruit Cheesecake, showcasing the capabilities and potential of this kitchen. Others needing a bit of attention. Same mixed feelings about the atmosphere. Beautiful surroundings in this stunning bohemian pavilion, but the staff not really contributing on the same level.

All the ingredients were there, but they just didn’t deliver, what could have been, the ultimate al fresco dining experience. Maybe the COVID-19 restrictions have played a part in this well. We need to return when everything is back to normal again, as I believe this kitchen can do great things when unleashed to its full potential.