Full wine and dine ex­pe­ri­ence

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - LIFE & LEISURE -

MORE than 20 years ago two brothers and their re­spec­tive wives got to­gether to start up a restau­rant in Eton. Michael and Lin Gil­bey joined forces with Michael’s brother, Bill, and his wife, Caro­line to launch Gil­bey’s in the fash­ion­able river­side town and, a few years later, a sec­ond eatery in Old Amer­sham. Both restau­rants are still flour­ish­ing and an in­creas­ingly popular tip­ple re­quested by cus­tomers comes from the Pheas­ant’s Ridge vine­yard which is also owned and op­er­ated by Lin and Michael.

Adam Whit­lock, head chef at Gil­bey’s in Amer­sham, said: “The cou­ple live in Ham­ble­den and the vine­yard is re­ally just an ex­ten­sion of their fam­ily home. They took re­spon­si­bil­ity for it about 15 years ago.

“It is on the site of a pre­vi­ous vine­yard that was al­lowed to fall into dis­re­pair, but since the Gil­beys have owned it, it has been com­pletely re­stored and is now run on tra­di­tional lines.

“It has be­come a com­mu­nity project and each year the vil­lagers come out to help pick the grapes and gen­er­ally help to keep the place go­ing. It’s to­tally or­ganic and there is no au­to­ma­tion – the grapes are al­way picked by hand and then trans­ported to the win­ery at Stan­lake where our wine maker, Vince Gower, takes care of pro­duc­tion.”

The vine­yard oc­cu­pies ap­prox­i­mately 1.6 acres of south-west fac­ing chalk hill­side in Ham­ble­den where the Gil­beys grow two grape va­ri­eties to pro­duce two dis­tinct wine

Pheas­ants Ridge Bac­chus Dry is based on the Bac­chus grape – Eng­land’s an­swer to Sancerre – while Pheas­ants Ridge Brut (sparkling) is pro­duced from the Faber­rebe grape and is made us­ing the tra­di­tional Cham­pagne method.

After a small scale start, the vine­yard now pro­duces six tons of grapes each year – enough to turn out around 6,000 bot­tles – 3,000 of each va­ri­ety.

And judg­ing from the fact that the sparkling wine won first prize in the Thames and Chiltern Vine­yards’ As­so­ci­a­tion 2013 Wine Chal­lenge, it’s got all the hall­marks of a re­ally good wine.

But per­haps the most im­pres­sive part of the op­er­a­tion is that ev­ery penny earned from the sale of the Pheas­ants Ridge wines is do­nated to the Ham­ble­den Vil­lage Church Trust to help main­tain the 12th cen­tury place of wor­ship in the vil­lage.

The wines are avail­able in both Gil­beys restau­rants.

The Eton eatery tends to cater more for the tourists who flock to the area drawn by Wind­sor Cas­tle and the fa­mous pub­lic school.

But Adam Whit­lock be­lieves that the Amer­sham restau­rant has carved it­self a dif­fer­ent niche.

“You could prob­a­bly de­scribe the fare here as mod­ern Bri­tish neigh­bour­hood bistro,” he says. “We aim to of­fer good food, well pre­pared and pre­sented but at prices which are com­pet­i­tive.

“Hav­ing home-pro­duced wines that com­ple­ment the food is a real bonus.”

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Gil­bey’s, Amer­sham by phone at 01494 727242 or visit the web­site at www.gilbey­group.com/restau­rants.

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