Through the grapevine
We catch up with Robby Jenks, the executive chef at The Vineyard, and talk everything from Berkshire’s fantastic
local produce through to fiercely fought cook-offs
Beginning as a kitchen porter in his hometown in Devon, Robby Jenks has worked his way up through the restaurant industry. He has spent time in the kitchens of the prestigious twoMichelin-starred Gidleigh Park and Whatley Manor, and now he is making his mark on The Vineyard in Newbury. The menu is renowned for its showcasing of the county’s finest seasonal offerings, whilst the wine menu is longer than most books, which is surely a winning combination…
We last spoke in May when you were holding your ‘Back to the Vine’ series, which involved bringing together talented chefs who have all once worked at The Vineyard. How did it go?
It was really good to get the old chefs back and to hear their memories of The Vineyard. I think it brought the whole team together – we all really enjoyed it.
We’re now heading rapidly towards winter. What can guests expect to find on the menu this month?
We try and keep the menu as seasonal as possible, so this time of year we use a lot of game: for example, we’ve got a venison dish with some blackberries and parsnips. We’re also trying to work with some more unique produce, such as a dish which uses ex-dairy cow meat which will be served simply with onions and a roast cos lettuce. On Sundays we’re more traditional, so we do roast beef, roast pork, all the proper classics. It’s very homely food! We can also create bespoke dishes for any dietary requirements. For pudding, we do a lot of classics but then put our own spin on them. We’ve got one dish on the menu at the moment which is a rich blackcurrant soufflé with liquorice.
Do you make an effort to use lots of local produce?
We shop locally and seasonally as much as we can. We use
Vicars for our meat who are very local, and we go out and pick our blackberries ourselves. I always look to what’s in season for inspiration when it comes to our menu – quite often my dishes will start off with me calling the supplier and asking what they’ve got in, and working around that.
What’s your favourite dish, or is that too hard a question? They’re all so different for different reasons. We have some dishes that we’ve had on the menu for a long time but that we’ve evolved lots, and I always have a special place for them because they just keep getting better. We have a cod with cauliflower dish which we’ve done since the beginning, which would probably be my favourite if I had to pick!
As the name suggests, wine seems to be a big part of your restaurant…
Yes wine is really what the owners ‘do’. They started off with a winery in California and they wanted a hotel to showcase it all. We have over 100 wines to enjoy by the glass and 30,000 bottles in the cellar! We focus on the wines and then develop the food dishes around them.
BELOW: The inside of the restaurant