Through the grapevine

Berkshire Life - - Pub Review - WORDS: El­lie Fells

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.

Robby Jenks

BELOW: The in­side of the restau­rant

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