I am one happy blogger. Very kindly the wonderful chef Daniel Galmiche agreed to be interviewed for my radio programme, Leila’s Local Larder on Kennet Radio (on the internet). What I am discovering is that the very good chefs, those who have a special talent and quality, are ,without exception, incredibly passionate about their food and their diners. Daniel talked about wanting to be a chef from at least the age of 5, he was brought up in the next village to Raymond Blanc and they both have accents that could melt chocolate in an iceberg. Listening to Daniel was a joy, his enthusiasm (and to be honest his accent) for cooking wonderful food and pleasing his diners made the interview very easy. In fact I could have just turned on the tape recorder and left the room and I am not sure he would have noticed, he was so caught up in the changes he was making and what the present and future held for The Vineyard and food in general. He is a true believer in local food and seasonality, I suspect if you turned up with a deer slung over your shoulders be it red, roe or fallow it could get you a lunch as a barter.
I got engaged at the Vineyard and then held my wedding there so I am utterly biased but I am in fact correct, The Vineyard is a stunning setting, particularly for a big event like a wedding but it is also a special treat destination. You can eat here more economically if you want to and it isn’t stuffily formal but you want to make an occasion of it because of the elegance of the hotel. Since my last visit a glass lobby has been built which allows you to walk over the wine cellar looking at some of the 30,000 bottles they hold. They don’t have a wine list as you know it, they have wine novels with seven sommeliers to help you to make your choice.
Daniel has introduced a brilliant small dish menu where you can create your own tasting menu from a choice of about 20 dishes, some sweet, and a choice of over 100 wines by the glass. I love this concept, my very own personalised tasting menu, in fact there was no way I was going to leave without trying anything so parked myself to try three, pictures below. Each plate was a work of art, speaking of which, Sir Peter Michael who owns The Vineyard and the Donnington is a keen art fan and there are some wonderful pieces around the hotel. In the new bar and dining room there is a brilliant huge picture and if you look to the left you can see Sir Peter Michael in it. I would love to know who the person on the far right is as he looks very much like someone who works for Sir Peter.
The other menus which look like fun include a Challenge Menu which is seven courses, each course comes with two wines, one American and one French (Sir Peters winery in California is very successful and may have something to do with this). I would suggest booking a room if you take this menu
VeloutÃƒÂ© of winter leeks, cannelloni of leeks and tomme brÃƒÂ»lÃƒÂ©e
After a choice of several interesting home made breads ( I went for the rosemary and potato bread which had a great flavour though possibly was a bit crusty for me but that is my personal choice) I had the winter leek veloute. It was a vivid fresh green, seasoned perfectly with a touch of onion coming through. In the centre was a single home made little cannelloni filled with leeks and tomme brulee (ewe cheese from the Basque region with a hint of smokiness) garnished with spring onions.
Hand dived Orkney scallops, broccoli, Iberico ham and parmesan
These were hand dived Orkney scallops cooked to perfection, a decent crust on the scallops and just the right side of translucent on the inside, so tender and again, well seasoned and tasty. The dark green pool in the middle is broccoli puree with lemon and thyme oil and surrounding the puree are two rolls of Iberico ham topped with parmesan shavings. The salty ham and parmesan worked perfectly with the sweetness of the scallops, the broccoli puree was the dish’s eye candy on the arm of the sweet meaty scallops.
Wild mushroom risotto (recipe is in Daniel Galmiches excellent book ‘The French Brasserie Cookbook’
This wild mushroom risotto was divine. There were a selection of different mushrooms with contrasting textures like treasure to be dived for, the risotto was creamy and rich with a hint of parmesan, there was a rich cep aftertaste and if it hadn’t been a bit awkward I would actually have licked the plate clean. However even I have some standards but it was a very close thing. This was a dish to dive head first into, in fact when I die I want it to be as a result of total immersing in the most delicious pool of risotto on this earth.
The three plates were beautiful, a visual treat as well as a tasty treat. The surroundings are grand without being pretentious, the staff are friendly and attentive without being obsequious. I will be back as I need to work my way through that tasting menu!
Thank you Daniel and everyone else who made this such a lovely visit.