The Newbury – Tasting Menu Evening

I was invited by The Newbury to join them for a special VIP event to promote their new A La Carte Menu.  Having eaten at The Newbury many times before and enjoyed their food very much, I couldn’t possibly refuse.

Little did I know on accepting the invitation that I was in for a huge treat – a nine course tasting menu awaited me, together with a different accompanying wine with each dish.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Newbury, it’s a ‘gastropub’ situated in the heart of Newbury, just a short walk away from the main high street.  The pub has a very warm and friendly feeling about it, with a bar situated to the left as you enter with a seating area, together with a huge comfortable sofa and woodburner and a spacious dining area to the right.  There’s another bar upstairs, together with a covered roof terrace.  There really is something for everyone.

After a welcoming drink at the bar and time to mingle with other foodies who had been invited, it was time to take our seats in the restaurant and let the ‘show’ begin…

The menu consisted of 9 courses – three starters, three main courses and three desserts – each course sounded delicious on paper.

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The sommelier, Ross from Hallgarten, Druitt & Novum Wines described each wine he had selected for each course to us and although I’m not normally a white wine drinker (it’s always red for me), I was amazed how much I enjoyed the wines selected and how incredibly well they accompanied the course they had been selected for.  I’m pleased to say that there were a couple of red wines too which were equally enjoyable!

Starters

Wild Mushroom Veloute, Garlic Chantilly and Toasted Sourdough

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This was delicious, the Veloute was very silky and smooth, the garlic Chantilly wasn’t overpowering and the sourdough was thinly sliced and lovely and crisp.   I thought the sourdough itself didn’t have a very strong flavour, but that’s my personal view and my only criticism of the dish, my husband loved it all.

Wine – Dona Paula Sauvage Blanc (Argentina) – aromas of orange blossom, with a hint of grapefruit and a touch of mint.

Scallops, Chorizo, Butterbean and Courgette, Basil Foam

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The dish was served in a scallop shell and looked extremely delicate and pretty.  I was slightly disappointed in this dish, perhaps I expected too much (this is the course I would have chosen out of the three on reading the menu), but it lacked something.  I’m not sure what, but I would have preferred my scallop slightly caramelised.  Also, the juices from the scallop soaked through to the bottom of the shell which I feel would have been better if it had been served in a different vessel.  You couldn’t really enjoy the juices.  The basil foam was delicious and perhaps a little more may have benefited the overall dish.

Wine – Zibibbo ‘Kore’ Columbia Bianca (Sicily) with aromas of white peach, citrus, orange blossom and delicate jasmine.  A white wine I could easily drink whilst sat outside enjoying the summer sunshine!

Chicken Liver Parfait, Redcurrant Gel 

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I’ll be honest, I’m not a great fan of parfait but I managed to eat around half of the portion, together with the toasted sourdough, but I found the overall flavour very strong.  My husband on the other hand loves dishes like this and happily ate all his, together with the remainder of my portion.  He thought it was delicious and it was his favourite of all three starters.

Wine – Rabl Gruner Veltliner (Austria)– spicy grapefruit with tropical fruit notes.

Main Courses

Cod, Black Garlic Mash, Crispy Kale, Salsify & Curried Mussels

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On initially reading through the menu, this would have been the course I would have chosen and I wasn’t disappointed.  I couldn’t fault this dish at all it was a definite 10/10 from me.  The curried mussels were so sweet and the curry sauce just the right strength.  The cod was cooked to perfection and the black garlic mash was to die for.  I didn’t want it to finish, it was an outstanding plate of food.  My favourite.  My husband, however, found the kale quite bitter, but perhaps his was slightly over cooked, otherwise he enjoyed it.

Wine – Olifantsberg, Blanc (South Africa) – aromas of white peach, ripe apricot, citrus and delicate floral notes.

Duck Breast, Cherry Puree, Spinach, Rosti Potato, Wild Mushrooms

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I’m not a great fan of duck and would probably avoid it if it was on a menu. However, I ate the whole plate, it was delicious.  The duck was again cooked to perfection and so tender.  The cherry puree, wild mushrooms and spinach were divine, but the rosti potato I thought slightly thin and just a little greasy but again that’s probably because I have never made a rosti that thin before!  The three small cherries on the plate certainly had a kick to them, I wasn’t expecting them to have been soaked in alcohol!!

Wine – Primitivo Salento ‘Il Pumo’ (Italy) – Plum, cherry and spice with a hint of rosemary and vanilla – a most enjoyable wine, could easily have drunk more …

Rump of Lamb, Basil Mash, Ratatouille

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If you’ve never tried Basil Mash before, you need to as soon as possible.  I could happily have eaten a huge bowl of the mash on its own!!  The lamb was tender and sweet and had so much flavour.  The whole dish was a joy to eat – especially the basil mash.   This was my husband’s favourite dish of the three main courses.

Wine – Bullant Cabernet Merlot (Australia) – Bouquet of blackberries with a touch of mocha.

Desserts

Ginger and Chocolate Cheesecake

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My only worry about this dish was that the ginger would be too over-powering.   The cheesecake was served in a small Kilner jar which although looks very cute, I never think these sorts of jars are practical to eat out of.  You have to eat most of the ‘topping’ before you can get to the biscuit base.  This dish was very disappointing, very bland.  The only taste of ginger was from the small sliver of stem ginger on the top and the white chocolate was small chunks of chocolate mixed into the cheesecake.  Such a shame as this could have been a real winner.  My husband agreed and said he only actually had one small chunk of white chocolate in his dessert.

Banoffee Mille Feuille

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Banoffee to me screams out bananas, toffee and cream and although this dish looked pretty, it too failed to impress me with regard to flavour.   I also thought a Mille Feuille should be made up from three layers of pastry, rather than two as in this case.  The pastry wasn’t as crisp as I’d have liked and the small decorative topping tasted rather strange, almost as though it had been deep-fried.  I also only had one slice of banana – I would have expected at least four!  My husband enjoyed this dessert more than I did, but he too thought it should have had three layers of pastry.  Perhaps I’m a little too picky as baking is my passion.

Warm Chocolate Tart, Vanilla Pod Ice Cream

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I had high hopes from this dessert after the other two and I’m pleased to say that I wasn’t disappointed.  The chocolate was a lovely dark chocolate, served at just the right temperature, with a smooth,creamy vanilla ice cream.  This would have been my choice of dessert from the menu.

Dessert Wines – Castelnau de Suduiraut, Sauternes (France) – almond, spice, honey and candied notes, and Berton Reserve Botrytis Semillon (South-East Australia) – honeyed flavours of peach and apricot.

If there was one thing missing from this menu it was a ‘cheese course’.  My husband will always choose the cheese course for his dessert if it is on offer and perhaps this could be added as an extra if The Newbury decide to serve this menu on a regular basis.

All in all, the taster menu was an absolute delight and with a few tweaks would be near to perfection. I personally feel it would benefit from the portions being slightly smaller as it was rather a lot to eat (although I did manage) and perhaps the dessert plated as a trio of desserts with each ‘dessert’ being a couple of bites each rather than three separate dishes, as there was a slight overload of sugar at the end.

Having eaten ‘taster menus’ at other restaurants, some having Michelin Stars, I can honestly say that The Newbury is on par with these restaurants if not above some that I’ve eaten at.  I would highly recommend to anybody who hasn’t been to The Newbury to give it a go, whether it’s just for a quick drink, a bar snack or a meal in the restaurant.  You will not be disappointed.  The staff are all polite and very courteous and certainly make you feel very welcome.

Thank you to Pete,  Head Chef Darren and all their staff for a most enjoyable evening.

I’ll be visiting again very soon …

All opinions expressed on the evening are my own and my husband’s.  The food and wine were provided and paid for by The Newbury.

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