Chef Daniel Galmiche took over the reins at the Vineyard at Stockcross last autumn, and is already making his mark. Janet Harmer went to visit.
Nearly four months after taking over the reins of the kitchen at the Vineyard at Stockcross as executive head chef, Daniel Galmiche believes he has made a good career move.
"I am very pleased to be here and am glad to be making my mark on this beautiful restaurant and hotel," says the former Michelin-starred chef, who has been head chef at Harvey's in Bristol; L'Ortolan and Cliveden in Berkshire, and most recently the Forbury hotel in Reading.
Galmiche says he is disappointed that the Vineyard at Stockcross lost its two Michelin stars with the recent publication of the 2010 guide - they were removed after previous head chef John Campbell left the hotel last year - but knows that he and the restaurant will be judged afresh on future inspections.
Guide inspectors and customers alike can choose from a selection of menus that offer a totally different choice of dishes at lunch and dinner.
"It is quite unusual not to repeat some dishes between services, but I wanted to ensure that anyone staying for both lunch and dinner would be offered completely different menus," Galmiche explains.
The à la carte at lunch offers a choice of five dishes at each course, at £24 for three courses, while the five-course tasting menu costs £44. At dinner, the à la carte is £60 for two courses and £70 for three courses, with the two seven-course tasting menus - meat and fish or vegetarian - costing £97 each.
"The tasting menu goes fantastically well at the weekend," Galmiche says. "Out of 80 diners last Saturday, 64 chose the tasting menu. Of those, around 10% took the vegetarian option."
Diners who are up for eating any ingredients will enjoy a succession of wonderful tastes and flavours on the tasting menus. A typical selection of dishes includes velouté of pumpkin with Saint Maure goat's cheese espuma; pressed terrine of duck liver foie gras with pistachio and apple jelly; pan-roasted diver-caught Scottish scallops, caramelised endive, autumn salad; steamed fillet of John Dory, honey and chilli glaze, Jerusalem artichoke; roasted fillet of Balmoral estate venison, salsifies, butternut squash purée; fromage blanc, Granny Smith, Calvados sorbet; and passion fruit, banana and white chocolate or seasonal farmhouse cheese platter.
"The mix of pumpkin and goat's cheese in the velouté may sound unusual, but I use a mild cheese and it is a successful combination, which I top with a pumpkin crisp," Galmiche explains, adding that it goes down well with customers.
Another hit is the fillet of venison, which also appears on the à la carte menu.
"We use venison from the Balmoral estate, which has a less gamey flavour than the venison that is shot locally," Galmiche adds.
"As a result it tends to be enjoyed by a much wider audience, both men and women. It is our biggest seller on the à la carte menu, with up to half of our diners ordering it."
Marinated in olive oil, garlic and thyme for two weeks before being slowly cooked in a water bath and then roasted, the venison is served beautifully rare and tender. The accompanying venison jus is enriched with a touch of 66% dark chocolate and the subtle flavour of blanched cloves, while beetroot purée, celeriac purée and some salsify (half cooked in milk and half cooked in red wine and port) make up the garnishes.
Desserts, prepared by pastry chef Alex Edwards, who previously worked with Galmiche at Cliveden, include the classic combination of chocolate and caramel (see recipe on page 12) and the less familiar pairing of blackcurrant and liquorice.
"It's amazing, but the blackcurrant soufflé with liquorice ice-cream is probably our best-selling dessert," says Galmiche.
"I've been told by a very respected restaurant inspector that it is a surprising, but incredible combination."
Also selling well is the seasonal farmhouse cheese platter, which currently includes Shropshire blue, a truffled Vacherin, a 36-month-old Comté and a goat's cheese from the Pyrenees. Served on individual wooden boards, the accompaniments include quince jelly, fig cake and raisin and hazelnut bread.
The Vineyard at Stockcross, Newbury, Berkshire RG20 8JU
Tel: 01635 528770
WHAT'S ON THE MENU
- Pan-roasted diver-caught Scottish scallops, caramelised endive, autumn salad
- Pressed terrine of duck liver foie gras with pistachio, apple jelly and toasted brioche
- Carpaccio of milk-fed veal with basil, grapefruit dressing and veal sweetbread
- Steamed fillet of John Dory, honey and chilli glaze, Jerusalem artichoke
- Pan-fried fillet of sea bass, mushroom macaroni gratin, jus tranche
- Slow-cooked breast of Poulet Noir, warm confit leg terrine and Swiss chard
- Lemon tart with basil sorbet, lemon zest confit, basil oil
- Fromage blanc, Granny Smith, Calvados sorbet
- Bitter chocolate box, salted caramel ice-cream
Two courses: £60.00
Three courses: £70.00