The Yew Tree at Highclere
PUBLISHED: 12:08 11 April 2013 | UPDATED: 12:18 11 April 2013
A relaxed evening and good conversation in front of a roaring fire - what more could one want when the weather turns? Add a splendid feast followed by a restful night's sleep and you have the recipe for our visit to The Yew Tree at Highclere.
Arriving for dinner and an overnight stay in wintry weather, husband Steve and I were delighted by the warm welcome from staff, and the flames in the inglenook fireplace of this 17th century pub with rooms.
In recent months it’s been refurbished to a high standard and more work is planned to make The Yew Tree the perfect summer venue. ‘Olde world charm’ may be a hackneyed phrase, but it certainly applies here, right down to the beams and ‘Mind your head’ signs.
Before dining we headed up the winding staircase to our room, Willow. The rooms are all named after the woodland treats close by, including oak, chestnut and sycamore. This is a place to stay if you want the obvious signs of history like floors with the curves of age, but also the modern facilities and extras that make a difference. Willow provided all that, from the flatscreen TV and Wifi, to the luxury Branche d’Olive toiletries and Feather & Black bedding.
We hadn’t brought either of our dogs on this occasion, but those with canine members of the family will find this a good choice. There are two ground floor rooms suitable for dogs, a charge of £15 is made for their stay, and you can dine with your pet in the bar.
We ate in the restaurant and it has to be said that this was a real highlight, courtesy of chef Paul Brennan and his team. It took us quite a time to make our choices, and that’s not because the menu is very extensive. Our dilemma was choosing from a range that includes dishes that leave you thinking ‘But if I have this, I’ll have to miss out on that…”
Steve found this a hard task, right from the starters as he liked the sound of them all. As it turned out he was going to get a good taste of my picks as well. Ladies, this is a good place to have with you a husband happily slightly on the larger side, with an appetite to match. I say this because the portions that arrived were very generous, beating me, and meant that Steve would get a taste of my starter, and finish my mains!
Those starter choices included such varied options as game and chocolate pithivier with a lime and fig puree and creamed leeks. Or what about rock oysters with a shallot vinegar, or smoked trout fishcake with avocado, caviar and tomato?
In the end Steve chose what turned out to be an amazing lobster cocktail with cognac mayonnaise, tomato ketchup and pickled cucumber. My pick was one that has been lauded on review websites, slow roast pork belly with a crackling crumble and scrumpy and apple chutney. Brilliant flavour and texture, plus that tangy chutney is a stunner. Now you will see why I wondered about whether my mains selection, seafood pie, would leave room for dessert.
Chef Paul has a spent a lot of his working life in the West Country and fish is sourced from Brixham, Devon, so the seafood at The Yew Tree is very special (as we agreed when Steve finished off my mains!) He had already enjoyed melt in the mouth loin of venison with beetroot risotto and game jus.
The wine list is very extensive, by the bottle or glass, and there’s always a special recommended tipple by landlord James Gahan. When we visited it was Picpoul de Pinet, France 2011.
We shared a dessert – a warm chocolate fondant served with cherry ice cream, cooked to perfection and oozing chocolate in the centre.
One of things we really liked about the restaurant is that it could clearly contain more tables, but instead they are spaced out, so intimate conversation is possible and there’s none of that bashing in to the backs of other diners.
After a stop in the delightful bar, with its oak furniture and leather armchairs, we returned to our warm room. The next morning we somehow found space for a substantial breakfast, piping hot with lots of choices.
We definitely plan to return as the weather warms up, the seasonal menu changes and there’s a chance to eat outside in the beer garden. But you can enjoy it right now.
About The Yew Tree
Ethos: This pub with a reputation for fine dining close to Highclere Castle changed hands last year when Cirrus Inns purchased it. Previous owners include Marco Pierre White, whose 2008 television series, Marco’s Great British Feast, was filmed there. Cirrus have refurbished the premises in a ‘back to its roots’ style. That this is a pub, not just a restaurant, is very clear. Good ales and local choices include Two Cocks Ale from Enborne, and Flack Manor Brewery choices, from just over the border in Hants.
Rooms: perfect for a romantic weekend stay, visit to Newbury races or Highclere, from around £120 double, with breakfast.
Dining: Lunch or dinner from around £20-35 for two courses. Tremendous wine selection from £4 a glass up to triple figure treats for celebrations.
New: This is going to be a great year for lovers of Burgundy wine. Recently introduced, to try by the glass are 2005 Chambolle-Musigny, Domaine Conuron-Cotetidot, 2007 Gevrey-Chambertin, Domaine Bachelet and 2005 Savigny-les-Beaune, ‘Aux Vergelesses’, Domaine Simon Bize & Fils.
Find it: Hollington Cross, Andover Road, Highclere, near Newbury RG20 9SE.
Tel 01635 253360