The wonderful thing about writing the ALadyofLeisure.com blog is that I’ve discovered so many new places which I would never in a million years have come across otherwise, and Ynyshir – which now bills itself as a restaurant with rooms – is a perfect example. Not only is it in a remote (to me) corner of West Wales, the nearest towns being Machynlleth to the north and Aberystwyth to the south, but thanks to spending teenage years hiking around Snowdonia I tend to associate the Welsh countryside with Youth Hostels and food cooked on a camping stove.
Nothing could be further from Ynyshir, former AA Hotel of the Year Wales, named in the Good Food Guide 2017-18 as one of the best restaurants in the UK, recently awarded an unprecedented five AA rosettes and with a Michelin star to its name thanks to chef Gareth Ward.
However it wasn’t the food that stays in my memory as much as the wonderful setting and the fabulous welcome I received. Some hotels can pay lip service to the idea of customer service and treating guests well but you can’t fake genuine warmth, and Joan Reen, who owned Ynyshir Hall with her husband Rob since 1989 before her sad passing last year, was a lovely and welcoming presence.
Halfway through our meal at The Vineyard, Newbury, I was beginning to wonder if I knew as much about wine as I thought I did. Not only could I not guess what grape variety I was drinking or what country it came from, I couldn’t even work out what colour it was, this particular wine being served in a black glass which made the wine inside completely invisible. Was it rosé…? Or maybe it was red? No, it was definitely rosé.
The answer was white. This was worrying. If my judgement was all over the place now, what on earth would it be like after I’d tried all 14 wines scheduled for the evening? Thankfully by the end of the meal I was so replete and content that I my success or otherwise in identifying the wines no longer seemed important – the evening had been so interesting and memorable that my lack of wine knowledge could be safely overlooked.
The Vineyard is a hotel serious about its wine – it hosts wine-tastings and wine courses and has 30,000 bottles in its cellars. Its ‘Judgement of Paris’ wine-tasting aims to replicate the notorious (for wine buffs) event in 1974 when Californian wines went up against French wines in a blind tasting.