What's it like? The main building of the hotel was a 19th century hunting lodge that became a country house hotel in the 1980s before being transformed into the The Vineyard in 1998. As we arrived, a wedding was taking place so the reception was buzzing. Despite this, our bag was taken from us as we approached the hotel and check-in was very swift. The Atrium wing is the most recent addition to the property and the walk to the room seemed longer than the building had appeared from the outside. Once in the room, we were offered tea and coffee and asked whether we would like someone to unpack our luggage.
They call the hotel "the restaurant with luxury suites attached" so if you're looking for a country house hotel with grounds to roam this is not for you. On the other hand, if you are happy to relax in the spa or your room and venture out to see what is on offer in the area whilst enjoying the superb food and wine then this is perfect. Owner Sir Peter Michael is a great supporter of the arts so the Vineyard has a large number of paintings and sculpture both inside and out.
Where is it? Near Newbury in Berkshire, just off the A34, a few miles from the M4, and 45 minutes from Heathrow.
How many rooms? 49 rooms and suites, designed by Emily Todhunter and all individually named after wine labels. Most rooms are traditional. There are deluxe suites and luxury doubles as well as two grand suites, luxury suites with separate lounges and atrium suites that have a more contemporary feel and are split level with a sitting area.
Room facilities: All have plasma screen TVs and DVDs (there is a library at reception), broadband internet access ($5.78/£3 an hour or $29/£15 for 24 hours), safes, minibars with free soft drinks, trouser presses, air conditioning and 24-hour room service. Bathrooms have Molton Brown toiletries including specially formulated bath oils to either invigorate or relax. My atrium suite had a separate cascade shower which was great for waking up in the morning. The seating area had a sofa, chair and coffee table facing the TV as well as a desk with all the sockets helpfully placed at desk height should you wish to connect to the internet or use a power socket.
Meeting rooms: There are five meeting rooms of varying styles and sizes. The smallest can take eight boardroom style or 30 for conference. The Sonama, St Helena and Atrium Suites are the business style rooms, ideal for meetings and all with good natural daylight. They are bright, modern and airy and come complete with a fridge with soft drinks. Lots of spaces have wifi connectivity.
The two larger and more traditional rooms on the ground floor are the music and morning rooms and can be used on their own or joined. The morning room can take 30 boardroom, 100 theatre style and 64 for dinner. The music room is slightly smaller, taking 20 boardroom, 60 theatre and 40 for dinner. Together they can take up to 140 for a dinner. The California Bar is adjacent to the music room and can be used for pre-dinner drinks or as a breakout.
Business centre: No, but the front desk is willing to help with most requirements. Wifi is available in all meeting rooms and public lounges at $5.78/£3 an hour.
Restaurant and bar: The restaurant and bar, which has one Michelin star and four AA rosettes, is well known for the quality of the food and an extensive wine list of over 2,000 wines of which 800 are Californian. The Californian list is extensive, due to sister company The Vineyard Cellars, which is one of the leading American wine distributors in the UK. With space for only 60 guests it can get very busy and booking is advisable. The restaurant is open from 0700-1000 for breakfast, 1200-1400 for lunch and 1900-2200 for dinner.
Breakfast is a superb feast with a range of fruit, yoghurts, cereals and pastries and a range of a la carte items. My English breakfast was delicious and presented like a work of art. Dinner costs £50 for two courses and £60 for three. Choosing your seat is important. The alcove and area just inside the restaurant is best — in some spots you can find yourself facing a wall for the entire meal. Food can also be ordered in the conservatory by the reception area. Here drinks, snacks and afternoon tea are available.
Activities: The Vineyard has a spa with indoor pool, spa bath, steam room, sauna and gymnasium. It has four treatment rooms but can get very busy at weekends. Whilst there are no other activities on site there is plenty to do. There are four golf courses nearby including the group's own Donnington Valley just two miles away. Other activities could include shooting on Sir Peter's Eddington estate, fishing on the River Kennet (where the hotel owns a rod), horseracing at Newbury and visits to local attractions such as Highclere Castle. Of course if it's the wine you fancy, the hotel can lay on a tasting. The cost of this is very reasonable at between $19.28/£10-$77/£40 a head, depending on the size of the tasting and the cost of the wines.
Other considerations: If your meeting needs are more extensive, rooms are also available at the Donnington Valley Golf Club and the four-star sister property, the Donnington Valley Hotel. The golf club can also make all the arrangements for corporate events and entertaining.
Verdict: A five-star hotel perfect for food and wine buffs.
Price: From $347/£180 for a single room, $520/£270 for a double and $675/£350 for a suite, per night, including full English breakfast. Delegate rates are $183/£95 for day delegate and $617/£320-$703/£365 for 24hr delegate rate. All rates exclude VAT.