Tag Archives: Food

Wedding Tips at Donnington Valley

When planning for your wedding day, catering will be one of the biggest decisions you will make. The food is one of the main things your guests will remember from the day, what they had, was there enough, was there too little and how did the food reflect you as a couple? Here are our best tips.


When it comes to deciding on catering for your big day there are a number of choices: a traditional three course wedding breakfast; a relaxed summer barbecue or even a Champagne afternoon tea. Try and be different – and think about the best bits from previous weddings you would have attended. Make it more about you and your partner.

Upon arrival following your ceremony, guests might be a little peckish; the perfect little appetiser would be individually handmade canapés. Time of year is key as to what this might entail – hot, cold, heavy or fresh. You might want the freedom to choose, some venues are more flexible here than others.

Drinks are also a very important part of the day and not everyone wants to drink, though some do! A range of beverages for your reception depending on the time of year including a Summer Pimms or hot winter cider toddy will go down well and don’t have to break the bank.

The main meal, often called the wedding breakfast, can come in a variety of guises – and our Head Chef, Kelvin Johnson, is happy to design a menu for our guests’ wedding day. Kelvin’s menus are influenced by the seasons, using the freshest ingredients from our local suppliers. Importantly for many, wines to compliment your menu sounds like a minefield but needn’t – our award winning wine sommelier, Chris Neeves would assist on selecting exactly what went with your chosen dish. Whatever you choose though, again consider what you and your partner like.

It is also nice to cater for others for example the vegetarians and children who might need something different to the rest. At Donnington we create ‘Little Meals’ – mini fish & chip cones or mini burgers and chips . If you have a large number of evening guests attending or have a family with a large appetite, a finger buffet is perfect, and we are able to customise to suit any dietary requirements. If you fancy something simple; a bacon, egg or sausage roll will go down a treat too and once the party starts can often be the saving grace!

And throughout the evening, something fun will keep everyone entertained and energy levels high! How about going for your favourite retro sweets, a popcorn machine or even candy floss! A great Summer treat is a slush machine which you can make alcoholic, adults only or even an ice cream stand- everyone loves ice cream!

It can be overwhelming trying to accommodate all of your family and friends’ needs. But most importantly remember the day is your day, and if you choose to have it at Donnington, we are here to make your day as special and memorable for you as possible.

Spoil your Loved one This Valentine’s Day

Treat your Valentine to breakfast in bed

Spoil your loved one this Valentine’s Day

You have by now of course bought your loved one that special gift and arranged something suitably romantic to do in the evening but how about starting the day in the most romantic day, a beautiful breakfast in bed. Surely there is nothing better than waking up with the special person and sharing a tray of lovingly prepaired breakfast with the morning papers?

Start with something elegant and healthy, breakfast trifles served in martini glasses. Cut up strawberries and throw into the bottom of the glass with blueberries and any of your other favourite fruits, spoon over some natural Greek yoghurt and then sprinkle with granola, then repeat, fruit, yoghurt, granola. Complete the dish by decorating the top layer with some of the fruit, some toasted almonds flakes, a good squeeze of honey and you are done.

My other favourite which will accompany this nicely is a classic; smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and the key here is nice fluffy eggs. Melt butter into a pan until it starts to foam and at the same time break eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk. Add the eggs to the butter and stir continuously with a wooden spoon over a moderate heat. When the eggs start to form turn the heat off, they will continue to cook in the hot pan so leave them a little bit underdone. Cut up smoked salmon and chives and add to the eggs with salt and pepper giving it one last good mix. You can then serve over your favourite toasted bread, my choice is always a hot English muffin dripping in butter.

To add that extra special touch you could garnish with a little salmon rose which is easy to do than it sounds. Cut the smoked salmon into long strips about an inch wide and then just roll them up, starting tightly for the centre and then loosening up as you go to create a petal effect. Use more chives or a piece of chervil for the green leaves and there you have a tasty, romantic breakfast.

And if you have nowhere to drive to serve the whole lot with blood orange mimosa’s, blood oranges are in season just now and will  certainly wake up the tastes buds when freshly squeezed and  mixed with cold prosecco.

All that’s left is to fight over who gets the washing up!

Of course if that all sounds like too much effort to go to first thing. You could really push the boat out andtreat your loved one to a night away and our Valentine’s break is just the ticket. We can even help you arrange a few extra surprises for when you arrive.

Kelvin Johnson
Head Chef

Strawberries at Donnington Valley


The berry

From this week we have, from local supplier Cobbs farm in Hungerford, a great selection of berries and currents. Tayberries (a cross between a raspberry and blackberry), raspberries, blackcurrents, red currents and blackberries and of course the last of the British strawberries.

One of my favourite ways to enjoy all of these summer berries all together is in a Summer pudding with clotted cream, and because I’m sure you will all enjoy it as much as I do, we’re putting it on the menu for you to enjoy in the WinePress restaurant.

Sometimes an over looked berry, due to its tart flavor, but never the less a delicious summer treat is the humble gooseberry. We are also making the most of the last gooseberries of the season in a traditional shortcrust pastry pie and serving it with hot custard.

Its not just in the restaurant you can enjoy the berries. The bar are also making good use of the berries in a seasonal cocktail “Berry Refreshing” which combines Smirnoff Vodka, crème de cassis, raspberry pureé and lemonade and comes served with lots of fresh berries.

So you can see there are many ways to enjoy the fruits of the season and we hope to welcome you to enjoy some of these flavours in the bar and WinePress restaurant soon.

Kelvin Johnson
Head Chef

Summer Sundays mean BBQ at Donnington Valley

BBQ at Donnington Valley

Summer is coming and I already have my barbecue out and ready (come on sunshine!). There is something very satisfying about being outdoors with family and friends enjoying a cold drink amongst the unmistakable smoky aroma of a good barbecue.

Local award winning brewery West Berkshire Brewery have come up with a wonderful Bavarian inspired pilsner called Isis which is just perfect for this occasion. Its a hay-coloured beer brewed using English lager malts and Continental hops to give a crisp flavour and woody bitterness so it really compliments the grilled foods.

For me it is all about keeping it simple but adding in lots of big flavours, a firm favourite is a big king prawn which has been marinated for about thirty minutes in olive oil, garlic, Dijon mustard and lots of lemon zest. It really simple to make the marinade and then you just pop them on the grill for 3-5 minutes and they are ready to be eaten, its messy getting the shells off but well worth it!

Don’t be afraid to experiment away from the usual meats too, fruits and vegetables work fantastically over a barbecue.

Cut up some big chunks of peeled pineapple and mix them up with lots of sugar, lemon juice and a good splash of rum, then simply skewer them and cook until they start to caramelize. I like to enjoy them straight off the grill with a good vanilla ice cream; a beautiful adult dessert.

My absolute favorite though and so simple is some of our local Cobbs Farm asparagus put straight on the barbecue with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Ready in 3 – 4 minutes and served with a lemon mayonnaise dip. It takes minutes and is as fresh as a daisy.

Why not come along to our Father’s Day BBQ

15th June, 1pm – 4pm

All the Barbeque meats that Dad loves, marinated and grilled, but unlike Dad’s… it won’t be burnt! Enjoy along with a selection of summer salads and vegetables and a dessert buffet. And as a present for Dad, a selection of locally brewed and bottled ales.

£25.00 per person for 3 courses
Children under 16 years, £15.00 per person

Call us to book on 01635 551199

Kelvin Johnson
Head Chef

Seasonal Ingredients

Enjoying the best of the season.

Here at Donnington Valley we are continually updating our menu to get the very best out of the produce available to us. Naturally this means using ingredients when they are in season. As the days grow longer my thoughts turn to spring and the approaching summer season. So here is a little round up of how to use delicious seasonal ingredients for a three course meal. Chris has kindly provided me with some fantastic wine pairing suggestions for each course.

To start

From April onwards I will have my eye out for the start of summer which is always heralded for me with signs of beautiful asparagus spears starting to shoot. The quicker you get them from ground to plate the better which is why we use local supplier Cobbs Farm Shop in Hungerford, produce is picked and then ready to serve to you the same day! My favorite way to serve this is nice and simple; lightly steamed and then plenty of melted butter. To make it even better try it with a glass of our Chablis, Domaine de Vauroux; a lovely classic Chablis which is nice and dry and will compliment beautifully.


Summer is best time to get the BBQ going and I love to cook on coals here. Lamb is a big favorite as it is so versatile and I buy all of our lamb from our local butchers Thatcham Butcher; that way I know exactly where the meat has come from and it is often a field close by! Great for adults and kids alike are homemade lamb burgers, use nice lean lamb mince and add in some rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper and then shape into whatever size you think you can handle! Absolutely perfect to go with this (but not for the kids!) is a bottle of 2008 Gaía Wines, Gaía S, Agiorgitiko, Syrah, Nemea, Greece. This wine is a blend of an indigenous grape – Agiorgitiko 70% and Syrah 30%. A full bodied wine with warm soft dark fruit and a gentle spice, combined with well balanced tannins ending in a long finish.


All throughout the summer season we are inundated with more wonderful farm produce and the best of the best for me are the summer berries. Blackcurrants, strawberries, redcurrants and raspberries to name just a few and again all from Cobbs Farm. Berries, sugar, white bread and a little time to chill (you and the pud!) and you get an amazing Summer Pudding; what could be easier and to make it extra special just top it with some fabulous clotted cream! Try this with a glass of Michele Chiarlo, Moscaro D’Asti, Nivole, Piedmont from Italy, an amazingly delicate dessert wine made from the Muscat grape. Clean and fresh with a light sparkle to it makes this the perfect end to the perfect pud.

Our weekly changing market menu means that there is always something new to try at Donnington Valley. Book your table by calling 01635 551199 or book online.

Kelvin Johnson
Head Chef

Seasonal Ingredients: British Game

Get the most out of British game birds

Pheasant and partridge are my two favorite home grown wild birds and now is the best time to get them. British game is brilliant; not only does it have a beautiful distinctive flavor but it is also an economical alternative to other meats (especially now), it supports our great British farmers and butchers and as it travels relatively small distances from farm to shop it keeps your carbon footprint low. With the end of season (1st February) fast approaching I wanted to share a few great tips.
Partridge is only a small bird and if you go to a good butcher then you can buy them already prepared, one bird will feed one person. A young bird which has been hung for a few days will have a nice gamey flavor whilst still being tender and will be best prepared very simply by either roasting or simple grilling. Partridge which is a bit older is best for stews and casseroles. Top of my list is a nice whole roasted partridge with roasted swede and parsnip chips and a really light jus to make the most of the partridge flavor.
Pheasants are larger and if you have ever come across one whilst out in the car you will know that they can move at pace! Because they lead an active life this can make them a bit tougher than partridge; legs are best removed for slowly braising in a stew whilst the breasts will remain lean so should be kept really moist when roasting or grilling. I love a pheasant casserole with plenty of bacon lardons and wild mushrooms with a side of buttery mash potato and some simple British grown cabbage.
And don’t let anything go to waste… anything left over will make a delicious game pie!

Kelvin Johnson
Head Chef

January Events in Berkshire

January Events 2014

New Year & Epiphany at St John the Evangelist, Newbury
Sunday 5th January 2014
A celebration of New Year & Epiphany featuring Newbury InCantata Ladies’ Choir at St. John The Evangelist Church, Newbury. Tickets are available from Hogan’s Music, Bartholomew Street, Newbury RG14 7PY or on the door.
For further details see www.incantata.co.uk.
Ticket prices Adults £5, Children under 18 £2.50.

Wednesday is Visit Day! At The UK Wolf Conservation Trust
from Wednesday 8th January 2014
From 8th January 2014 onwards, the UKWCT will be open to the public. Visirots can purchase tickets on the day, or if they are a Visiting or Adoption Member they will be able to use the ticket free with their membership. The UKWCT is set in the beautiful English countryside and with its observation and education centre, attracts visitors from all over the world. They currently have 11 Ambassador Wolves, including the UK’s first and only Arctic Wolves.
For further details see www.ukwolf.org.
Ticket prices Adults £8, Children and OAPs £5.

Newbury Floral Society, Royal British Legion Hall, Newbury 
2pm Tuesday 14th January 2014
If you are interested in flower arranging why not join Newbury Floral Society who meet on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Royal British Legion Hall, Newbury for monthly demonstrations, workshops and social events. This month is a demonstration by Christine Evans.
For more details please call 01635 48852.

Wedding Fair at Donnington Valley Hotel
Sunday 19th January
Join Donnington Valley and local suppliers for our wedding fair. Discuss your plans and find inspiration for your special day.
Time: 11am – 3pm
Admission: Free
VIP tours: Please contact Beth Willis, our wedding co-ordinator, on 01635 568106 to book a VIP tour.

The Snow Queen at Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre
Sunday 19th January 2014
Join the team at Sheepdrove for the original magical Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. Brought to life by The Rain and Shine Theatre Company this story is for the whole family to enjoy. With a cast of just 5 playing a whole host of characters, you will be transported to the icy palace of The Snow Queen. For further details see events.sheepdrove.com.
Ticket prices Adults £10, Children £6.
Book your pre-performance Sunday lunch: Adult £25 – Child £15.

Big Garden Bird Watch at Thatcham Nature discovery Centre 
Saturday 25th January 2014
Head over to Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre and learn about the different species of bird who visit Britain’s gardens. Afterwards explore the visitor centre; packed with interactive wildlife and natural history displays, giant jigsaw puzzles and wildlife brass rubbings. Then let off some steam in the adventure playgrounds or have a well earned rest in delicious cafe. Suitable for families.
For further details see www.naturediscovery.org.uk .
Prices £1 per child, drop off event.

The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea at Watermill Theatre – Musical,
Friday 31st Jan to Sat 15th Feb 2014
Join us on a musical journey across the ocean in this compilation cabaret featuring music of the 1920’s period from a company that includes some favourite Watermill actor-musicians. Songs including Ain’t Misbehavin’, Making Whoopee and Night and Day, this collection of numbers will warm your heart. Compiled by Simon Slater, Music Directed by Simon Slater.
For further details for the performance times and ticket prices see www.watermill.org.uk

Halloween at Donnington Valley

Halloween At Donnington Valley Hotel

Fast approaching is one of my favorite times of the year Halloween! Not only do I get to see my own kids dressed up and out trick or treating but it is also means pumpkin carving season!
Pumpkin carving is really fun and we get to use the fillings to make some beautiful seasonal dishes. This year at Donnington we have ordered in lots of extra pumpkins for the school holiday week so any mums with kids looking for something to do can come in and carve a pumpkin to take away to scare the neighbours. We are holding our own staff carving competition so expect to see lots of strange carvings about the hotel!
With all of these activities you can expect lots of pumpkin dishes on the market menu and my personal favorite is pumpkin and chilli soup which really helps to warm the winter blues away. We will also be trying roasted pumpkin with ginger as a side dish and for dessert a pumpkin, honey and almond tart served with a winter ice cream.

Lets get carving!

Autumn Food at Donnington Valley Hotel

With autumn now fully upon on us we are looking at sourcing as much as possible locally for our new menus.

We have started this week with some beautiful Hampshire Red Deer supplied by Thatchams Butchers, this venison is very low in fat (good news for the health conscious!) but really full in flavor.

Our new dish on the A La Carte menu is Loin of Hampshire Red Deer with Buttered Hispi Cabbage, Roasted Baby Beetroot, Celeriac and Potato Rosti, Beetroot Puree, Dark Chocolate Jus and Sweet and Sour Walnuts.

This dish is full of texture and taste, the natural sweetness of the beetroot combines beautifully with full gamey taste of the deer. Top this with a Perez Cruz Chaski, Petit Verdot from our wine list; a rich full bodied red from Chile and you have a wonderful autumn meal to keep you warm.

Kelvin Johnson

Head Chef

Book your table in our WinePress restaurant by calling 01635 551199 or book online

We hope to welcome you soon.

National Chocolate Week

National Chocolate Week

National chocolate week starts on Monday 14th October and so to celebrate all things chocolate we have created a chocolate afternoon tea which will be available at the Donnington Valley all week.

Kelvin and the team here at Donnington are all great lovers of chocolate and regular guests of the hotel will no doubt remember and be looking forward to our holiday homage to chocolate; giant Easter bunnies, haunted houses and reindeers to name just a few of the recent displays.

Working with chocolate is not just for us professionals though, there is now a huge range of cooking and eating chocolates available for you to get creative with at home.

My advise is to always try to use the best quality chocolate you can afford. A high-quality chocolate will make a distinctive, crisp, snap when broken and will shatter cleanly. It will also start to melt very quickly when holding it.

You are looking for anything with a high percentage of cocoa ideally, over 70% and it shouldn’t contain anything that you don’t recognize by name. If there is a long list of  ‘e’ numbers you may want to think again.

Chocolate brownies, cakes and cookies are always popular around here but chocolate is a very versatile ingredient. A good quality bitter chocolate with rich tangy tastes can accompany a meat dish beautifully, try a chocolate and cherry sauce on top of your venison steak or add chocolate and chilli to a beef casserole for a fantastic depth of flavour.

For bigger groups wanting to learn more about cooking with chocolate we run chocolate demonstrations here at the hotel so give us a ring if you are interested in learning more.

In the meantime I hope to see you all next week for our special chocolate afternoon tea!
Sally Russell
General Manager.

Seasonal Ingredients – Strawberries


Here at Donnington Valley we are eagerly waiting for this year’s Strawberry crop to ripen from Cobbs Farm, hopefully the sun will shine and it will be ready for the first week of Wimbledon. Due to the nature of the up and down weather this year they are a little behind, but the English strawberry is well worth the wait. The intensity of taste and smell are so much stronger and superior to that of the Dutch and other imported varieties which can often be watery and soft.

At the same time we are looking forward to the gooseberries for our pastry chef to make some classic British desserts to go onto our seasonal weekly market menu. In the meantime we have two weeks maximum left to enjoy this weeks asparagus so we are trying to make the most of it by using it to accompany both meats and fish. Great ways to enjoy it are making soups from trimmings, using on its own with classic with hollandaise or even in salads with Parma ham.

Kelvin Johnson
Head Chef
Donnington Valley Hotel