Tag Archives: Wine and Dine

Recipe: A Raspberry Summer Dessert

Try making this delicious dessert at home and enjoy al-fresco on a wonderful summer’s evening or pop down to Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa and our experienced dessert chefs will whip one up for you.

Local farm raspberries, white chocolate milles feuille, black pepper tuile and raspberry reduction


Crispy vanilla sponge:

2 whole eggs
42g caster sugar
½ vanilla pod
45g plain flour

White chocolate filling (mousse):

165ml double cream
20g caster sugar
80g white chocolate

Black pepper tuile (a thin, crisp biscuit):

17g soft butter
17g icing sugar
1 egg white
18g plain flour
A very small tbsp crushed black pepper

Raspberry reduction:

84g fresh raspberries
46g caster sugar
34 ml water
1 tsp glucose

Method (serves 4):


1. Heat the oven to 170c
2. Whip the whole eggs with caster sugar to soft peaks
3. Split the vanilla pod with a sharp knife and scrape out the seeds
4. Add the vanilla seeds to the egg and sugar mixture and gently fold in the plain flour
5. Put baking paper on a baking tray and spread the mixture evenly on it
6. Bake it at 170c for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.


1. Whip the double cream with caster sugar
2. Melt the white chocolate in a bain-marie (hot-water bath)
3. Fold the cream into the white chocolate quickly and gently to ensure that the maximum amount of air is retained in the mixture.


1. Beat the soft butter with icing sugar until smooth
2. Add the egg white and mix in well
3. Sieve the flour and fold into the mixture with the black pepper until combined.
4. Bake at 200°Cuntil golden brown, about 6-8minutes. (Do not under bake)
5.  Upon removal from oven, use a metal spatula to lift the cookies of the tray, and place on a rolling pin to obtain the tuile shape or place upside down in a tuile sheet.

Raspberry reduction:

1. Boil the fresh raspberries with water, caster sugar and glucose to 110c in a pan
Cool it down pass through a seive.

Assemble the dish by placing a layer of the white chocolate mousse between rectangles of the sponge. Top with a row of fresh raspberries and the tuile biscuit. Dot some of the raspberry reduction on the plate and serve.

Abraham, Head Pastry Chef

Visit our website for Alfresco dining at Donnington Valley Hotel & Spa

A Summer Coffee Cocktail

Coffee plays a crucial role in today’s modern society. In 2004, coffee was the top agricultural export in twelve countries. The coffee we use here at Donnington is Lavazza, an Italian roasted bean. Although coffee was not invented in Italy, coffee is very much part of the Italian culture.

Although coffee is traditionally served as a hot drink, it’s also a great ingredient for a perfect summer cocktail. Here at Donnington Valley we have our own range of cocktails named after Greek gods in keeping with name of our main bar, Bacchus bar.  Our coffee of the month is coffee cocktail Hades, a cool coffee digestive.

Hades is known as King of the Underworld, and the hidden wealth of the Earth and brother to Zeus.

How to make Hades.
50ml – Baileys
25ml – milk
25ml – cream
1 shot – Lavazza espresso shot
25ml – Jameson’s Whisky

Shake all ingredients together and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with chocolate powder and a coffee bean.

Why not stop by the bar at Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa and try this or one of our other coctails? www.donningtonvalley.co.uk

Quick question for you coffee lovers what is the rarest and most expensive cups of coffee in the world?

A) Kopi Luwak

Rob Smith
Bar Manager

Al-Fresco Drinks

We are now coming into the summer period when temperatures are at their most favorable, and outdoor dining is becoming a popular option for a dinner party or hosting a gathering of friends. I have put together a list of my favorite Al-Fresco drinks, which are perfect for any occasion.

  1.  Citrus ice tea
    A refreshing option for an alternative to your traditional cup of tea. It’s an ideal accompaniment to a selection of sandwiches or cakes.
  2. Mojito
    A great way to start an evening, including fresh mint to enhance the flavour.
  3. Cosmopolitans
    A popular a classic cocktail, which looks as good as it tastes.
  4. Cucumber and elderflower spritzer
    A refreshing non-alcoholic option, ideal for re-hydrating
  5. Summer berry smoothie
    A healthy option packed with lots of fruit. Strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are all at their best during the summer months and add a real freshness to this drink.
  6. Traditional Pimms and lemonade
    A perfect pre-dinner option, perfect for special occasions
  7. Lychee Martini
    A lively martini with a hint of summer. A simple, but delicious drink with a hint of the exotic.
  8. Amaretto fizz
    Perfect for celebrating. For something a little fruitier than a simple glass of fizz, add a shot of amaretto and a 2 shots of orange juice to sparkling wine.

Our patio area, overlooked by the attractive pond area, provides a perfect setting for an Alfresco gathering. Stop by to enjoy casual drinks with family and friends or make a selection from our tempting menu and enjoy lunch or dinner in relaxed surroundings.http://www.donningtonvalley.co.uk/a_dining.asp

Get the most of your visit!

Well I am back, safe and sound from my travels to South Africa, ready to tell you about the vineyards I visited and give you some pointers on how to get the best out of a visit to a winery.

I visited four wineries in total. The first being Hamilton Russell Winery in Hermauns, here we had a fantastic private tasting with Anthony Hamilton Russell – the owner. We started with his Southern Right range, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinotage. The Sauvignon Blanc is a nice fresh crisp clean wine and the Pinotage is a very good example of how this grape should taste – this is my favourite winery for Pinotage in South Africa. We then tasted the Hamilton Russell wines, of which there only two. A Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. The Hamilton Russell wines I feel are the closest in style and taste to burgundy, that you can find outside burgundy itself.

The next was Moreson winery in Franschhoek. Here we had a private tasting with Clayton – the wine maker. We spent a very interesting two hours tasting from the barrel of the previous years vintage and even tasted one wine from this years vintage. Then we went back to the tasting room and tasted the red wines they make. The one which stood out for me here was the 2008 Petit Verdot, a grape you do not normally find on its own.

The next two wineries I visited where Thelama and Tokara in Stellenbosch. I have been a long time fan of Thelama wines; we tasted all the range they produce. The one which stood out the most here was the 2008 “The Mint” Cabernet Sauvignon – a really full bodied fruity wine, with loads of flavour. We even got to taste a 20yr old Riesling they found in the cellar for us to try.

The winery of Tokara was a new one for me; but I am sure we will become life long friends after I tasted some of their wines. This is a very modern looking winery; great care has been taken in its construction. I tasted 6 of their wines, two stood out. 2009 Tokara Directors reserve white – blend of sauvignon blanc & Semillon and the 2010 Tokara Zondernamm Grenache rose, I liked the rose so much I bought a bottle to take back to Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa.

As you can see I had some great tastings and to help you have the same, here are some points to consider when going wine tasting.

  1. If you can, do some research on the winery before you go. If you show you know a little about them and what wines they produce, they will more likely spend more time with you.
  2. Use your contacts. Ask them to arrange if possible tastings at a couple of wineries, this way you are more likely to get the VIP treatment.
  3. Ask questions, i.e. if they say this a wine made from a blend, ask what the percentage is.
  4. Take notes on the wines you are tasting. This shows you are taking the tasting seriously and they will more likely spend more time with you.
  5. Pace yourself don’t try and do too many wineries in one day. Tasting wine is very tiring and your taste buds will not be able to tell the difference by the end of the day.
  6. If you are tasting a lot of wines, do not swallow all the wine; spit most out. This will help you not become drunk. Also have a drink of water between each wine. This helps to refresh your palate between wines.
  7. Make sure you have a good meal at the start of the day, never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach. Also if you are tasting all day, try and refrain from drinking too much at lunch time.
  8. Always try and have a designated driver. You can find that the police around wine regions are very strict on drink driving.
  9. Dress accordingly. If you show up at the tasting room scruffy, the chances are you will not receive a very warm welcome.
  10. Never turn up having had one too many. You will not be severed. When you have reached your limit, save that last winery to the next day.

Well I hope you have found this interesting and if I have wetted your appetite for South African wines. We are having a wine dinner on 1st July with Moreson and Dane Friedman will be talking about his wines. I hope to see you all there.http://www.donningtonvalley.co.uk/events_julaug.asp

Chris Neeves
Head sommelier

Urlar Estate

Our wine list is constantly evolving as we source new wines to tempt our guests. We have recently added two new sections to our list these are “Selected Winery” and “Wines which give back”. In the selected winery section we take a closer look at the wineries and tell you how they go about making their wines which have made it onto our list. In the “wines which give back” section we focus on wines that either give back to the environment or give back by donating to charity.  Please have a look at the list next time you are at the hotel and let us know what you think.

This week we are taking a closer look at the Urlar winery, which we have featured in the wines which give back section of our wine list.

Proudly family owned, New Zealand, Urlar Estate produces outstanding single vineyard wines
Angus Thompson the owner of Urlar has said “our philosophy is really very simple to produce the best wine possible with the least impact to us and the environment”.

The practices they use are about giving life back to the soil and managing the vineyard as a balanced sustainable farming unit. This includes organic practices such as recycling through composts and liquid manures and increasing plant bio diversity through inter-row crops. Every year, one row in seven will be sowed with a variety of plants and beneficial flowers. Flowers, such as buckwheat provide crucial protection to the vineyard by attracting beneficial insects that will kill off unwanted pests that can destroy the fruit and vines. They use the biodynamic farming and gardening calendar, the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets and stars are recognised and worked where possible.

A lot more is done in the winery, such as the use of solar power. The solar panels are so effective; they heat water to boiling point greatly reducing the use of gas and electricity for water heating. The boiling water also enables the winery to remove impurities from the tanks thereby limiting the use of chemicals. Considerations taken into account when designing he winery included reducing the energy used to keep the barrels cool over the summer, also natural habitats for a variety of birds has been created through careful landscaping. For all their commitment they where rewarded with the Hills Harvest and Gallagher innovation award.

Urlar produce five wines, three of which, are exported to the UK. At a recent private tasting with Angus, we tasted the three wines available in the UK. A Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir. All great wines but the one which stood out was the Pinot Gris, so much so that it has been included it in the wine by the glass selection of our list.

The other wines they produce are a Riesling and a noble Riesling. We asked Angus why the Riesling is not exported, he said that at present only a small production was made however this may increase as long as the quality of the wine it not affected.

Planned for the next few weeks is a trip to South Africa to visit some of the wineries as well as some adventurous activities such as abseiling down Table Mountain and diving with sharks. As long as the sharks don’t think I too tasty I’ll share with you my experiences on my return. For the time being please see our website for information on wine and the WinePress restaurant.

Chris Neeves
Head Sommelier

Real Ale in the Bacchus Bar

For the first time ever the Bacchus bar at Donnington Valley hotel is now serving real ales, which are supplied by a local brewery, West Berkshire Brewery. They have a well deserved reputation for quality award winning ales. It’s important to us to source our products locally but most important is to ensure that we have products of an excellent quality for our guests and West Berkshire brewery ticks both of these boxes. Located just eight miles away from the hotel, the brewery ethos matches our own of using locally sourced ingredients and sustainable technologies, for example using hops locally produced and supplied by the only hop garden in old Berkshire.

Established in 1995 by David and Helen Maggs, West Berkshire Brewery is Berkshire’s largest independent brewer and has won 25 awards in the last 15 years. In 2008 West Berkshire Brewery’s Dr Hexter Healer won a Gold medal in the premium beer category at the SIBA SE region beer competition and more recently in 2010 Maggs magnificent mild was joint beer of the festival at the Oxford beer festival in October.

We currently stock Full Circle draft ale which is 4.5%, we also stock Dr Hexter Healer and Mr Chubbs in bottles, this can change monthly depending on the feedback we receive from our guests. Stop by for a pint and maybe a bite to eat at the WinePress

Pan Fried Brill

Here at Donnington Valley Hotel and Spa have love good food; this drives us to share our passion for flavour, aroma and texture in our dishes. We love the kind of food that can transport you back to a once visited faraway place, we don’t eat something just because it sits on a plate, we eat because it is amazing and the best quality it can possibly be.  To help to spread our love of food we would like to share with you one of our recipes.

Pan Fried BrillWith scallop truffle mousse, Chinese cabbage, roasted shallots and saffron vinaigrette.

Ingredients (Serves Two)

2 Brill fillets
4 pieces of pak choi
4 small shallots
100g mashed potatoes
2 tsp of finely chopped fresh chives
4 scallops
30ml double cream
2 egg yolks
2 Chinese cabbage leaves
20ml lemon juice
100ml olive oil
20ml white wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 pinches of saffron
truffle oil


Slice two of the shallots in half and roast them in the oven until lightly caramelised.

In a blender, blend the scallops with the cream, egg yolks a drizzle of truffle oil and a touch of salt and pepper to create a mousse.
Blanch the cabbage in boiling water, remove, drain and refresh in cold water.
Place half of the mousse in each cabbage leaf then roll and wrap in cling film to make a ball.

Place a pan on the heat and fry the fillets skin side down until golden. Heat through the mash mixing in the chopped chives, and lightly wilt the pak choi leaves.

To make the dressing finely chop the remaining shallots and reduce with white wine vinegar a few drizzles of lemon juice and the sugar. Remove from the heat.
Once the reduction has cooled slowly add the olive oil and saffron. Check the seasoning.

Once everything is ready, transfer the mash and pak choi to the plate. Arrange the shallot to one end and slice through the mousse, removing the cling film and arrange on the plate. Top with the brill fillet skin side up and drizzle over the saffron dressing.