New chef, new menu and a cool new gin distillery. We're back at Muddy Award winner The Newbury and it's just the tonic. (Sorry, I'll get my coat.)
The Newbury has been winning plaudits left right and centre since owner Peter Lumber injected new life into this old Newbury boozer back in 2012. But the last few years this great gastropub has really hit its stride. Most importantly, it’s a Muddy Award winner for Best Casual Dining in 2016, Best Bar in 2017 and Best Destination Pub in 2018!
Pete IS The Newbury really, if he isn’t here it just wouldn’t be the same. He is an absolute perfectionist (and I don’t think he’d be too offended if I whispered ‘control freak’ very quietly, shhh!). He chooses his suppliers with great care because for him it’s all about the quality of ingredients.
It’s a town centre pub but what it lacks in rolling countryside views, it makes up for in cool creativity. Peter loves art and The Newbury’s walls showcase his collection – Pure Evil print of the Queen, Viv Westwood Union Jack wall hanging and some fab photographs of The Beatles, to name a few.
You’ll also find a new quirky gin distillery and private dining room, funky cocktail bar upstairs and a new chef lurking within these four walls. Lancashire-born John Harrison has recently joined the team (CV includes The Crab in Chieveley and Michelin starred Paul Heathcote at Longridge) and Lumber’s Bartholomew Gin has taken the artisan spirits scene by storm. *Ahem* Where was our invite when the gins were be tasted?
You’ll take a calming out breath as soon as you step into The Newbury – it’s exactly what a family-friendly gastropub should be, light and spacious, with big battered old pine tables, comfy sofas, and a nice friendly hubbub of noise.
The pub is cool and buzzy with 60 gins on the menu, a fab wine list and Chef John’s new menu is less fancy and more ‘lick the plate’ honest gastropub food – with an emphasis on flavour. Expect to see pub classics sprinkled with chefy magic.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
On that note, let’s tuck in. In the interests of doing a full and proper review, I obviously tried one of The Newbury’s gins. There are four to choose from: Country Garden, Berkshire Dry, London Dry and Navy Strength. I chose the Country Garden with its floral botanicals and mixed it with Elderflower tonic. Firstly, the glass is all kinds of lush, but its contents deserved glassware this beautiful. It is a light G&T that was waaaay to easy to drink on a lunchtime. Hic!
To soak up my gin, I started with a ham hock terrine served with a chunky piccalilli and prune puree. So often this sort of dish can taste a bit fatty and have a slimy texture, but not here. There is a lightness to this dish that I wasn’t expecting. The piccalilli was crunchy and is an absolute classic combo with the terrine.
For a dose of ‘there there’ food, the Shepherd’s Pie was a hug on a plate – a semi deconstructed effort with cheesy mash, melt in the mouth shredded lamb shank, served with root veg. It was rich and comforting. Not a hint of clagginess from a dish that inevitably contains its fair share of butter. Yum.
There are lots of great puds to choose from, but you MUSt order the the gin granita. It’s refreshing, a little bit boozy, with a delicious fruity compot providing one of your five a day. It’s like having an alcoholic slushy – and I LOVED it.
The food is here quite simply, excellent. Muddy readers who voted last year, I salute you!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: families, relaxed gatherings with friends, a pop in lunch or dinner if you want a superior meal without pretension. The Sunday lunches have an excellent reputation and this is a hard working pub open 7 days a week with all sorts going on from gin tastings to a Bottomless Brunch.
Not for: families looking for all singing-all dancing outside areas – as you’d expect for a town centre pub, the outside space has just a few tables on a wooden decked area, we’re not talking kids play park here.
££: Pretty standard gastropub prices, but real value for money for the quality of food. Lunch salads and mains £8-£13, dinner mains £13-£19, desserts £6.50, pizzas £10, Sunday sharing boards £18 per head.
The Newbury, 137 Bartholomew Street, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 5HB. Tel: 01635 49000. www.thenewburypub.co.uk