Review: Eat. Drink. Distil, Newbury
Welcome to a foodie fun palace. Eat Drink Distil in Newbury is a new British small plate restaurant, bar and distillery, that is absolutely buzzing.
Once we get whiff of a new opening, we’re nosed pressed against the glass champing at the bit to get through the door. Eat. Drink. Distil didn’t disappoint. Newbury’s latest foodie addition is a vibe and, if you’re a lover of New York’s speakeasy scene, then buckle up and get yourself down there.
It’s the brainchild of Pete Lumber, formerly of award-winning gastropub The Newbury. He founded 137 Distillery in 2018 and swiftly released a stunning collection of award-winning premium gins, vodka and pre-made cocktails. Post pandemic, he quit the pub to create his new hip hangout that brings people together to share great food, drinks and laughs. Exactly what is needed after multiple lockdowns.
You’ll find it slap bang in the middle of Parkway Shopping Centre (formerly Paul’s Café), fuelling the coffee crowd in the morning, with small plates, unusual wines, cocktails and beers to tickle your fancy from lunch to closing. Seating spills outside to enjoy the sunshine but it’s inside where the magic happens.
On the ground floor is a buzzy bar and restaurant. It’s a cool, broody space – love the tiled floor, chunky oak bar top, ruby red leather seating, industrial fixtures, artwork and vintage details. Seeing 137 Distillery’s gins and vodkas served from enormous apothecary jars, just seems so right. Medicine for the soul It’s a bit edgy, yet very unpretentious. A tricky combo to pull off. Spot the fancy pants speakers too that can pump out the tunes but you can actually hear people speak. It’s a old(er) persons problem, for sure, but means you don’t have to shout at each other.
Phase two of the build will see a spiral staircase go in, giving you access to the first floor for after dinner drinks in a club-like setting, plus gin school and tastings.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Time to get down to business. Pete is working with a team who are perfectionists in their field, just like him. In the kitchen you’ll find local chef Lewis Spreadbury of Bread & Butter catering, behind the bar is London trained mixologist Daniel Jorge Alvarez and Pete is master distiller and conductor of the shebang. The dishes are a blessing for the indecisive, foodies and those who like to turn the volume up on their taste buds.
There are 22 dishes on the menu. With carnivores, fish lovers and veggies all considered. You need to order about three or four dishes per person and the team can help you choose and suggest wines, gin or a beers to compliment what your eating.
We ordered a grazing platter of cured meats, olives, hummus and bread to get the party started. A great choice if your hungry and need to dive into something quickly.
The King prawns and Cobble Lane Nduja was one of the best things I’ve eaten (£8.50). Big juicy prawns, cooked to perfection and set alight by the Nduja. A phenomenal dish and one I will order time and again.
Another star, the chestnut mushroom baby shawarma with truffle sauce. So much flavour extracted from simple ingredients, but pow, it packed a punch.
I’m not a huge fan of polenta. The texture always feels a bit wrong to me, but I was willing to put my prejudices aside for Eat. Drink. Distil’s polenta and truffle ‘chips’ in a delicate canary pepper sauce. No they don’t look like chips but they do share texture. Yum.
The roast hog and savoy cabbage ‘taco’ with pickled apple & crackling were small but mighty. Flavour was massive but be warned it’s gone in the blink of an eye. Adding a salad into the mix, bruschetta, cured meats and cheese was a winning combo.
I was lucky enough to dip into a medley of puds. Presentation was pretty and as someone who doesn’t naturally have a sweet tooth, they delivered that end of meal sweetness without hitting you with a sledge hammer of richness.
The chocolate mousse had a hint of booziness from the 137 negroni, blood orange and vanilla cream and if you after summer on a plate try the elderflower set cream with New forest strawberries Summer fruit, lemonade and 137’s Country Garden gin jellied terrine. I’m a big fan of small plates or as my husband calls it “a picky tea”. It is the gastronomic gift that keeps on giving.
I never saw a wine list, I’m sure they have one, but Daniel and Peter served up some belters. From the celebratory Champagne to the velvety, plummy richness of a fine Merlot, each glass has been chosen for its flavour and story. Better still, they’re pretty much all available by the glass which is rare. If gins your thing, my absolute favourite in the summer is the 137’s Country Garden gin with elderflower tonic. Pure class in a glass.
Simple, seasonal ingredients deliver on flavour. But it takes a skill to deliver it on the plate or in your glass and slap you in the face. It was faultless. Informal, fun, foodie. Every dining was gushing as they left – ‘Best meal I’ve had”, “Loved it”, “Can’t wait to come back”. I don’t think you can ask for more than that.
It’s worth noting that The Newbury pub was renowned for its Sunday roast, a tradition that has migrated to Eat. Drink. Distil, so you can still get your Yorkie fix.
OUT & ABOUT
You’re slap bang in the centre of Newbury town centre, so what do you fancy? There’s plenty of shopping and mooching to be enjoyed. Trot down the road to Newbury Racecourse for a fun day out at the races – Judge Jules spinning the wheels of steel the race day after party in August. A stroll along the canal is always lovely, you can take a paddle board tour if you’re super keen or just saunter along the towpath with a coffee in hand.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone who appreciates quality over quantity. The food is epic, the wine will put a smile on your face and the staff offer the warmest of welcomes. It’s a killer foodie bunker and once you enter you’ll never want to leave.
Not for: Kids. Probably OK by day, but if a fish finger is their idea of exotic, I’d save this one for the grown ups. If you’re in for the long haul and order plates with a abandon, those little dishes soon add up.
The damage: That depends how hungry you are. Snacks start at £2.50, small plates start at £4 but can peak at £25 for steak dishes. Most flirt around the £7/£8 mark. Two people could share three or four dishes for about £20. Mind blowing really.
Eat. Drink. Distil, 137 Distillery, 29 Parkway, Parkway Shopping Centre, Newbury RG14 1AY