It's always rewarding to discover something a bit different, especially when it's right under your nose, and this is exactly what happened when I visited the new incarnation of The Vine in Great Bardfield. Since May 2015, this bar-restaurant has been transformed into Britain's first eno-gastro pub. Enogastronomy, I learned on my visit, is the synthesis of wine and food - something owners Stephen and Tanya Mann have mastered.
Stephen brings his culinary expertise, while Tanya adds her impressive experience as an international wine connoisseur. Both are champions of high-quality food and sourcing from boutique-sized organic wineries - being one of the three finalists for the Best Drinks Offer in a Pub category in the Harpers Awards 2015 is a testament to their efforts.
The Vine is the sole importer of over 30 per cent of their wine, and is the only pub licensed to stock the full cellar range of multi-award-winning Nyetimber English sparkling wine. The drinks offerings also include an extensive selection of craft gins and guest beers.
Drinks are important at The Vine, but that's not to say that the food plays second fiddle at all. The themes of flavour and well-being continue on to the menu, which changes seasonally and offers something to suit all palates. On our visit we began by indulging in black pearl scallops with bacon crumbs and a pea purée, and a trio of pâtés: chicken liver brandy, hog roast pork and game en croute. I followed with delicious lime- and coriander-seasoned salmon, while my partner tucked into a hearty chicken and pulled Wiltshire ham pie accompanied by potato Dauphinoise and seasonal vegetables. From the indulgent list of desserts we chose to share a portion of delectable bundt cake, before sitting back and relaxing with a coffee each.
Events are a regular occurrence at The Vine, including themed lunches and evenings, wine tastings and presentations from wine critics and vineyard owners. If our visit is any indication of The Vine's future success, we're certain it will be a mainstay of Essex's dining scene