We’re driving along the country road and, as customary when travelling in the Zambuni ‘company’ car, the sound system is blaring out an eclectic mix of tunes from Claire’s i-Pod. It is a beautiful day, the roof of the car is down and we’re on our way to The Yew Tree Inn, Highclere. And so begins another Zambuni road trip to the beloved countryside…
We pull up to The Yew Tree and step inside this fabulously cosy and welcoming country pub. Susie the operations manager, greets us at the bar and then gives us the grand tour, before showing us to our table. We choose to make the most of the fleeting English Summer and sit outside in their adorable courtyard.
Tori, the lovely Landlady at the Yew Tree comes over and we make our introductions. Before long we’re discussing puppies (I’m thinking of getting a friend for Lola) and I’m recommended a poo-shiht. For those of you who are equally baffled, that’s a cross between a poodle and shih tzu – I think I’ll pass…
Having already checked out the new menu numerous times on the way down, we’re more than familiar with the superb dishes. Although, having the menu in front of us is another story. The unique menu features a series of small medium and large dishes, which means you’re free to tailor your meal to your appetite. The only problem being that it’s almost impossible to make a decision!
A classic panic-orderer, I ask the others to go first. One South coast lobster Caesar salad with Old Winchester shavings and bisque mayo, and one Coconut poached Banham chicken, mango, cucumber and peanut salad (both medium dishes) are ordered. I decide to go for the epic Berkshire venison and foie gras burger, rosemary bun, red onion compote with hand cut chips. This is one of their large dishes and when it arrives I know why…
I’m sceptical about the foie gras, having never eaten it before, but it’s absolutely incredible and the entire thing takes residence in my stomach in about ten minutes flat.
During lunch we overhear a number of people telling Tori and Susie, “We love what you’ve done to restore the pub back to how it was when we came here years ago”. This is a real testament to their success, especially in this early stage. During our visit, we also bump into the owner of the Yew Tree Inn and his guests, who all say their hellos before dashing off in their helicopter, which has been ‘parked’ in the car park. As you do.
After lunch, we head inside where we get to have a proper chat with Tori and Simon (who has somehow managed to prize himself away from his crazily busy kitchen). Tori and her husband, head-chef Simon Davis, have only been here two weeks – not that you’d know. They seem completely at home and somehow manage to make running a pub seem easy, as if they have been working at the Yew Tree for a lifetime. Susie also pulls up a chair and we discuss our plans for The Yew Tree over the coming months.
We decide upon a shooting package, in collaboration with the Royal Berkshire Shooting School. The package includes one two hour lesson for £175, excluding cartridges and clays (the second person goes free). A ‘slogasm’ cocktail will be offered on arrival and a night at the Yew Tree will cost you only £90 (per room).
On our way home we pop in to the Dundas Arms in nearby Kintbury. When we pull into the drive the first thing we notice is the absolutely gorgeous setting. Flanked by two rivers, The Dundas Arms is a truly beautiful place to relax and unwind. Everyone is welcome to sit outside in their beautifully manicured gardens, complete with an outside dining area which seats up to 24. As we settle down on a picnic bench right next to the river, drinking cider and enjoying the sunshine, we admire our surroundings including the two barges that quietly chug past us. The perfect way to spend a Friday afternoon.
The Yew Tree is one of those places that, as a number of the locals have found, you will always want to keep coming back to. Make sure you do, because even though it’s a traditional country pub tucked away in the quiet of the countryside, it’s definitely something to shout about.