Last week, I was invited to attend a lovely celebration at Llanerch Vineyard, marking a year since the opening of Angela Gray’s cookery school there.
Llanerch is an ever-growing venture of Ryan Davies and his family team, and currently comprises a bar, bistro, boutique hotel rooms (which viewers of Channel 4’s ‘Four in a Bed’ show may well be familiar with, after a recent appearance!), the vineyard, offering tours and tasting, and of course the cookery school. A very grey and rainy evening couldn’t dampen the spirits of the assembled guests there to celebrate Angela’s first year!
Angela is a food writer, food consultant, broadcaster (she currently features on BBC1’s One Show and has previously appeared on UKTV Food), and former chef to such auspicious names as Lord Lloyd-Webber. She’s originally from Wales, and has now settled back here, to embark upon the next chapter of her career, which started (officially, at least!) a year ago when she opened the cookery school.
During the evening’s celebrations, we were able to take a look at the kitchen where Angela and her colleagues teach. It’s fairly intimate, ensuring participants in the classes would never be part of too big a group, and would no doubt get plenty of one to one time with their tutor. All of the facilities are state of the art, with equipment looking almost brand new, and the finish of the kitchen itself is absolutely beautiful.
We also sampled some canapés, all of which were prepared in house by some of the school’s new guest chefs: Jackie Pallett (Indian Cuisine), Geraldine Griffiths (Caribbean), and Sharon Clifford (chocolate). The canapés showcased a range of different styles. Our favourites included mini Glamorgan sausages, with a chutney dip, and Greek meatballs with tzatziki. The most interesting thing we tried was ‘Super Thai style juice shots’ – a tiny shot glass filled with spicy juice, topped with a mixture of sprouts and seeds. They were a bit difficult to consume, and a bit too spicy for my palate, but the general consensus was that they were a fun and tasty difference from the usual canapé menu. Drinks included the vineyard’s own Cariad Blush, so we had a chance to sample the wine as well as the food.
We had a brief chat with Angela, and she said a few words to thank people for coming along, and to talk about the journey she’s been on over the past year or so, since becoming part of the team at the vineyard. Angela is bubbly, friendly and fun – and exudes enthusiasm and passion for what she does. I can imagine she’d be fantastic to cook with – it’s one thing having the skills to do something well, but another to have the ability to teach it, and I can imagine Angela having both in abundance! She seems to have a great relationship with her colleagues, and with the Davies family, who view her as a vital part of their team.
We also had a chat to Ryan, who was excited about the latest plans for the Vineyard, which now include a conference and wedding venue to be built soon.
The range of courses and cuisines on offer at the school is impressive, with baking, gourmet vegetarian, Vietnamese, a seafood masterclass and in Italian supper party all coming up just in the next month! As well as full cookery classes, Angela also gives tasters and demonstrations and runs a regular ‘Saturday Kitchen’ demonstration, where the ticket price of £10 includes entry into a raffle to win the food that’s been prepared! Course prices seem to range from £50 for a taster up to around the £150 mark for a full day’s course. I think the courses would make a lovely gift for aspiring or improving cooks, or for anyone with an interest in learning more about a particular type of cuisine or skill. Mr W was interested in the ‘Knife Skills Taster’ – should I be concerned?!
I’d love to go back to the vineyard, preferably this time on a brighter day – although even in the pouring rain, we could tell it is a beautiful place and must be an idyllic setting when the sun is shining! Despite only being a short distance outside of Cardiff, it has the feeling of being right out in the countryside, and I can imagine it being a lovely relaxing retreat for a weekend break that took in some cookery as well.
So, congratulations to Angela on a very successful first year. Here’s to lots more, and I’m excited to see what comes next for the Cookery School and for Llanerch Vineyard!
Thank you to Angela Gray Cookery School and Mari Waddington PR for inviting me to this event, which my partner and I attended as guests.
Angela Gray Cookery School, Llanerch Vineyard, Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan CF72 8GG