I was lucky enough to be the winner of the Penny Post Christmas competition this year – beating off some fierce competition, we were told, as there were about 30 correct entries. Someone has to be first out of the hat and this time round it was our turn.
The prize was a prize of a meal for two, a bottle of wine and a room for the night at The Five Bells at Wickham. We’d never been to the Five Bells before. After our experience there we’ll definitely be going back.
For those who don’t know it, the Five Bells is a lovely thatched 17th-century gastropub in Wickham, about six miles west of Newbury. The first thing that caught my eye was the good selection of real ales. The barman was knowledgeable about the choices and was happy to allow me to try before committing to a pint.
The menu is varied and the food well cooked and delicious. I started with whitebait ; and a very generous serving it was too. My wife had smoked mackerel paté and toast, again delicious. It was difficult to choose the main course, but I opted for the homemade beef and ale suet pudding. It was superb, with lovely tender pieces of beef in a wonderful gravy. My wife’s salmon was equally good, beautifully poached and moist.
Desserts consisted of a great banana and pineapple crumble and an affogato (ice cream dessert with coffee) and these topped the meal off beautifully.
Our room was clean and well set up and – despite the wind and rain of storm Ciara battering the trees outside – we were warm and comfortable. The free-standing bath was a nice touch.
Apart from the great food, what really made our stay were the staff who were wonderful throughout. Duncan was an excellent host and we got to try a glass of the English sparkling wine which I would recommend to anyone.
Thank you to Duncan and his team as well as Brian and Penny at Penny Post for the competition. Keep up the good work! And to anyone else, I would thoroughly recommend The Five Bells whether it’s for a drink, a meal a room for the night or all three. I would also recommend entering the next Penny Post competition you see, many of which have prizes of this kind of level. We didn’t think we’d scoop the prize, but we did. Like they say, you’ve got to be in to win…