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Got your Berkeley card yet?

There are all sorts of reasons to visit Berkhamsted — and now there’s a very stylish new one to add to the list.  The Berkeley, on Lower Kings Road in the heart of the town, opened last week, and I can see it becoming a real favourite for an evening out — or a cheeky coffee during the day.


The transformation from the long-standing Berkeley Gallery — what has been the go-to place for contemporary art locally for years — to The Berkeley is stunning.  Loving the rich colours, the sleek look.  Very modern and very appealing.


But they’ve not left the art behind.  As you sip your wine — or scoff your cake — you’re surrounded by art on every wall.  I’m particularly fond of the big pieces by Rob Bishop — layers of stain on wood, building up to images of iconic women like Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe.  (He’s not done one of me yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time…)


One thing you’ll notice straight away about The Berkeley, besides the art, is the way you get your wine.  Yes, the staff are lovely — and they’ll sort you out with nibbly platters or cake and so on — but you get to choose your wine and serve yourself from one of their nifty Enomatic machines.


Don’t worry — it’s not complicated.  Frankly, if I can manage it, anyone can.  You get your card when you arrive, pop some cash on it, and then choose your wine.  You pop your card in, and then the touch screens make sure you get exactly the amount you want — wine by the glass or, if you want to try a few to find a new favourite, by a tasting measure.


The machines are actually pretty cool.  The wine is kept at exactly the right temperature all the time — so, the whites are perfectly chilled and the reds are comfortably room temperature.  Neat, huh?  It gets you out of that whole ‘what do we all like’ conversation — although you can buy by the bottle if you do all agree!  And if you find one you absolutely love, you can buy a bottle (or a case…) to take home with you.


I’m a bit of a convert.  I’m quite impressed at the range of wines they’ve got — 4 different machines with 8 or so wines in each one — and the fact there’s also a bar with beer (Mr C breathed a sigh of relief), fizz and spirits.


There’s also the rather delicious option of tea and coffee during the day — a very stylish spot to sit and chat during the day, for sure.  I suppose, technically, you could start in the afternoon with coffee and slip effortlessly into the evening with Cab Sav…  Just a thought.

Photos by Cynthia Nolan at Shoot Me Studios — thanks, Cynthia!


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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Hertfordshire