A couple of weeks ago we were treated to an epicurean experience with The Epicurean Club; a new club that is very much after our own hearts.
The epicurean lifestyle is centred around great food, wine and the finer things in life and The Epicurean Club has brought all of the aspects together to create packages that include experiences and offers featuring the finest brands in Britain.
For our experience, we took a tour of The Langham Brewery in the South Downs National Park and then spent a night being wined and dined at The Royal Oak in East Lavant which, as Epicurean Club members, costs from £225 and includes a one-night stay, dinner for two, breakfast the following morning and a tour of the brewery.
The Royal Oak is a 200-year old inn on the edge of the beautiful South Downs and not far from Goodwood, so is perfect if you're combining your experience with an event.
We were booked into Flint Cottage, a two storey home in converted outbuildings at the back of the inn which comprises of a sitting room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette.
We had been told to visit the residents' garden before our trip, so were delighted to see the steps leading up to it right next to the cottage. The garden is actually a field with views across the South Downs and even on a rainy day, it was beautiful. We spotted pheasants, garden birds and even ducks who seemed to be the only ones fully embracing the typically British spring weather.
The cottage was quaint and cosy and with the fire lit and a glass of wine, it was a relaxed and quiet home-from-home, which was detached from the main pub so felt like we had a space of our own to enjoy before and after our meal.
And with that in mind, we need to talk about dinner. I was really excited to see on The Royal Oak's website that they serve seasonal and local produce, so was looking forward to picking a couple of things off the menu. However, everything looked incredible and we both found it really hard to choose.
In the end I opted for the smoked salmon platter to start and Nick had a chicken, chorizo and prawn terrine, which I'm told was delicious but he wouldn't let me try any...
When you join The Epicurean Club you download the app and then check-in to whichever of their inns you are staying at or dining in to access benefits and rewards.
As this was our first experience we were given a complimentary Williams Chase gin with Franklin and Sons tonic which are both partners of the club and offer member discounts on their products. We also chose a bottle of Chateau la Courolle St Emilion which was highlighted as the Epicurean Club wine on the menu and we therefore got a members' rate.
It went down perfectly with the lamb shoulder Nick ordered and the venison steak from the specials board that I happily tucked into. Again, I can't vouch for the lamb which is testament to how good it was, but the venison was perfect.
We don't normally have three courses but had just enough room to squeeze in an elderflower posset with handmade shortbread for pudding.
It's no secret that Nick and I are real ale connoisseurs, in fact we're currently working on something beer-tiful for the site (watch this space), so when we were offered the Langham Brewery Tour as an experience, we jumped at the chance.
After an incredible smoked haddock breakfast, we reluctantly said goodbye to our cosy cottage and headed to the Cowdray Estate in the midst of the South Downs National Park and as we drove down tiny rural roads to reach it, we started to wonder if we were in the right place. But, there it was, tucked away in an old stable block.
We were met by Lesley Foulkes, who founded the brewery with a her business partner James Berrow in 2004 and despite also both having full time jobs, they run the brewery and churn out nine or ten beers at any one given time, which are all bottled and enjoyed by the barrel load.
The tour started in the cellar where we were given samples of each of the beers that were tapped, including the award-winning dark mild XXX, Best Bitter which is brewed to help support the #MendOurWay initiative to raise money for the South Downs National Park and my favourite, Saison, which is a vegan friendly beer and really hoppy.
Lesley then took us on a tour of the brewery itself and we heard its grass roots story, how they got their equipment, the idea behind the branding and why each of their vessels is named...
While there is no official brewery tap, weary walkers and cyclists are welcome to drop into the brewery for a pint from the cask and can takeaway a few bottles or a couple of pints to enjoy at their leisure.
Of course, we had to, too.
If this sounds like your kind of experience, you can become a friend of The Epicurean Club for free to find out about all their great partnerships, including discounts on brands such as Hunter, The Cotswolds Distillery and South Downs Venison and Game.
Membership for a year is £100 and gives you full access to experiences which can range from Jane Austen literary escapes to wakeboarding. Each experience is partnered with an inn and includes a stay, dinner for two and breakfast.
At the moment most experiences are based in the south of England but we very much look forward to hearing about new experiences all over the country.