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Where to eat in Henley-on-Thames

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A riverside setting, a royal regatta and unlimited access to the Chilterns countryside are all good reasons to come to Henley-on-Thames, but they are not the only ones. This pretty 13th century market town on the edge of an Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty is also home to a thriving food scene. Here, the best restaurants are nestled between historic pubs and independent boutiques, fusing international influences with the region’s agricultural riches.

Chef-turned-restaurateur Luke Garnsworthy – previously chef de partie at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – has chosen Henley as the setting for a second branch of his dining concept, Crockers. The restaurant with rooms Crockers Henley (henley.crockersuk.com) opened in Market Place, the city’s central square, in August 2020. Here, Luke serves modern British and Pan-Asian cuisine, as well as robatayaki dishes ( grilled over charcoal) showcasing local products. “The passion that drives local businesses is contagious,” he says, listing partnerships with neighboring growers Hobbs of Henley, Nettlebed Creamery and English Farm.

An even more recent arrival is Sage + Squash, a deli opened in February 2021 by Cordon Bleu-trained chef Emma Nettleton. The glassed-in space offers a host of homemade dishes for breakfast and lunch, including the quiche of the day, fresh pastries from the Paul Rhodes artisan bakery, and gourmet items such as Giovanni’s Gelato. “We buy fruit and veg in the square on market days,” says Emma, ​​who serves Horsebox Coffee, roasted just outside Henley, with all the charcuterie sourced from town butcher Gabriel Machin .

Having supplied meat – as well as fish, seafood, cheese and more – to residents of Henley since 1910, Gabriel Machin is part of the fabric of the town. In this small, half-timbered building overlooking Market Place, current owner Barry Wagner and his team carry on the tradition as butchers, fishmongers, game dealers, smokers and healers – Heston Blumenthal has even come here for advice during of the creation of his own smoking room. Home-smoked salmon, ham and trout are offered with sausages made from locally sourced and ethically raised pork, local cheeses and Henley-produced honey, plus bread from Bosley Patch, a market garden and an artisan bakery nearby.

Across the square, next to Crockers, is Harrods luxury department store’s first stand-alone food outlet. Opened in 2019, the H Café is a chic all-day dining destination with touches of marble, serving fine dishes such as cottage pie, as well as pastries, decadent cakes and specialty teas, as well as a selection of wines from Harrods.

Minutes away, Hof’s Bar & Dining offers hearty meat and fish dishes with South African, German and Swiss influences, as well as wines that the Hof family has been producing in Robertson, South Africa since 2009 The winery’s reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz, among others, are paired with potjiekos (slow-cooked South African lamb stew) in a lively space. Wine tasting sessions are available on request and there is live music on the weekends.