For a honeypot riverside town, especially one with its own Royal rowing regatta, there have long been glaring gaps in Henley-on-Thames’s tourist offerings. Until now.
Following the success of the first Crockers in Tring, Hertfordshire, owner Luke Garnsworthy has now opened a second venue in Henley’s Market Place. He has done his research: while nearby Marlow, he contended, was ‘over-saturated’, similarly affluent Henley lacked ‘really top-end dining options’.
It also lacked quality top- end hotels, which Crockers delivers, too. This Grade II, converted Georgian townhouse has restaurants on the ground floor while a trio of floors above host seven large bedrooms, known as The Quarters. Three have minimal four-poster beds, while all boast bold lighting, white walls, weathered wood, exposed brick and contemporary paintings from a local gallery.
Rustic: Crockers is a Grade II, converted Georgian townhouse with seven large bedrooms, known as The Quarters
Pictured is one of the bathrooms, which has a rain shower. There are also freestanding roll-top baths in the bedrooms
Equally pleasant are the complimentary glass of Gusbourne sparkling wine and raspberry eclair on arrival which underline Crockers’ epicurean credo. In advance, guests choose which of Crockers’ three restaurants to visit for dinner. In the Thames Table, Dean Westcar concocts modern British fare, while Iain Dixon’s Gardiner Table has a pan-Asian focus. Then there’s the pavement-spilling Grill, in which Tom Westerland serves à la carte chateaubriands and burgers.
Garnsworthy, who once worked under Heston Blumenthal, has recruited youthful cooks with impressive CVs: Westerland was 2018’s National Chef of Wales.
Garnsworthy has also triumphed location-wise: Crockers is but a short stroll from the Thames.
Away from regatta weekend, Henley is only mildly busy despite being just an hour from London. A saunter along its idyllic towpath, passing pubs and meadows, takes me to the River & Rowing Museum. A gallery here explains that it was Pangbourne, not far upstream, which inspired Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind In The Willows. Ratty’s philosophy that ‘there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’ is shared by locals: launches line the river as rental firm Hobbs busily hires out rowing or self-drive vessels.
Top end: Dine with a view of the kitchen at Iain Dixon’s Gardiner Table, which has a pan-Asian focus
The Thames Table is pricey, but the quality merits such extravagance, writes Richard Mellor. Pictured is one of the elegant dishes
Pictured is the Grill where Tom Westerland serves à la carte chateaubriands and burgers. Breakfast is also served here
The rooms: Superking beds, roll-top baths and espresso machines. Go for the split-level Nettlebed – as well as facing the rear (which is much quieter at weekends), it’s cosily romantic. Hurley is the lone accessible room.
The USP: Food and rooms to finally befit Henley’s class.
The food: The Thames Table is pricey (£165 a head with matching wines), but the quality merits such extravagance. From monkfish with mushroom and celeriac to venison with red cabbage, parsnip and chestnut, watching each plate being put together is fascinating, as is quizzing Westcar on his inspirations. Breakfast is served in the Grill.
Crockers, Henley-on-Thames. Dinner, B&B costs from £370 a night (henley.crockersuk.com).
This post was first published on DailyMail.