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If a grand country house is the order of the day, Danesfield fits the bill a treat. Ten rooms cater for up to 100 for weddings, parties, meetings and private dining (groups of up to 14 can order from the Michelin-starred restaurant, Adam Simmonds). The 65-acre grounds lend themselves well to teambuilding exercises such as Thames treasure hunts and boat trips, as well as alfresco functions. Marlow-on-Thames, Buckinghamshire SL7 2EY, tel: 01628 891010 BR:87 FR:10 M:100 D:100 R:175
Right next to Marlow Weir, this smart four-star hotel has five conference- and celebration-friendly rooms, including three period suites overlooking the water. Marquee space can now also be hired in the riverside orchard. The hotel has two private launches – Silent Waters for six, and Sovereign Waters for 12. Highly regarded restaurants and a 400-year-old oak-panelled bar add to the charm.
Marlow, Buckinghamshire SL7 1RG, tel: 0844 879 9128, BR:64 FR:5 M:120 D:120 R:150
The decor is less P&O and more chic gastropub. There is one function room, The Snug, which is suitable for sit-down dinners, buffets or just drinks and nibbles.
Sutton Road, Cookham, Berkshire SL6 9SN, tel: 01628 525123, BR:- FR:1 M:- D:25 R:75
Spring Cottage at Cliveden
This three-bed 19th-century mock Tudor summerhouse is often used by groups of friends and family, but its elegant rooms, butler service and private location away from the main hotel make for a top-notch small meeting space too. It will hold 12 for meetings or private dining, and up to 20 for a wedding ceremony. There’s direct access to the river and Cliveden’s 100-year-old boat, the Suzy Ann. Christine Keeler partied at Spring Cottage with her Russian spy, so there’s history here too.
Cliveden, Taplow, Berkshire SL6 0JF, tel: 01628 668561, BR:3 FR:1 M:12 D:12 R:20
Restaurant & Bar
This mid-river restaurant and bar has a great terrace with views along the Thames. Sit-down meals are held in the downstairs brasserie; buffets and drinks-only events in the terrace bar above. Venue hire is only charged for drinks parties, otherwise a minimum spend applies. There’s no charge for daytime meetings for up to 20 delegates in the function room.
Boulters Lock Island, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 8PE, tel: 01628 621291, BR:- FR:1 M:16 D:80 R:125
There’s fine dining and there’s fine dining, and then there’s the Waterside Inn, dominion of the Roux family since 1972 and proud bearer of three Michelin stars since 1985. River Cottage, next to the restaurant and with its own entrance, drawing room and courtyard, hosts private parties of up to 12 (it prefers a minimum of six). The cottage doesn’t have a river view, but guests can use the main restaurant’s terrace for aperitifs.
Ferry Road, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AT, tel: 01628 620691, BR:11 FR:1 M:12 D:10 R:-
Monkey Island Hotel
Accessible only by footbridge and boat, this Grade I-listed Palladian former fishing lodge is now a 26-room hotel with six private meeting rooms, from the 144-seater River Room to the colonnaded Temple Room seating eight. It’s also possible to take over
the whole island, which is licensed for civil wedding ceremonies.
Bray-On-Thames, Berkshire SL6 2EE, tel: 01628 623400, BR:26 FR:6 M:144 D:70 R:144
The Riverside Brasserie
While its famous neighbour may have the Michelin stars, the Riverside Brasserie is popular with local punters and food critics alike, and for good reason. Perched right on the river’s edge, the restaurant serves modern bistro classics (think braised hunks of belly pork lacquered with honey, mustard and spices), for a maximum of 35 people.
Monkey Island Lane, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2EB, tel: 01628 780553, BR:- FR:- M:- D:35 R:35
Get a taste of Eton exclusivity with private hire of this College-owned island near Windsor – and bring your sea legs; it’s accessible only via private ferry. Marquees can be erected next to the clubhouse to boost its normal capacity of 60 people up to 200 for a buffet or barbecue or 160 for conferences. Oars and rowing memorabilia decorate the walls, and dragonboat racing is one of the river-based teambuilding activities on offer to corporate groups.
Monkey Island Lane, Berkshire SL6 2EA, tel: 01753 832756, BR:- FR:1 M:160 D:150 R:200
The Victorian-Gothic Oakley Court is a big-screen star; it played Frank N Furter’s castle in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and was the backdrop for several Hammer horror films. Spruced up now as a 118-room hotel licensed for weddings and civil partnerships, it can host groups of between five and 260 in the hotel or up to 500 in a marquee. The balconied riverside Boathouse meeting room holds 25 people.
Windsor Road, Water Oakley, Windsor SL4 5UR, tel: 01753 609988, BR:118 FR:10 M:120 D:160 R:200
Sir Christopher Wren’s Hotel & Spa
Snuggled up close to the bridge that connects Eton and Windsor, Sir Christopher Wren’s Hotel & Spa has five new conference rooms for up to 65 delegates. The hotel’s geared up for weddings, too; the Princess Suite with riverside terrace can be booked for up to 100 guests; the panelled Oak Room seats just 16 and the glass-domed Pavilion can seat 70 for the ceremony or 40 for dinner.
Thames Street, Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1PX, tel: 01753 442400, BR:95 FR:10 M:90 D:90 R:150
Funky modern decor contrasts well with the bucolic riverside location of this 181-bed hotel near Windsor. Boat cruises and river-bank barbecues are offered, and flexible meeting spaces can cater for anything between six and 350 people.
Windsor Road, Egham, Surrey TW20 0AG, tel: 01784 220960, BR:181 FR:13 M:350 D:250 R:250
Mercure London Staines Hotel
Just five miles from Heathrow, this 79-room modern hotel with riverside terrace restaurant is currently refurbishing its eight meeting rooms, some with Thames views. It re-opens in September.
Thames Street, Staines TW18 4SJ, tel: 01784 464433, BR:79 FR:- M:- D:55 R:100
This article was first published in Square Meal Venues & Events, summer 2011