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|Address:||Stonor, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire RG9 6HE|
|Tel:||01491 639 039|
|Price: £32.00||Wine: £16.00||Champagne: £47.50|
|Opening Hours:||Tue-Sat 11.30am-2.30pm 6-10pm Sun 11.30am-4pm|
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Goodness me, how could I hang up my foodie review hat when I need to appraise people of my new local. The Quince Tree should become a significant attraction in the gloriously picturesque valley of Stonor just outside Henley on Thames. It is almost worth moving back to the home we left 6 months ago within a ‘hillsworth’ walking distance from TQT, as we are now sadly all of 6 or so miles away.
Sensitively restored, the old pub and its outbuildings have been luxuriously and yet simply done to include not only a galleried café with a Deli to rival some of the best, a pub which serves real local ale or whatever else you could want to drink, and of course there is the lunch/dinner menu. Sensibly the formal restaurant will open when they are satisfied with the smooth running of other elements. They are perfecting the sourcing of fresh produce, supplying anything from their in-house patisserie to the good array of cheeses, charcuterie, fruit and vegetables. Choices naturally vary according to quality and availability, both local and wider spread. There are the usual oils, vinegar, dry goods, olives and nibbles of all descriptions. Wine choice is limited (although’ a chateauneuf du pape, one of the more expensive I sometimes buy at £26 (Waitrose) is a few more pounds here, but probably not quite London rates). There are more reasonably priced wines, many of which I would class as ‘good’ and good value. They also have locally brewed bottled beverages. I have seen Armangac and Calvados – put simply: interesting stock.
Practically all the food, I believe, is prepared on the premises using prime ingredients and I mean “prime”. Breads, savoury and sweet pastries, venison scotch eggs, crayfish fishcakes which are the best ever. I have become addicted to these little beauties which I can’t refrain from ordering, because each has generous chunks of fresh and easily identifiable pieces of crayfish in a light potato mash, carefully bread-crumbed and made into perfect spheres, always adequately seasoned and served alongside a salad with an intense fragrance of lemons. We have eaten here 7 or 8 times, once breakfast, but usually lunch. To further place my opinion into perspective, I have had 3 or 4 utterly fault-free visits. Service is friendly, usually excellent and all staff happen to be young, evidently carefully recruited and well trained. One sunny Sunday morning was spent relaxing in the sheltered courtyard flanked by the building on one side and the garden borders on two and Chiltern hill on the other, where you may spot the odd deer roaming. You could bring a newspaper, i-pad or whatever, but papers are available, timing and take up permitting. Last Sunday a.m. (9 Sept) it was warm enough even for me to eat outdoors. I ordered omelette of the day which turned out to be a choice of cheese, ham, mushrooms, smoked salmon or probably anything you ask for. I plumped for mushroom with herbs if there were some soft fresh to hand. A fluffy 3 egg omelette made from daisy-fresh eggs, mushrooms, and the requisite parsley duly arrived – simple but perfect. My partner had a toasted muffin with slice upon slice of bacon alongside scrambled egg – which I could happily have eaten.
I like the great spaciousness. I like the view through the over-sized windows juxtaposed great oak beams and industrial steel fastenings which couple the blonde oak roof beams together Brunel style, at least it uses the principle of his engineering. I like the simple modern unpretentious tables and similar chairs which are firm but comfortable. I like the space between tables in the café at ground, first floor and in the courtyard – you never have to compete with speech volume from neighbouring tables. I like the fact that when the food is meant to be served hot, it is served just so. I like the fact that chilled carrot and apple juice laced with ginger refreshes. I like the fact that all are welcome – the café is popular with families at weekends; and water bowls are to hand in the courtyard for the thirsty pet, although I haven’t seen a dog’s menu yet. I like the way the menus are written. I like the fact that the café food is served all day with smooth transition from breakfast through to afternoon tea. The split level Cafe is good value with small and large plates of some dishes on offer. I have even ordered breakfast muffins to take out (I have found that if you ask they will always pleasantly try to accommodate). I have to tell about the times we have popped in with friends for a light meal. A ‘small plate’ of fresh delicate soft fish surrounded by crisp light batter served with a ‘homemade’ mayonnaise, some crushed peas and chips – by this I mean good chunky chips, or sometimes frites (all for £6.50). Otherwise smoked salmon with soft boiled egg and warm bruschetta – mine excellent – ordered with reservation, as for me it often disappoints. A cauliflower cheese risotto with balsamic onions at £9 was once my envy. Other tempting morsels may take the form of ham and piccalilli, or beef sirloin with horseradish served with side bits, a Salad perhaps; Caesar or one of Nicoise; or beetroot, orange and goats’ cheese. Also under the heading of Little Dishes could be Sausage & mash or Pasta and tomato with classic pesto (around £5/£6) Larger plates are on offer for those who want something more substantial, such as the mixed platters, and I can confidently vouch for the sea variety.
A little gripe would be that the display of fresh fruit and vegetables in the deli can range from very fresh to a little tired, but I have selected some superbly juicy fruits and even fresh almonds. Vicars’ game can be found in the fridge along with other goodies such as imported cartons of Gazpacho which have seen me through the summer when either short of time or just feeling lazy in the kitchen. Needless to say this is a one stop shop for me if I want to do some easy entertaining or something more elaborate.
Someone has had the foresight to indulge a huge amount of thought. Just a glance will tell you that seriously sized pockets must have emptied to develop this site. This must be the first truly good, but not overly complicated food destination in the Chilterns and probably some way beyond that deserves rapturous applause.
For non-natives staying in Henley, a short taxi ride out here is a must for food enthusiasts who do or do not wish to drive, although two car parks provide ample space for those who do. It is better than any eating place in the centre of Henley – I know this after waiting ten years hoping something like this would come along. Not even something much less ambitious and good has appeared.
What a treat this is and a place where substance matches style!