Sorry, but your web browser is too old to display this page properly.
Please update it to the latest version or switch to a more modern browser,
Google Chrome or
Internet Explorer 11 (they're all free).
Shiplake Row, Binfield Heath
Named after George Orwell, who spent his childhood in the area, this brilliant eatery has been painstakingly realised by Ryan Simpson and Liam Trotman – two chefs known for their “clever creativeness” (according to one reader). Well-bred pubby charms, good looks and reasonable prices belie a defiantly British repertoire based on locally sourced ingredients, foraged pickings, home-grown vegetables and honey from the owners’ hives. The kitchen works hard, setting the tone with superb home-baked sourdough bread before diners are treated to a cavalcade of picture-perfect plates ranging from a “thoughtful composition” involving three kinds of home-grown tomatoes, goats’ cheese and sweet onion to proper honeycomb in a “heavenly” chocolate cream. In between, it’s “brilliant fine dining” all the way, whether you’re sampling a “staggeringly good” dish of veal sweetbread, with charcoal mayo salsify and pickled cabbage or sea-fresh monkfish in company with salty crispy kale, roast cauliflower, brown butter and cream. Set menus offer outstanding value and the thoughtfully chosen wine list features some “exemplary Coravin flights” – although Orwells’ “unfussy ambience” remains one of its greatest assets.
SquareMeal’s Best Restaurants in the UK 2018 is compiled using votes from our annual survey, last conducted in spring 2018. Thousands of readers took part and the results were moderated by SquareMeal’s editor and his nationwide team of professional reviewers. The UK survey does not include any restaurants in London. Click here for the full list of SquareMeal’s Best Restaurants in the UK.
UK's Top 100 Restaurants 2017
UK's Top 100 Restaurants
Shiplake Row, Binfield Heath
Shiplake Station 2km
Wargrave Station 2km
Henley Golf Club 1km
River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames 3km
Wed-Sun 12N-2.30pm & Wed-Sat 7pm-9.30pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 5
In the UK, Michelin has done 182 restaurants the honour of granting them one star or more for 2019, while in Belgium the total is 139. A quick comparison of the populations of the two countries and a simple calculation indicate that Belgians are at least four times more likely to be able to eat in a Michelin-star restaurant than a UK resident. The logical conclusion for us is that the France-based guide is biased against the fine dining scene in this country, because, on the basis of our considerable experience of eating out in the two countries in question, there is no way that the UK is lagging behind Belgium and for us Orwells is a perfect example of the way excellent restaurants in this country are underrated by the tyre-maker cum booking agency.
On our latest visit we took the ten-course “taste the season” menu, and ten individual courses were served by the impeccable front of house staff in a perfectly balanced sequence of dishes showcasing the considerable skills of the chefs and a choice of wines expertly recommended by Arnaud, the restaurant manager and sommelier. I am not a great lover of popcorn, even as a snack, but the salt and vinegar version here began to sway me, and the clever smoked cheddar ploughman’s with its liquid cheese, pickle, toast crumbs, parsley and tiny apple cubes had us anticipating another historic evening. The menu proper began with potato foam surrounding soft chunks, fishy caviar and miso providing a vary umami back-up. Chorizo, scallop and clam came together as a brilliant trio luxuriating in superb honey and miso sauce, and then intriguing rib cap beef, full of body, supported by mushroom, oyster leaf and a smoky mayo, was elevated to specialness by beetroot from the restaurant’s garden with the epitome of proper taste and texture. Beetroot figured as the star in the next dish along with Innisbury goat’s cheese and a variety of beet confections in the form of dark and light versions of the root and an outstanding pickled beet sauce and finished off with a judicious cheese sprinkle. Who’d have thought we might rave about a dish of humble beetroot? Staying with humble, fish and chips figured next on the menu, but, as always, the boys in the kitchen had their own way of doing things, pickling chips, putting scraps on the plate, adding an unctuous curry sauce, and scattering lovely potato straws on the exemplary firm white fish. We had now arrived at the first meat offering - quite amazing confit pork with its sauce/reduction and crunchy celeriac and crazy brown sauce ice cream the taste of which on the palate matched and contrasted with the pork at the same time. And we now came, inevitably, to one of the dishes featured in the Great British Menu. Local venison, quite a large portion for a tasting menu, radiating freshness and flavour, tender as could be and paired with hazelnut bits, some pickled, more beetroot, kale and oyster mushrooms, was truly delicious and showed how close it must have come to going through to the final. The melon and ham palate cleanser led into the moreish first dessert - local honey and sorrel, nut crumble and apple, which prefaced the second GBM dish which was a veritable PLATE full rather spoon full of sugar with its chocolate, salted caramel, hazelnut and honeycomb combination. There is nobody in the NHS who would not have loved this! It was surely no accident that Orwells was extremely busy after both chefs had appeared on national television, but we trust that first-timers will have been as impressed as they should be and make as many return trips as we do to this beacon of inventive, top-class modern cuisine which pays homage to the seasons and to local ingredients.
When you get to the end of a meal out and you just sit there, utterly content, reflecting on the superb food you’ve had, you know the restaurant has got everything right. Once again our dining experience here was absolutely brilliant and Orwell’s is a prime example of the tyre maker cum booking app (conflict of interests?) getting its rating wrong. We began the ‘Taste the season’ menu with a pre-amuse-bouche of radishes fresh from the garden with a wild garlic mayo which were followed up with a cheekily tasty smoky (cheddar) cheese and (Branston) pickle foam before things started in earnest with mouthwatering chicken skin wafer and smoked paprika cuttlefish and then sweet cured scallop in smoked roe sauce accompanied by charcoal focaccia and then cock crab with cunningly smoked rhubarb and a parmesan crisp. The signature duck crumpet was again something of a rich, ravishing surprise with the duck heart and sauce, meaty shiitake, parsley and burr cheese taken together providing a real treat. The John Dory that followed was day-boat fresh, perfectly cooked and splendidly combined with caviar, verjus and spring onion. Top-class wagyu was as good as you can get, melt-in-the-mouth yet with a quite imperious taste and seconded by local hen of the woods mushroom and a creamy wild garlic sauce. While purists might prefer lamb before beef, the sequence on the night seemed just right, with properly young lamb, pea mash, tiny potatoes and a black olive purée making a perfect match with he meat. The pre-dessert of sorrel sorbet, puffed rice, natural yoghurt and strands of fennel was good enough to be a dish in its own right, but it cleverly introduced the first dessert of rhubarb and custard, the aerated custard light as anything with smooth rhubarb and crunch added with flaked almonds; the final dish contrasted white chocolate with a subtle ginger ice cream and pistachios for the ultimate in sweet textures and flavours. The kitchen was excellently backed up by the minimal front of house staff who somehow manage to look after all the tables, and especially Arnaud who combines a wealth of wine knowledge, and has put together an exemplary wide-ranging wine list, with a number of Coravin selections. We will be back.
There are a number of things you can guarantee when you dine at Orwells: the proper welcome and the friendly, professional service, the certainty that there will be a whole bunch of courses on the menu that you won’t have had before, the quality of the top-class Coravin wine flight, that none of the courses will look or be obvious from the wording of the menu, and the outstanding cooking. The intriguing and spare descriptions of the dishes on the Taste the Season menu confirmed our intention to go for the tasting menu, and after a lively discussion with the excellent sommelier, Arnaud, we opted for the impeccable wine flight. Simple but surprising was our reaction to the first course, which somehow seemed more than an amuse-bouche - three types of home-grown tomatoes with goats cheese and sweet onion, a thoughtful composition which certainly got our palates primed. This led into a succession of “starters” beginning with delightfully delicate lobster contrasting with crunchy chicken skin and accompanied by chanterelles and samphire and a superlative, temperature-perfect lobster jus, followed by exemplary sea bass backed up by a wonderful match of ingredients such as red-flesh radish, seaweed, tiny balls of cucumber and a dash of dashi, and then something similar to a sweet jacket potato sprinkled with caviar, chives and sea purslane - unbelievably simple yet so striking! Duck & crumpet sounded a bit chain restaurant-like, but we were confounded once more by the duck actually being brilliantly finished hearts in a surprising match with the spongy crumpets in a duck jus. This was followed by what was basically one of the best vegetarian dishes we’ve ever had: home-grown, salt-baked pumpkin with a memorable parmesan crisp, pine nuts, walnuts, sea buckthorn, chicory and pear slices all combining to produce a lovely, mouth-filling whole. We were then lucky enough to be treated to one of the à la carte starters, staggeringly good breaded veal sweetbread with charcoal mayo and charcoal, really fresh salsify, cabbage and pickled cabbage, and lettuce, which somehow gave the impression of sweetness yet had a salt tang - a masterpiece of well-balanced tastes, textures and temperatures. From there we moved into the three “mains”. Firstly sea-fresh monkfish with moreish salty crispy kale, roast cauliflower, brown butter and cream, then local hare, the fantastic taste, which is sometimes lost by overcooking the meat, here pointed up against the sage and apple accompaniment and sauce, and finally tender juicy lamb (again local) with crispy artichoke, broccoli and broccoli purée. The perfectly-judged size of the dishes and their order of presentation meant that it was not difficult to find room for the two desserts on the menu. The pre-dessert of lemon curd, sorrel, raspberry and oats and nuts served very well both as a sort of palate cleanser and a dessert, and the dessert proper, delicious honeycomb in a heavenly chocolate cream was a triumphant climax to a brilliant fine-dining experience.
However, the Michelin enigma remains: How can this restaurant be properly ranked by The Good Food Guide in its Top 50 and given a score equal to that of a number of Michelin two-star venues, and superior to some others, and Hardens justifiably award it top marks, and yet not get even one measly star from the tyre company.
We cannot get availability for this restaurant. Please try a different date or time.
Book without an offer
If you would like to book an offer, make your choice below.
Sorry there are no offers available at this restaurant, at this time. Please click Continue without offer to continue with this booking or select another time.
Book selected offer
First Name is required
Last Name is required
E-mail is required
Wrong e-mail format
E-mail confirmation is required
Wrong e-mail format
The e-mail addresses don't match.
Phone is required
I am booking on behalf of someone else
Diner First Name
Diner Last Name
Diner Phone number
Please wait while we confirm your booking ...
I want to receive offers and news from Orwells
By clicking 'CONFIRM' you agree to the SquareMealUser Agreement.
This reservation is processed by OpenTable. By clicking 'Confirm' you agree to their
Back to Offers
Confirm The Booking
SquareMeal Rewards points collected:
You will receive an email from SquareMeal shortly. Please add the booking to your calendar here:
Register with SquareMeal