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
0118 940 3673
Shiplake Station 2km
Wargrave Station 2km
Henley Golf Club 1km
River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames 3km
Wed-Sun 11.30-2.30pm (Sun -3.30pm) Wed-Sat 6.30pm-9pm (Fri-Sat -9.30pm)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 5
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.
Given the way that industry awards are scattered about willy-nilly, even the bestowing of a prestige title like Good Food Guide restaurant of the year can lead to a questioning approach from seasoned punters who have not always been convinced of the qualities of award winners. Friends had recommended Orwells long before its elevation to GFG top dog, but we were still prepared for disappointment after our less than positive experience at the “National Restaurant of the Year” the previous week. The tasting menu was intriguing, presented as basically four courses preceded and interspersed with appropriate small plates. This made for a genuinely generous but never overheavy sequence of dishes, leaving the diner properly comfortable right to the end, and the Coravin wine flight allows for suitably top-class liquid accompaniments. The attention to detail is prefigured by the sourdough bread made from a starter dough reputed to have been kept going for 30 years. We started with very good smoked crab, smoked avocado and a touch of pink grapefruit, then moved on to a delightful beef tartare with a charcoal wafer, and then a mix of tomatoes from the garden with edible soil, mozzarella, pickled kohlrabi and a clever tomato gel. Our palate was now well prepared for the super scallop with roasted cauliflower, pearl barley, and beautifully balanced against a white chocolate smear which pointed up the sweetness of the shellfish. Then came two more intermediate dishes, a superb cod, cucumber and dehydrated curry combination with perfect deep-fried capers, followed by another winner in roast chicken skin crisp, pumpkin purée, anchovy cream, nasturtium leaves and mild radish. The fish course was exemplary fried turbot in a verjus with surprisingly good sultanas, Jerusalem artichoke done three ways - purée, raw and cooked - and mild spring onion. You wouldn’t expect scrambled eggs on toast to follow turbot, but for the purposes of this small plate the eggs were actually cod’s roe accompanied by truffles and an historic brown sauce ice cream! We had hardly had time to digest this marvel before we were served with a celeriac remoulade and a tower of ingredients comprising langoustine, pork scratchings, classic pork with apple, in this case a sphere of smoked pork in a pork reduction with small apple balls, all of which contrasted wonderfully with the celeriac. Our main course was tender Wiltshire lamb with crones, deliberately cold sprout leaves, broccoli and squash, in what was definitely the most classical dish of the evening. Back to inventiveness we went with a lovely palate cleanser of sorrel sorbet seconded by sweet beet, strong ginger and the taste of aniseed from the fennel at the close. We really loved the chocolate ganache dessert, the honeycomb and pistachio providing good texture and the tonka bean cream a voluptuous balance. Here we have two chefs thinking seriously about seasonal ingredients, flavour and texture matches and how best to present their dishes with a dash of humour, and succeeding in spades, serving up inventive, attractive modern cuisine in good surroundings with attentive, but relaxed and knowledgeable staff with the overall result that this is yet another restaurant criminally underrated by Michelin - thank goodness for the Good Food Guide, which rates Orwells correctly as the equal of most two-star venues.
There are no tables available for the time you have chosen. Please try an alternative 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
Please wait while we confirm your booking ...
By clicking 'CONFIRM' you agree to the SquareMeal User Agreement
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