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Newlands Lane, Stoke Row
It may be squirrelled away down a windy back lane in the unexpectedly rural hinterland between Henley and Reading, but there are plenty of reasons why the wonderfully “quirky” Crooked Billet gets packed to the gunnels with grub-seekers and metro-rural types. For a start it’s a photogenic hot property – we’ve spotted it in countless TV adds, crime dramas and movies. It also “has something for everyone” with music nights, special events and more besides – not to mention a freewheeling kitchen dedicated to “top-quality food” with eclectic overtones. There’s nothing too recherché about the vast menu, but it covers a lot of ground from home-smoked pheasant with beetroot, pickled red cabbage and parsnip crisp or a basket of shell-on prawns with mayo to Moroccan spiced lamb with harissa and barley couscous. For afters, there’s a cracking cheeseboard loaded with local varieties plus a roll-call of rich, rollicking puds such as baked Alaska. Also check out the springtime ‘guinea pig’ menu, when the chef trials new ideas at a special price. Meanwhile, a charming brigade of cheery, efficient staff keeps things rolling along nicely.
Squaremeal’s Best Restaurants in the UK 2016 is compiled using votes from our annual survey, last conducted in spring 2016. Thousands of readers and bloggers took part and the results were moderated by the Squaremeal editor and his nationwide team of professional reviewers. The survey does not ask for or include any restaurants in London. Click here for a full list of Squaremeal’s Best Restaurants in the UK.
UK's Top 100 Restaurants 2016
Newlands Lane, Stoke Row
Henley-on-Thames Station 8km
Tilehurst Station 8km
Huntercombe Golf Club 3km
Greys Court 4km
Mon-Sat 12N-2.30pm 7-10pm Sun 12N-10pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 3
It is 5 years since I last visited and I thought it best not to go with high expectations. Not feeling like cooking we thought we'd give it a whirl on Monday evening. The menu sounds good, but perhaps it is too long for everything to be done really well. At £100 for 2 main courses, 1 dessert and a bottle of wine, a return evening visit can't really be justified especially as the quality ingredients used are not quite allowed to shine. Breads were homemade, fresh and the one with caraway seed was superb. My main of smoked haddock was cooked properly as were the partnering two scallops. Flavours were good overall, but the potato beneath tasted better than it looked – nevertheless with potato being the dominant component on the plate, I left quite a lot. The root vegetable dauphinoise side dish was soggy and very disappointing and shouldn't have been served in that state. My partner had Moroccan style lamb and was warned about the spicy heat. It was under-spiced with little heat, however, it was importantly all quite edible. At an adjacent table slight disappointment was expressed about a partridge and foie gras main course, plus a less than positive comment to be relayed to the chef about one dessert; in contrast, my partner's dessert slipped down very well. Very agreeable report on a starter came from one of the four occupied tables. (With low level music in such a small space, hearing others is inevitable – perhaps one of their live music events would help.)
As I had stated in 2009 lunch was the better option and probably still is now. Service was correct, relaxed and very pleasant and we had good wine aptly recommended. Country pub charm has obviously not warn off for many, although freshening up stained cushions wouldn't go amiss.
This place could offer fantastic food given the standard of sourcing… I so wanted it to be better as it is my closest neighbourhood restaurant.
Food + drink: 4
We drove to the Crooked Billet last weekend from South West London, pooh-poohing reports of how difficult it is to find. I don't know what our SatNav was thinking but on the way there we drove down single track lanes, with grass growing in the middle, through a forest. I was dying for a bit of country air and definitely got what I asked for. On the way back we managed to stick to tarmac roads and were in Henley in about 10 minutes so I think it was just our SatNav being adventurous on the way out.
The pub is very charming, and really nicely decorated; cosy and olde worlde, but not chocolate boxy. There are picnic style tables out the front for when the English summer decides to make a fleeting appearance, and indoors has a few different areas. We had two small children in our party and were in a largish room with two other biggish groups with kids. The other areas were all grown-ups. I don't know if this was on purpose but if so it was very sensible to have all the kids in one room so no-one else was bothered by the little monsters.
Food-wise I was very pleased with the menu and our friends, who hadn't read the SquareMeal reviews, were thrilled as they were expecting Fish ‘n’ Chips pub grub. There was a prix fixe with about 5 or 6 options for each course, and a lovely à la carte with international flavours; my seared tuna with tapenade tasted very Sicilian, my husband's Moroccan lamb was lovely and spicy and the lemon sole with seared scallops had a summery Gallic touch. Decent wine list with a well-priced prosecco and a reasonable number of wines by the glass. We paid £42 per couple for starters, mains, coffees and a bottle of prosecco (no other booze as driving back to London).
I would definitely go here again. It would be a lovely haven to visit for crews/families who are in Henley for a few days and fancy getting away from the madding crowd in a very English country pub.
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