British, Gastropub, Modern European·
Gold Award

SquareMeal Review of Orwells

Gold Award

Named after legendary author George Orwell, who spent his childhood living 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 and it shows, with one reader hailing Orwells as a “beacon of inventive, top-class modern cuisine”. The restaurant sets the tone with superb home-baked sourdough bread before diners are treated to a cavalcade of picture-perfect plates ranging from Cornish streked gurnard with Bajan spice, green strawberries and spring onions to a honey sponge topped with proper honeycomb, salted caramel and wild strawberries.

In between, you can expect ingredient-led dishes which “pay homage to the seasons”, such as Devon duck breast with miso-glazed globe artichoke, apricot and pak choi, or barbecued cauliflower with Jersey royal potatoes, asparagus, peas, and king oyster mushrooms.

If you fancy eliminating the burden of choice, Orwells offers a multi-course tasting menu called ‘Taste The Season’ (a vegetarian version is also available to diners). Served to the whole table, the seasonally changing menu is a love letter to the best ingredients of the moment and might include the likes of chicken with Exmoor caviar and kaffir lime, or perhaps Dover sole with dashi and lime. Both a ‘standard’ and ‘prestige’ wine flight is available to complete your meal at an extra cost.

A set lunch menu offers outstanding value, while the Sunday lunch offering sees beef or pork served up alongside crackling and roast potatoes. The thoughtfully chosen wine list is a further draw, but its Orwell’s charming and unfussy atmosphere that remains one of its greatest assets.  

Good to know

Average Price
££££ - £50 - £79
British, Gastropub, Modern European
Fine dining
Food Occasions
Dinner, Lunch, Sunday roast
Special Features
Vegan options, Vegetarian options
Perfect for
Special occasions
Food Hygiene Rating


With a slew of awards to its name, Orwells is no stranger to critical acclaim and has managed to do what many fail to do – maintain its momentum. Since it opened in 2010, this sweet Oxfordshire restaurant has drawn diners from across the country.

What, then, is the key its success? We think it’s most likely the personality on every plate. Headed up by Ryan Simpson and Liam Simpson (not related), the duo is invested in creating a laidback yet fine dining experience for their guests and the unpretentious, upbeat service helps to buoy this. Ryan’s experience lies in Michelin starred French kitchens, while Liam’s journey has included time at one of Liverpool’s best restaurants and a stint in Devon at five star hotel Bovey Castle.

The dining room at Orwells is found inside an 18th Century pub, with the traditional wooden bar still the centrepiece to the space. Elsewhere, neat tables and chairs adorn things while there’s a blue colour scheme that reflects the deliberate simplicity of the menu.

Passionate about province and sustainability, both Ryan and Liam have been known to change the entire menu on a daily basis to keep up with what’s best in season. With its own patch of land the restaurant is able to grow much of what it uses, while meat and fish are sourced as locally as possible. 

With both a la carte and tasting menus on offer, Orwells provides something for every occasion, and there’s even a garden where you’re welcome to grab drinks and snacks should the weather be playing ball. Vegans and vegetarians are all catered for too via dedicated billings. While dishes change regularly, example mains include Devon duck breast with Roscoff onions, purple sprouting broccoli and truffle or a salt baked celeriac with cheddar, onions, hen of the wood mushrooms, hazelnuts and kalettes.


Does the restaurant take reservations?

Yes, Orwells it takes reservations, and we advise booking in advance.

Helpful? 0

Has it won any awards?

Yes, it has won four AA Rosettes.

Helpful? 0

Does it offer Christmas dinner?

Yes, usually it offers Christmas Dinner if booked in advance.

Helpful? 0


Shiplake Row, Binfield Heath, Henley-On-Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 4DP

0118 940 3673 0118 940 3673


Opening Times

Mon Closed
Tue Closed
Wed 12:00-14:30
Thu 12:00-14:30
Fri 12:00-14:30
Sat 12:00-14:30
Sun 12:30-15:30
Mon Closed
Tue Closed
Wed 18:30-21:30
Thu 18:30-21:30
Fri 18:30-21:30
Sat 18:30-21:30
Sun Closed


Share your thoughts with other diners

Write a review

7 Reviews 

Don B

17 September 2022   - Verified Diner
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5
Great evening

We had a lovely meal at the renovated restaurant food as always excellent.
my wife and I were both comfortably full after the meal.

thank you Don.


21 July 2022   - Verified Diner
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5
An exceptional meal worth the 90 minute drive

From the moment we entered we received a warm welcome - friendly and interested and not at all intrusive.  The team was really helpful in explaining the menu and the dishes - which were all fantastic.  The duck (both the breast and the "doughnut" melted in the mouth, the John Dory was light, tasted of a sunlit sea and was delicious and my wife, vegetarian and selective, was a huge fan of the turnip cassoulet.  The bread was exceptional.  And the puddings (the four of us tried all four puddings) were all showstoppers.  We are London based and eat out quite a bit.  This was an exceptional meal.

Paul A

04 December 2018  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 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.

Paul A

21 May 2018  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5
Brilliantly surprising
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.

Paul A

25 October 2017  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 5
Value 5
Top class in every respect
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.

Paul A

07 November 2016  
Food & Drink 5
Service 5
Atmosphere 4
Value 5
Worth all the praise it gets
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.

Wendy M

22 June 2012  
Food & Drink 3.5
Service 3.5
Atmosphere 4.5
Value 4
Update – Jun 12 What more can one ask – great atmosphere and some good food’n wine, but – a small but Pheasant Egg & Pork Belly was the dish of the day followed by Asparagus minus the Orange Hollandaise sauce which was too buttery (or maybe I just don’t like the butter used presently) or more likely perhaps there was insufficient citrus to cut through the rich sauce, because this dish was excellent last time – tiny pieces of orange zest may have helped elevate the flavour or reduction of orange could have done it possibly . Nevertheless hot flavoursome asparagus with chopped pistachios and 3 quail’s eggs which produced sufficient sauce to make the hollandaise superfluous for my liking and therefore somewhat healthier – bonus! In at third place was the lobster because it was so fresh, cooked to order, but it could have been eased with a kitchen knife at the shell edge just prior to plating up – remedy a steak knife which was promptly delivered. Coming in at fourth place was Pork with garlic mushrooms sauteed with rosemary and parsley. Sadly the Pork T-Bone didn’t make the grade. Mushrooms stunning – we requested extra which duly arrived. Still not impressed with the chips – they don’t seem quite like triple cooked to us. Good but very importantly dishes are seasoned properly. The duo at the helm are not quite maintaining consistently good standard yet. Now, a big positive for me : At last a local restaurant with a good choice of wine by the glass ranging from reasonable to double figures for a champagne or for a very good burgundy – Great idea, especially when I often choose fish and partner chooses meat – gives more scope to match wines to food and gives you chance to have one small glass of quality if you are driving. The new MD was not au-fait with the dishes listed on the menu and stumbled, but in fairness he is very new. Andrew has moved on, however, we still mourn Dylan now at Chapter 1 in Kent; he was a special talent. I am being rather picky here; I am sure we will get to know the successor. The balance of my last ‘glowing’ review needs redressing and I have adjusted the scores accordingly. Overall we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly but we know the potential of these guys, proved time and time again at our one time favourite haunt. If you like game and foraged locally sourced produce this is a place to visit in the area………Impressive having opened in the middle of a recession and two years on they are doing well, which says it all really. First Review I'd always considered Ryan a Great British Chef having dined at his restaurants dozens of times (Liam, sous chef and business partner can handle the pass too…you can watch them at work through the window they have fitted between ‘The Room’ and kitchen). My scores say it all. They have turned this pub/restuarant around and are now steadily and confidently striding back up to the usual high standard. It is only a matter of time before a Michelin star is re-gained. Weekends are regularly packed with punters. The ever evolving menus have changed since the Squaremeal review, e.g. no Muntjac Burger with TCC's anymore. Definitely one to watch!
Book a table

Find a table

Sorry, you cannot spend SquareMeal vouchers here yet.

Other restaurants we like near Orwells

Check availability