PRINCE Harry dined at a pub in Stoke Row on New Year’s Eve — but his attempt to go unnoticed backfired.
He arrived for lunch at the Crooked Billet with a male friend at about 1pm and was seated at a discreet corner table which had been pre-booked for four people. But the prince and his friend had to move to another table on the other side of the restaurant when they were joined not by two others but by three other men and two women.
Paul Clerehugh, who owns the restaurant, said: “Prince Harry chose a table that was right in the corner so nobody could see him but as it turned out they needed space for more than four people. He had to walk all the way through the heaving restaurant to the end where there was a table for seven, with everybody watching and knowing it was him.”
The prince’s three security guards also played musical chairs as they were originally seated at a table for two as that was all that was available before later being moved to a larger table. Harry and his friends stayed for about three hours, eating up to three courses and ordering a selection of drinks, including a few pints of Brakspear.
The 29-year-old prince, who was casually dressed, ate a main of roast free-range chicken with bacon hash, confit shallots and chargrilled and creamed leeks followed by toffee pudding, toffee sauce and clotted cream for dessert.
Mr Clerehugh, who was in the kitchen during the prince’s visit, was informed about the royal visitor by one of his “extremely excitable” waitresses.
“We thought ‘doesn’t that bloke look like Prince Harry?’” he said. “All the girls had a little peep and agreed that it looked like him and then when everybody in the restaurant agreed and the security team came in and asked if they could get a table as well we realised it actually was him.”
Mr Clerehugh, a Henley Standard food columnist, said he was able to keep calm about cooking for the prince because he was under pressure. “I was so focused on the evening, when we had 180 people booked, that it sort of took my nerves away and the attention off fussing around the royal table,” he said. “I had a little peek of the back of his head but I didn’t think it would be a cool thing to go and chat with him. The waitresses said he was incredibly polite and extremely complimentary about the food.”
It is the second time that Prince Harry has dined in one of Mr Clerehugh’s restaurants as he ate a three-course meal at the London Street Brasserie in Reading in September.
He now hopes that the prince, who is dating Cressida Bonas, might return. “Of course we do wedding receptions at the Crooked Billet so I have got my fingers crossed,” he said.
Several other famous faces attended the pub’s annual New Year’s Eve party later the same evening, including actress Emily Mortimer and her husband Alessandro Nivola, Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson and Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, who lives in Shiplake.
Mr Clerehugh said: “I was just as amazed at being able to have a good chinwag with Ian Paice and Bruce Dickinson as to cook for His Royal Highness.”