Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Dining by river is magical

Dining by river is magical

AS we strolled up to the entrance of this prestigious private members’ club, the River Thames was twinkling in the early evening sun, writes Karen French.

The fabulous Phyllis Court Club is a stunning venue set alongside the river, within easy walking distance of Henley town centre.

We were greeted by Francesco on reception, shortly after Andy McGuiness, a member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, introduced himself to us.

Andy asked if we would like an aperitif at the bar, which we gladly accepted.

The atmosphere in the lounge bar and on the terrace was very relaxing and guests were enjoying a fabulously sunny evening on the lawn.

We had arrived early so we took the opportunity to find out what other delights Phyllis Court had to offer.

There are in fact not one but three restaurants to choose from.

The magical Orangery overlooking the river, with its casual, relaxed atmosphere, is ideal for light lunches and refreshments.

The lounge and terrace are perfect for afternoon teas and sandwiches — not forgetting the famous Riverside Pavilion offering al fresco dining. As we entered the Dining Room we were met by Emma the front of house manager.

There was a vibrant and exciting atmosphere, fabulous fresh chic décor with tables discreetly positioned to ensure there was plenty of room between guests.

Carl Jackman, the executive chef, has a wealth of experience running top level operations such as Rhubarb Catering, including the one and only Royal Albert Hall, as well as local experience with the Quince Tree in Stonor.

He strongly believes that good ingredients are key to great food and his new menus at Phyllis Court Club have been extremely well received.

We were both filled with anticipation as we looked forward to the delicious offerings from one of the top chefs in Henley. The tasting menu had such splendours to offer as seafood bisque with rouille, gruyère and toast paired with a 2015 Kudu Plains chenin blanc from South Africa.

You could also opt for half a Cornish lobster with lemon and garlic butter, fries and asparagus with hollandaise sauce, paired with a 2016 Picpoul de Pinet, Coteaux du Languedoc.

We chose to order from the main menu, which offered starters such as chicken liver and foie gras parfait and apple and onion compote with a side of brioche. For the main course, there was Bowland Forest Chateaubriand for two, carved at the table and served with wild mushrooms, béarnaise sauce and pont neuf with a red wine jus.

For my starter I ordered the gravadlax of salmon with dill mayo and pumpernickel toast, while my dining companion David ordered the smoked duck salad with English raspberries and rocket. But before our starters arrived there was a surprise from the chef in the form of an amuse bouche — a creative display with an unforgettable taste.

The salmon melted in my mouth, so fresh and perfectly seasoned. I also had to sample the duck, which was cooked to perfection.

Fresh lobster was offered for the main as a special, but the Bowland Forest fillet steak with dauphinoise, spinach, wild mushrooms with a pepper sauce on the side won on the day. The steak was one of the best I have ever tasted, so succulent and tender.

For their part, the dauphinoise were softly seasoned with a light crispy topping, fresh spinach and mushrooms with a delicious pepper sauce — truly scrumptious.

For dessert I chose the strawberry and vanilla cheesecake with blackcurrant and white chocolate with a couple of fresh strawberries on the side.

David enjoyed the artisan cheese and biscuits, which was equally divine.

I would like to thank Carl, Andy, Johannes, Emma, Monique and their team, Sophie, Hannah and Aimee, who all made us feel so welcome and made our experience one to remember.

There are only two weeks remaining for non-members to enjoy this amazing experience. For more information or to book a table, call Phyllis Court Club on (01491) 570500, quoting the code “ODM17”.

Wine and Dine

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