Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Gloom lifted with three new shops and restaurant

THREE new shops and a restaurant are opening in Henley.

THREE new shops and a restaurant are opening in Henley.

Costa, a coffee shop chain, is moving into the former Royal China restaurant premises in Duke Street, which have been empty for almost five years.

Black Hills Yarn is returning to the town at its former premises in Hart Street, which have remained vacant since the shop shut in December.

A boutique called Mint Velvet will take over the Kaliko premises in Market Place, which closed last month after 20 years in the town.

The Square, a Portuguese restaurant, will replace the Chef Peking Chinese restaurant, which closed in May after more than 25 years in business.

The openings come after a series of shop closures and mean the total number of empty premises in the town will be reduced to about 13.

Costa, which will be the town’s ninth coffee shop, will open next month and employ up to 10 people.The premises have been empty since 2008 when Royal China moved to Reading Road.

A Costa spokeswoman said: “As the UK’s favourite coffee shop and one of the success stories on the UK high street, we work closely with planning departments across the country to open new stores for the benefit of local communities, creating new jobs and providing attractive and popular social meeting places.

“We are very much looking forward to integrating ourselves within the Henley community.”

Mint Velvet will open at the end of this month or in early September and employ about seven staff.

A spokeswoman for the chain said: “Why Henley? It is the charm of the Market Place with the welcoming feel of the locals. It is a picturesque town on the Thames — we can’t wait to be a part of it.”

The Square has been given permission to open until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights and midnight the rest of the week. It has a dancing area but owner Nuno Rosado has given assurances that the business will not become a nightclub after fears expressed by town councillors.

The planning permission has several conditions, including the addition of a lobby around the entrance and an agreement that at least one door is closed at all times and a “sound-limiting” device is fitted to the amplification system to protect neighbours from noise.

Mr Rosado and his partner used to run the Ko-Ko bar in Bell Street for 18 months until the venue was served with a noise abatement notice. The bar is now the Bull pub and micro-brewery.

Town centre manager Peter McConnell welcomed the arrival of Mint Velvet, saying: “We are more or less replacing like for like. Because rents are more expensive on the crossroads we are always going to get a national chain there rather than an independent.”

He added: “There has been talk about Costa for a long time and the two main national coffee shops are already here.

“The nature of the high street is changing into somewhere which is all about experience and doing things you can’t do on the internet. Coffee shops are where mums meet either before or after the school run and where people who work from home go to chat. Every coffee shop in Henley is always full.”

Mr McConnell welcomed the return of Black Hills Yarn, saying: “It was disappointing when it closed. I hope they make a success of it. It is good to see shops being used.”

Meanwhile, Costa’s plan to have tables and chairs outside has been criticised by councillors.

The company wants to install a new aluminium-framed shop front set into the building by about 2m to provide room for outdoor seating for eight people.

Its planning application says: “The new shop front would smarten up the appearance of the premises and ensure it makes a positive contribution to the street scene and the wider conservation area through a simple design and use of appropriate materials.”

However, Henley town council’s planning committee has recommended that the application is refused by South Oxfordshire District Council because it does not follow the shop front design guide.

Chairman Dieter Hinke said: “The design is inappropriate for the conservation area and the pavement is too narrow.”

He added: “The thought of people sitting in Duke Street drinking coffee doesn’t bear thinking about thinking of the pollution there.”

Duke Street has the highest nitrogen dioxide levels in South Oxfordshire and nine sites in Henley exceed the level set by Air Quality England.

An application by Mint Velvet to install a replacement fascia sign and a projecting sign was recommended for approval.

A POP-UP restaurant is to be set up in Henley next month.

Chateau Marmot will serve dinner in the glass-fronted room at the River and Rowing Museum on September 13 and 14.

Each night, about 60 guests will enjoy a five-course tasting menu.

Theo Cooper, who owns the business with his wife Danielle and used to live in Remenham Hill, said: “We create a restaurant experience in a venue for a short period of time.

“We find interesting or unusual venues to set up a restaurant and the food we offer is different to what some people relate to pop-up restaurants. They may think of food trucks or supper clubs but we offer a very high standard of food cooked by top chefs in London.

“You buy your ticket in advance but don’t know what you are going to get, which is all part of the excitement —all you know is you are going to have five courses and it’s going to be good.”

Mr Cooper, 32, a former student at The Henley College who now lives in London, set up Chateau Marmot last year after seeing a similar idea inLos Angeles.

He said: “We were inspired by the fact the food we ate there was amazing and also reasonably priced. Our ethos is similar.

“We want the atmosphere to be fun. Sometimes people associate fine dining with a starchy atmosphere where everyone is smartly dressed and people don’t talk but we want people to have a good time and enjoy themselves.”

Mr Cooper has staged pop-up restaurants in London, York and Melbourne and wanted to do the same in his hometown.

“The museum is such a landmark venue and a beautiful building,” he said. “As far as I know, it’s the first time there has been this kind of pop-up restaurant open to the public in Henley so I’m quite excited about it. We love the town and that was the main drive behind bringing it here. We had a feeling there would be a real passion for good food in Henley.”

The menu will be prepared by Ramael Scully, executive chef at the Ottolenghi restaurant group, and Christopher Lyon, from Nopi in Soho, using late summer produce supplied locally.

The menu will cost £48 per person and there will also be matched wine flights.

Tickets are available from

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