Friday, 24 September 2021

Pubs take top spots in best places to eat along Thames

THREE pubs in the Henley area have been crowned the best places to eat along the River Thames.

THREE pubs in the Henley area have been crowned the best places to eat along the River Thames.

The Catherine Wheel in Station Road, Goring, won the restaurant category of the 2015 Best Thames Local Awards while the Little Angel in Remenham Lane, Henley, was runner-up.

In third place for the second year running was the Miller of Mansfield in High Street, Goring, which was also highly commended in the pub category.

The pubs were shortlisted after being nominated by customers and then winning a public vote. Judges from the River Thames Guide, which runs the awards, then visited them anonymously to make the final decision.

There are more than 1,800 pubs along a 200-mile stretch of the river between Oxford and London.

The Catherine Wheel is run by James Dawe, 39, and his partner Tim Schulz, 35, who took over in 2012 after deciding to change careers. Mr Dawe previously had an office job in London while Mr Schulz was a marine biologist.

Neither had experience in hospitality but Mr Dawe had wanted to run a rural pub and the pair settled on the Catherine Wheel after viewing the Brakspear pub.

Mr Dawe said: “It was a lovely building when we took over but had suffered under a series of failed operators and was a little tired and rundown.

“We didn’t refurbish it because that’s not how you turn a pub around — you just have to put your heart and soul into making it a place where people want to be.”

Mr Schulz said: “I was over the moon at the news [of the award] because there’s some seriously strong competition along the Thames.

“The judges said the public vote was very clearly in our favour. They were looking for places that were frequented by locals and close to their communities.

“We both think Goring is an amazing village and are proud to live here — it’s a little place with a big personality. Everyone knows each other, which is lovely.” The pair have introduced a number of regular events, including the annual Goring Pride summer festival, which hundreds of people attend.

Last year they won the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s best turnaround pub for London and the South-East.

The Little Angel has been owned since 2004 by Lolly Green, 47, and her husband Douglas, 48, from Peppard Common, who also own the Cherry Tree Inn at Stoke Row.

Mr Green has worked in the pub trade most of his life and is a classically trained chef while his wife was previously an executive assistant and tour manager in the music industry.

The pub, which employs about 21 kitchen and serving staff, came second in the pub category last year and was joint first with the Angel on the Bridge in Thames Side, Henley, in 2010. Earlier this year it came 11th in a list of the best country pubs in the South-East outside London on the website BuzzFeed.

Mrs Green said: “We’re delighted to be runners-up once again — it’s an incredible achievement when you consider how many pubs we were up against. This is great publicity not only for us but for tourism in the Henley area as a whole. It has been a joint effort and we’re thankful to everyone on our team.”

The Miller of Mansfield was taken over last year by Nick and Mary Galer, who live in Streatley with their children Elliot, six, and Monty, two.

The couple spent £75,000 refurbishing the former 18th-century coaching inn, whose kitchen was in such poor condition that it faced closure as a health hazard. Since then they have won two AA rosettes for their food and 13 hotel rooms and been named pub of the season for winter 2014 by the Campaign for Real Ale.

They have also been listed in the latest Michelin Guide and were named restaurant of the year in the readers’ category of the Good Food Guide 2016.

Mrs Galer said: “We never thought we’d win awards, nor did we set out to do so. We do this because we love it but the recognition is fantastic.”

Stephen Worsfold, managing director of the River Thames Guide, said the judges were simply looking for “good food, good service and a good atmosphere”.

He said: “Considering the length of the Thames, to have the top three from the same area is quite remarkable.”

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