Monday, 17 January 2022

Restaurant’s modern British cuisine is fine dining without the pretence

Restaurant’s modern British cuisine is fine dining without the pretence

ON the Thames waterfront besides Hobbs’ pier you will find Shaun and Gemma Dickens’ restaurant The Boathouse.

If you know Henley you would have certainly walked past it, but next time don’t just go by — walk in and see for yourself what you have been missing.

The Boathouse opened just over six years ago — Shaun had begun his cooking adventure 16 years before that — and now at the ripe old age of 36, he and his wife Gemma and his like-minded, hand-picked team have already achieved an excellence that only a very few restaurants will ever achieve.

What is very clear is that the passion that led them to open their restaurant in the first place still radiates through as brightly as it ever did, and what’s more they are all constantly striving to improve on an already first-class dining experience.

My partner and I booked a table for Thursday evening at The Boathouse. The experience was a wonderful evening of good fine wines, of which there is a large selection to complement the outstanding food at this restaurant, freshly homemade bread accompanied with smoked paprika butter with chilli and Normandy butter — truly amazing — followed by an amuse-bouche of oil and pumpkin seed soup with a Raclette.

For our starter we chose the burrata — compressed pear, balsamic, toasted pine nuts and frisee. The pear was delicate but with complex and very refreshing flavours.

Up next was the braised beef main with spiced red cabbage, toasted seeds, confit potato and crispy kale — and a braised ox cheek slow-cooked for 12 hours.

Full of tender flavour, these were heart-warming dishes served with seasonal vegetables and very satisfying indeed. We certainly cleared our plates!

By now very relaxed and happy, it was time for us to choose dessert. We went for the bitter chocolate curd with confit of passion fruit, chocolate strusel, passion fruit sorbet and a chocolate orange crisp. Truly a delightful experience — if you love chocolate you will devour this dessert in seconds.

Shaun describes his food as “modern British cuisine”. He deliberately avoids the much used and often abused tag of “fine dining” for one simple reason — that there is an assumption that fine dining is automatically expensive and a more considered eating experience.

Yet this is a “fine dining” experience but without the pretence and the high price tag. If you put the best locally sourced ingredients in the hands of a highly talented chef, an accomplished businesswoman and a loyal team that are 100 per cent on board you will not only have the recipe for success but for what we all want as restaurant-goers: excellent food, excellent service and a great time.

The location is just perfect, right on the River Thames; the decor is fresh and creative, and outside on the veranda the two new “igloos” offer a unique lunch experience, or just a great place to get together for a glass of wine.

Indoors the working kitchen forms part of the restaurant and the adjacent bar is well stocked.

The comprehensive wine list includes some of the finest local wines and caters for every taste, the house wines are excellent and great value.

There are beers from local breweries and stunning local cheeses that you will not find in such abundance anywhere else in town.

People of Henley, if you haven’t been to The Boathouse, go and go soon — because, trust me, you will be going again.

Join them between Wednesday and Sunday for a drink or for something to eat off their fine à la carte menu. Also at the weekend treat yourself to breakfast fit for a king.

Book now for their festive feast, which is on offer in December,for just £35. For that, you can enjoy a starter, main course, dessert and a glass of Prosecco.

To book, call (01491) 577937 or email enquiries@

Patsy Parnell

Wine and Dine

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