Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Refurbished pub is just like reuniting with an old friend

Refurbished pub is just like reuniting with an old friend

IT’S back! That reassuring feeling I used to have many years ago as I drove into Henley from London and knowing that after spotting the Little Angel I was in a “good” place.

I write this, as it once used to be one of my favourite eateries. That sadly changed for a while and I won’t deny that it was with some trepidation that I accepted the offer to write a review of The Little Angel after its recent month-long refurbishment.

What a difference! Firstly, I had already noted the freshly and smartly painted exterior several weeks earlier and so I was definitely curious to see what had changed on the inside.

A broad smile from assistant manager Greg Bowen instantly relaxed me and was totally welcoming. Greg, who hails from Barbados, simply oozes charisma and charm, and as he poured myself and my guest Erik a “Frizzles of Rhubarb” champagne cocktail I wonder if we’ve met before or is he simply well suited to Henley as he recognises instinctively that a glass of bubbles is surely a good way to start a review.

Greg is clearly good at his game and natural and as we amble through to our table he explains that he’s fresh from working for 10 years with Heston Blumenthal.

We continue through to the bright conservatory. I not only observe the new roof but I cannot help but notice the stylish rustic-chic, far fresher and how much brighter the colour scheme is. In addition, I note that there’s an easy array of furniture and I instantly like the style that the interior designers have used. There’s a mixture of privacy for more intimate diners as well as larger tables for a group of friends.

On to the food. “An extensive and brand new menu offers a refined twist especially designed to offer a memorable mouthful from brunch right through until dinner,” explains Matt, our friendly waiter for the evening.

I chose the scallops of the day and Erik the smoked haddock chive and sweet potato fishcakes with peas a la Francaise, hollandaise and lemon. We then sampled some of the tomato and red pepper houmous with grilled pitta bread. There was plenty to share and it was deliciously flavoursome.

Our starters soon arrived and although I am not normally a fishcake fan, Erik persuaded me to sample a morsel and they were so tasty that next time I return I shall order the fishcakes over my usual favourite dish of scallops (which were also good!)

For our main, we were seriously tempted to order the Dry Aged Native Chateaubriand, which I was delighted to see on the menu, but given that we needed to sample different dishes, it was agreed that I would choose The Little Angel Salad, which was divine!

It’s not every day I rave about a salad. Baby spinach, candied pecans (wow!), vegan feta, quinoa, avocado, strawberries, carrot and a lime vinaigrette! So colourful and so incredibly tasty with mouthfuls of surprises! Erik had ordered a seasonal Roasted Mount Grace Lamb rump, which was artistically served with a beetroot fondant, baby carrots, shallot puree and port sauce, and was definitely worthy of the best Sunday dinner table, served suitably pink in the middle as he requested.

And so on to dessert. Having felt virtuous with my earlier choices, the chocolate Choux Buns with a seriously yummy fudge sauce with toasted hazelnuts were ordered for me and the Tarte Au Citron in “gin-poached” raspberries with raspberry “dust” for Erik. A word of warning, the Choux Buns are not a “slim-sized” portion and although I loved them, Erik did have to help me eat them.

Coffee arrived and we chatted once more with Greg, who answered our queries regarding the newly installed wine-serving cabinet which is designed to offer a complete wine-tasting experience.

This idea is quite popular in London, but this is the first (and only) one in Henley. The cabinet is stocked with premium high-end wines and is a fairly new spin on the “by the glass” option of trying a glass of wine usually only bought by the bottle.

I tried a Tignanello apparently favoured by the (pre-pregnancy) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you, Your Highness.

Heading for home, I felt that I had re-found an old friend in The Little Angel. But, as always, don’t take my word for it, I highly recommend a visit there. Well done to Greg and the new team. I hope your hard work pays off and thank you for a sumptuous meal.

Wine and Dine

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