Emma Earnshaw appreciates the fine dining and friendly welcome at the Bottle & Glass Inn, Binfield Heath, near Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire.
How many customers can you fit into the bar of a quintessential country Inn, on a busy Friday evening? A multitude, it turns out, if it’s the Bottle & Glass Inn in Binfield Heath, near Henley-on-Thames.
Here, the hand crafted wooden door is firmly open for roaring trade, thanks to its go-ahead young owners, Alex Sergeant and David Holliday, who met while working at The Harwood Arms in Fulham, the only Michelin-starred pub in London. This recently restored Grade II-listed thatched inn is clearly popular with the locals, their dogs and children – and they already have the Michelin seal of approval as well, having recently been awarded the Michelin Plate.
As we sipped our drinks in the relaxed yet traditional bar, it was good to see new visitors being cheerfully greeted and regulars remembered, with many obviously attracted by the pizza oven that was open on the night we visited thanks to the glorious, sunny weather. The Friday feeling had set in, especially as it was the first bank holiday in May, and we felt pretty smug to be dining at such a friendly and smart pub.
Once our table was ready, we were led into an attractive, garden-facing – and therefore beautifully light – dining room, which seats up to 60 in a spacious atmosphere. From the prints on the wall to the tasteful crockery, the general feel is edging towards the side of smart, but certainly not stuffy or over formal.
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As we perused the menu and the extensive wine list, homemade butter and treacle soda bread arrived. I found the acquired taste a little overpowering, but my husband Tom was more than happy to devour lion’s share.
Tom kicked off with one of the starter specialties, barbecued Roscoff onions with onion purée and Lancashire bomb cheese. Intrigued by the onions cooked ‘three ways’, and as a cheese lover, he was not disappointed. I opted for the simple, yet seasonal and fresh Wye Valley asparagus with poached hen’s egg and tomato jam.
The service was attentive, but not to the point of being annoying, with staff earning extra points for bringing us a complimentary course – in the shape of cured Cornish mackerel, with salt baked beetroot, horseradish and dill – while we waited for our mains. The dish proved deliciously salty and light enough to allow me to enjoy my Cornish bream with roasted cauliflower, samphire, capers and smoked mayonnaise.
Tom’s pork belly was an absolute triumph – and the dish that delighted us the most – due to the melt-in-the-mouth nature of the meat and the accompanying devilishly-good stack of hand cut chips that were so delicious that I’m still thinking about them. All the dishes were beautifully presented; with well-judged portion sizes for those who choose three not four courses.
Feeling a bit of a squeeze around the middle, we opted to skip pudding, but were happy to be able to nibble on the bite-sized cinder toffee that arrived with our coffee and was just enough to appease any sweet tooth.
Everyone seemed to receive the same friendly welcome as we did, whether they were popping in for a pint, scoffing a Scotch egg or savouring the fine dining. We left wishing the Bottle & Glass Inn was our local – the only problem being that we’d have to learn how to elbow our way to the bar…
Bottle & Glass Inn, Binfield – what you need to know:
- Fine and imaginative British cuisine in the restaurant and tasty classic snacks in the traditional bar
- Attractive beer garden
- Pizza oven offering homemade sourdough pizzas throughout the summer
- Open for breakfasts (8am to 10.30am, seven days a week)
- Dog and child friendly
- Excellent local walks
- Available for private dining and meetings
The Bottle & Glass Inn, Bones Lane, Binfield Heath, Henley-on-Thames RG9 4JT (01491 412625; www.bottleandglassinn.com)
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