Hotel du Vin Bistro offers good value with its £35 Food for thought deal for two
Exhausted from a weekend of entertaining and cooking for guests, the Henley Henley Hotel du Vin's offer of £35 for 2 courses, including a bottle of wine and coffee for two people seemed like a great option for dinner.
Henley on Thames now has numerous cafe's, bars and restaurants most of which offer some kind of deal during the week. Pizza Express, Zizzi, Cafe Rouge, Brasserie Gerard, all the chains are working hard to build and retain custom. Hotel du Vin is no different in many ways, however it does provide a much nicer ambience and sophisticated atmosphere in its Henley Bistro, while the food in the limited Food For Thought menu is mainly a cut above the average.
In a surprisingly full dining room for a Bank Holiday Monday evening, service was still attentive, though slightly unctious from the sommelier, despite our choice of the 'deal' option. This restricted menu with four starters, mains and puddings still has a nice range including Vichssoise and Moule Marineres as starters and Onglet Steak and Risotto amongst the mains.
My Chicken Liver Salad had soft, tender livers with a light balsamic sauce while the Smoked Mackrel Tian and Potato Salad was very rich, packing a proper fishy punch. A main of Grilled Hake with Curly Kale was overcooked and lacked any sauce, making it dry and bland, though the application of lemon juice helped. It's vapid smear of something brown and sauce like on the plate wasnt enough. A good, simple butter and lemon sauce and properly cooked fish would have improved the dish out of all proportion. On the other hand Sausage and Mash boasted two fat herb filled pork bangers with creamy mash and a rich gravy that barely touched the sides.
The House Merlot was perfectly palatable and despite some confusion over a side dish of Green Beans that were replaced, unasked for by Brocolli (any one who knows me would know that I would never ask for Brocolli) and an espresso that apparently isn't the coffee they mean when they say coffee included, it all represents great value for money, especially in comparison to Pizza Express, Zizzi and the others, where the wine can be both poor and expensive, even in the meal deals.
New Riverfront Cafe
The old Henley Tea Rooms, on the riverside in Henley has been taken over and transformed into The Chocolate Theatre Cafe. A picture window into the kitchen is supposed to provide a view onto the chocolate making process while pale green decor, a few comfortable sofas and chairs plus a plethora of cafe tables, make it a comfortable and friendly room. More expensive for coffee and a pastry than Cafe Nero with coffee not as rich and well presented as Hot Gossip in Friday St. nevertheless it is a welcoming place to be. I'll pop in again for lunch one day and report back.