Re-discovering the area around Henley made for a great weekend break. We stayed at the Cherry Tree Inn at Stoke Row in the Chilterns, which just oozes with English character. It was no surprise to hear that the building was originally three flint cottages dating back to the 1700’s although it has been a pub for over 200 years.
Vivacious Lolly and her husband, Douglas, a classically trained chef, acquired the Cherry Tree Inn at Stoke Row in 2012. It had declined over the previous years and lost its main customer base, so there was much work to be done.
First the pub was completely refurbished and the adjoining barn renovated, so that it now offers just 4 en-suite bedrooms. Luckily they managed to retain its old world charm. Then they turned their attention to the menu, concentrating on good locally sourced produce. “Modern British with a Twist” is a description they use. The result is delicious, without being pretentious. As Lolly Green explained “we need to cater for local walkers, cyclists and people arriving by car, as well as being just a local to our neighbours”.
The menu changes regularly with seasonal influences, and they have a daily blackboard of the extra dishes of the day.
One of their signature ideas is that they offer at least 3 sharing starters as well as their seven conventional first courses. On the day of my visit, for Sunday lunch, the sharing dishes were, Camembert baked with roasted garlic served in the box at £10.50, fish platter of soused mackerel, smoked Salmon, Crayfish tails and Whitebait at £13.75 and a vegetarian option of Halloumi, Potato salad, Olives, Hummus, and pickled Jalapenos at £11.50.
Not being in a sharing mood I enjoyed a beetroot, flaked Stilton and pine nut salad with dressed mixed leaves and vinaigrette at £5.95. It was hard to choose what main course to have. In the end I selected the roast rib-eye of Hereford beef, roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and wine jus. It was delicious and good value at £13.95.
My companion had the “special”. This consisted of roast rack of lamb with red cabbage, parsnip puree roast potatoes and the season vegetables, also at £13.95.
Those who can accommodate a dessert have a choice of 5 at £5.95 these included classic white Peach Melba with raspberry Coulis, or chocolate cheesecake with Banana ice cream and hundreds and thousands.
There is also a full and varied Artisan cheese board with celery, grapes and home-made chutney, all at £6.95. At all other times apart from Sunday lunch the choice of a “light bites” menu is also available.
The good news is that Lolly and Doug own two other pubs in the area. The Little Angel which they took over in 2004 is one of the most famous pubs in historic Henley on Thames and just 100 yards from the river, with parking and a large garden. The menu is similar to the Cherry Tree Inn at Stoke Row and it’s a really popular place. Despite it roomy conservatory, the place was packed on my visit and that was not during any of the many festivals held in the town. These range from the famous Henley Regatta to the Music, Rewind, Literary and Food festivals – when it is advisable to book beforehand to get a table.
Just 5 miles west from Henley is their third pub, The Unicorn which they saved 10 years ago from Brakspear shutting it down and turning it into a house. Luckily the local community campaigned hard and it is still here! It features a selection of Real Ales, log fires in the winter and a rear garden and a similar menu.