Like most people who live in London, I think about how nice it would be to live in the country about, oh, once a month. Whether or not I could actually leave the big city is different matter — I’ve lived in London and New York City before that for more than 25 years — but when you I go to places like Hurley House Hotel I can’t help but think that I should live near places like this all the time’. It’s awfully tempting, especially when there is Michelin-starred chef in the kitchen.
I drove up to Hurley House Hotel with Susanna, my BritMums co-founder, and our events director Maddy for lunch. It’s situated just outside Henley-on-Thames, 20 minutes from Heathrow Airport. I know many will scoff and say this is not the real countryside, but to us city girls, it is surrounded by fields and green and you can’t take a Tube there, so it counts. The building has been rebuilt from what once was a traditional 18th century pub onsite into a boutique 10-room hotel, pub and restaurant. It opened in 2016.
The dining room
I arrived a few minutes early and warmed up in one of the high-backed leather chairs in front of the wood-burning stove before we were escorted to the beautifully lit dining room. There is a bar and front dining area, then the restaurant where we ate. Everything about the room was sumptuous yet comfortable. I loved the napkins, which were a loose-weave textured linen from Swedish designer Kardelen — I don’t think I’ve ever seen ones like this before. I admired them so much that I took a picture.
The menu by Michelin-starred Michael Chapman, former student of Marcus Wareing, was rich and delicious without being overly heavy even for lunch. In addition to the a la carte menu, they have a fantastic set lunch, which is what we went for: 2 courses £18, 3 courses £24. The menu focuses on British ingredients, in classic pairings.
I started with the sweetcorn soup. They bring out a bowl with wild mushrooms in the bottom and pour over the silky yellow soup. Yum. I’m not one for mackerel but Maddy ordered the starter, which comes blowtorched, with celeriac remoulade and burnt apple pureé.
For my main I had Aylesbury duck leg, with creamed potatoes and baby onion. Since I’ve got a foolproof recipe for duck confit that I make at home, Michael’s kitchen has a lot to live up to (ahem). This leg was moist and flavourful, topped with lardons and paired perfectly with the creamy mash, curly kale. We ordered a side of the Chantenay carrots — one tasty order was enough for all three of us to share.
The wine list is versatile without being overly long. We decided to order by the glass as the other ladies wanted white and I went for red. Our server was very helpful, steering me from the Malbec which he suggested would be too heavy for the meal and time of day. I tried the the Manium Crianza (£9 for 175ml) which was tasty but too light for me, before deciding on the Pitchfork Cabernet Merlot (£8). Susanna had the Sangiovese Bianco, Capanna 2016, which they loved (£9). Susanna had wanted a small glass and got a large one. When it was pointed out to the waiter, he immediately offered to change the price on the bill. It had however — cough — been finished, so we were happy to pay for the large.
What the hotel is like
The 10 boutique rooms look divine. I haven’t stayed yet, something I hope to remedy. Each has a freestanding tub according to The Telegraph’s review, and underfloor heating throughout (toasty!). They are tasteful, with neutral tones and several have their own terraces. While the hotel is just off a main road, it is still quiet inside.
Good for: Lunch or dinner with the girls or guys, family Sunday lunch, couples’ getaways and families with school-age or older children. They do have high chairs for the dining room but one can imagine evening meals here being a more grown-up affair.
There is walking nearby as well as the towns of Hurley, Henley and Marlowe. Book the private dining room for a fantastic special occasion meal.
Cost: Set lunch starts at £18 for 2 courses. A la carte mains start at £17. Rooms start at £180, up to £320 for Superior Deluxe rooms with private patio.
Hurley House Hotel
01628 568 500
Have you visited Hurley House Hotel? Tell me what you thought of it!