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Where to eat in Henley-on-Thames

In this Oxfordshire town discover smart delis, restaurants with rooms and a century-old butcher’s shop.

Boathouses and  Barge on the River Thames in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

Photograph by Alamy
Published 18 Jan 2022, 06:12 GMT, Updated 18 Jan 2022, 11:10 GMT

A riverside setting, Royal Regatta and unbridled access to the Chilterns countryside are all good reasons to come to Henley-on-Thames — but they’re not the only ones. This pretty, 13th-century market town on the edge of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is also home to a thriving food scene. Here, top restaurants are tucked between historic pubs and independent shops, fusing international influences with the region’s agricultural riches.

Chef-turned-restaurateur Luke Garnsworthy — previously chef de partie at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal — chose Henley as the setting for a second branch of his fine dining concept, Crockers. Restaurant with rooms Crockers Henley ( opened on Market Place, the town’s central square, in August 2020. Here, Luke serves modern British and pan-Asian cuisine, along with robatayaki (charcoal-grilled) dishes highlighting local produce. “The passion driving the local businesses is infectious,” he says, listing partnerships with nearby producers Hobbs of Henley, Nettlebed Creamery and English Farm.

An even more recent arrival is Sage + Squash, a deli opened in February 2021 by Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Emma Nettleton. The glass-fronted space offers a cornucopia of homemade breakfast and lunch dishes, including quiche of the day, fresh pastries from artisan bakery Paul Rhodes and gourmet products such as Giovanni’s Gelato. “We buy fruit and vegetables from the square on market days,” says Emma, who serves Horsebox Coffee, roasted just outside Henley, with all the deli’s meat coming from the town’s butcher, Gabriel Machin. 

Having supplied meat — as well as fish, seafood, cheese and more — to Henley residents since 1910, Gabriel Machin is part of the town’s fabric. In this small, timbered building facing onto Market Place, the current proprietor, Barry Wagner, and his team continue the tradition as butchers, fishmongers, game dealers, smokers and curers — Heston Blumenthal even came here for advice when setting up his own smokery. House-smoked salmon, ham and trout are offered alongside sausages made using locally sourced and ethically reared pork, local cheeses and Henley-produced honey, as well as bread from Bosley Patch, a nearby market garden and artisan bakery.

Just moments from Gabriel Machin, Hof’s Bar & Dining offers hearty meat and fish dishes with South African, German and Swiss influences, alongside wines the Hof family has been producing in Robertson, South Africa, since 2009. The winery’s sauvignon blanc, merlot and shiraz reserve, among others, are paired with the likes of potjiekos (slow-cooked South African lamb stew) in a lively space. Wine-tasting sessions are available on request and there’s live music at weekends.

Three unmissable highlights

Fairmile Vineyard
A 20-minute walk from the centre of town takes you to rows of vines trailing down the steep hillside of this picturesque pocket of the Chilterns. Pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay grapes go into award-winning sparkling wines, which can be tasted at the top of the hill. 

Bistro at the Boathouse
The riverfront restaurant formerly known as Shaun Dickens at The Boathouse relaunched as a bistro in 2019. Local produce is showcased in dishes such as the bistro burger in a brioche bun, along with a popular breakfast best enjoyed on the waterside terrace. 

Hobbs of Henley
Founded in 1870, the Hobbs of Henley boating company not only operates a fleet of river cruise boats but has its own gin brand too, Mr Hobbs Gin. A selection of the brand’s award-winning gins, including one based on founder Harry Hobbs’ original recipe, can be tried on tasting cruises. 


Travelling by train from Paddington to Henley-on-Thames, changing at Twyford, takes about 45 minutes. The 800 or 850 bus from Reading to Henley takes around half an hour, while the X38 from Oxford takes roughly one hour and 15 minutes. Crockers Henley has doubles from £200 a night, B&B. 

Published in Issue 14 (winter 2021) of National Geographic Traveller Food (UK)

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