We love The Bottle & Glass
This recently refurbed rural inn in Binfield Heath looks like your classic country pub - but the food is anything but ordinary.
Reviewing restaurants is a massive perk of my job but all those extra calories can mean a distinctly Michael Winner-esque rotund vibe to the Muddy physique. So on occasion I have to give the bread basket a swerve (sob) and despatch one of my roving reporters to investigate the best eats in our ‘hood. So off whizzed Rhiane Kirkby to the recently refurbished and much raved about Bottle & Glass in Binfield Heath, near Henley, Oxon. She duly wolfed down three courses … and the rest. I have trained her well.
First impressions of this Grade II-listed inn on the Phillimore Estate near Binfield Heath near Henley? Classic country pub. Thatched roof, big grassy beer garden, roaring fires and low beams inside – all present and correct. But… oh my goodness, the food! Believe me, we are not talking your average pub grub here.
The owners David and Alex previously ran The Harwood Arms in Fulham, the first pub in the UK to win a Michelin star and the only one in London. They completed a major refurbishment last year, adding a modern dining room extension to the 300-year-old building. The aim was to seamlessly blend the old with the new, and offer impeccable food in a relaxed, homely setting. Well, mission accomplished – The Bottle & Glass received a Michelin assiette soon after reopening. That’s the one awarded to establishments that are nudging star status.
While the bar is trad as it could possibly be, walk through to your table and you get a very different ambience. The room is bright and airy, with its vaulted ceiling, modern pendant lamps, varnished wooden tables, quality British crockery and cutlery, and enough space between tables that you aren’t party to next door’s conversation (unless you want to be of course). It was buzzy on midweek evening we visited (not always the case with country pubs), with couples on dates, family groups, gangs of friends, children and dogs (your four-legged friends are allowed in the bar and the restaurant too). Everyone is welcome – really welcome, in fact. The service was exceptional, friendly and patient in the face of my four million questions about the menu.
SCOFF & QUAFF
I’ll start, as we did, with the wine. More of a book, than a list, it’s extensive and suitable for every budget, and Alex really knows his stuff so do take his advice. We tried The Averys champagne (well, why not?!) a Sauvignon Blanc that I failed to write down the name of (too much champagne, clearly) and Somerset cider brandy, and all were wonderful.
The food is locally sourced (where possible) modern British cooking. They bake their own bread and churn their own butter on the premises, and everything is presented beautifully. I started with a speciality, barbecued Roscoff onions with onion purée and Lancashire bomb cheese, while my husband opted for an intensely flavoured dish for cured Cornish mackerel with salt baked beetroot, horseradish and dill.
For mains, we had Cornish bream with roasted cauliflower, samphire and smoked mayonnaise and Newbury lamb with artichokes, goats curd and confit lemon. Both were exceptional. The accompanying vegetables were like nothing I’d tasted before – an incredible black cabbage dish, which was far more appetising than it sounds and the fluffiest, creamy potatoes I’ve ever seen.
After all that food – plus an amazing treacle soda bread as a complimentary appetiser – I thought dessert was going to be a challenge but we bravely ploughed on. The stem ginger burnt cream with Yorkshire rhubarb was as delicious as it was light, while John’s marinated blood oranges with cream cheese and white chocolate was demolished in seconds. More? Well, if you insist. As a little parting gift, we were brought an old cigar tin filled with handmade fudge and cinder toffee. Such a sweet touch (in both senses). It sounds like a lot of food but the dishes were perfectly proportioned. I could manage three courses without feeling overly full, yet my husband’s (much bigger) appetite was more than satisfied.
We’d managed to escape sans enfants for the evening (yippee) but I’d definitely return on a weekend lunchtime with the gang to try out the garden pizza oven, which they fire up on sunny days. Traditional Italian pizzas are apparently £10 a pop and they’ll make smaller ones for the little ‘uns.
OUT & ABOUT
Binfield Heath is a walker’s paradise, with lots of routes across the Phillimore estate, and both Henley and Reading are just a five minute drive away. Hot tip – B&B accommodation is in the works, so you’ll soon be able to go for a sleepover, fill your boots and not worry about having a designated driver.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Everyone – sometimes restaurants with outstanding food are best for formal, adult occasions but The Bottle & Glass totally works if you’ve got the kids and/or the dog in tow too, and whether you’re in muddy wellies or muddy stilettos. And this place was built for all seasons – you can cosy up indoors by the wood burner or while away sunny days/evenings on the terrace.
Nor for: This probably isn’t the spot for a wild and boozy night out with a big group of mates – it’s not really a cocktails-and-chasers kind of bar. And if you’re not a fan of dogs, you might not find it an entirely relaxing experience.
The damage: Reasonable for gastro pub food of this quality. Starters and desserts are around £8, mains £20. There’s a small children’s menu – sausage and mash, fish and chips or a mini roast (on Sundays) for £6.50.
The Bottle & Glass Inn, Bones Lane, Binfield Heath, Henley on Thames, RG9 4JT; 01491 412625.
Words: Rhiane Kirkby