Rough diamond: The Three Tuns, Henley
The Three Tuns is proof that you shouldn’t judge a pub by its cover. On first glance at the busy road-side exterior, there is no way I would ever decide to peer into The Three Tuns in central Henley with a view to having a meal, or even a glass of wine. It looks like an old boozer’s pub, nothing much that stands out on the small 17th century frontage apart from a basic chalkboard inviting customers in.
But, it’s a rappety-rap on the knuckles for me, because behind the unremarkable shell (and if I’m honest, the less-than-flash interior), The Three Tuns is a roughly rustic gem, the only Henley pub recommended in the Michelin Guide for the second year running 2013 & 2014, with food that is absolutely knock-out, a mix of pub favourites and more fine dining gastro fare at decent prices.
Inside there’s a small rustic front bar with wood paneling that looks out onto the main road, and on the other side of the bar, a more ‘restauranty’ bit, still snug with only a clutch of tables, leading up to an open hatch kitchen with two chefs going like the clappers.
I loved the informal, slightly bohemian atmosphere actually, and it’s perfect for winter lunches and couples dinners, when we crave comfort and cosy.
My venison was utterly beautiful, the meat melted, there was just right amount of jus, and the pea and bacon side could almost have been eaten on its own it was so good.
I played it safe on dessert with a crumble (below) – as it’s one of the few things I can cook well myself I always like to see if professionals can put a clever spin on it though admittedly other than creating a crunchy crumble and not being too stingey on the fruit, there’s not much that can go wrong. And it didn’t. Overall, it really was a perfectly pitched meal. I loved it.
I had time to knock back a quick espresso and have a quick nose out the back of the pub to a meh rear courtyard and function room (below).
Peering complete, I went on my merry way. Not quite straight home but to, um, Mint Velvet, just a couple of doors away. As if the afternoon couldn’t get any better.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Henley shoppers looking for a foodie stop-off; couples and small groups looking for substance over style.
Not for: anyone wanting lots of space (mums with buggies beware!), it’s very snug in this pub. Those who want a bit more flash for their cash. Those wanting river views in the summer – the pub is on the road in the shopping area.
£££: Great value for the quality. Entrees roughly £5-9, mains £13-18, puds £6-10.
The Three Tuns, 5 Market Place, Henley, RG9 2AA. Tel: 01491 410 138. threetunshenley.co.uk