Crockers, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
A quintessential English getaway, Crockers is perfect for Pimm’s-fuelled summer days or holing up fireside in a pub come winter.
02 August, 2021
With a motto of "experience is everything", Crockers isn't just a hotel. In fact, rooms are somewhat secondary as it's the immersive chef's table that takes centre stage, attracting foodie types from far and wide.
Seating just 16 people, this is an intimate, special-occasion destination - not the kind of place where you pitch up hoping to bag a last-minute pew. In this gastronomic playground for adults, you can expect one of those meals you don't forget - and not just for the food. Setting this apart from other tasting experiences, the quick-to-smile staff - as friendly as they are skilled - are equal stars of the show.
Under two hours from London, Henley is ideal for a weekend staycation, which you can plan around your lunch or dinner. Located in the heart of the pretty market town, with its picturesque river and many independent shops and restaurants, Crockers is a quintessential English getaway perfect for Pimm's-fuelled summer days or holing up fireside in a pub come winter.
The "quarters" are bright and airy, comfortable and spacious but not overdone - think a muted colour palette, modern artworks and some tasteful foliage. Standalone tubs in bedrooms provide added luxe, alongside marble fireplaces and inviting beds.
What's for breakfast?
A three-course affair takes you from fresh pastries to palette-cleansing fruit, yoghurt or chia pudding and then to something hot such as a full English or eggs how you like them - laced with chives, scrambled are particularly good here.
How about lunch and dinner?
We're not quite sure where to start, so we'll start at the beginning, which, for us, was an expertly mixed negroni and a glass of English sparkling wine. Seated around a brass-topped bar, facing a gleaming kitchen, guests are welcomed like old friends by the team, under the watchful eye of head chef Alex Payne, who's worked alongside Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay. We were booked in for the modern British menu, though a pan-Asian option is also available, masterminded by chef Iain Dixon.
The relaxed, congenial vibe is akin to that of a dinner party, though, unless your friends whip up a 10-course tasting menu without breaking a sweat, probably not like one you've been to before. Beautifully crafted snacks arrive in the form of truffle-gruyere croquettes, chicken-liver parfait and crab and avocado cones, which you'll want to linger over but will find impossible to resist, so it's a good job that ginger-piqued oysters arrive soon after. Next up, charred hispi cabbage with salty ewe's curd precedes delicate sea bass, followed by rose-pink lamb. For pudding, it's white peaches and a passionfruit-chocolate incarnation. Of course, there are also petits fours…
It goes without saying that there's the option to have a wine pairing with each course - we say option, but you'd be bonkers not to take it. Without any pomp or pretence, you'll get to try some interesting sips from around the world. Go hard or go home.
Crockers, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Is there a bar?
Yes, The Grill, which offers indoor and terrace seating. Buzzy day in, day out, it's a popular hang-out for those wanting top-notch food and drink without going the whole hog.
This is a restaurant with rooms, so while there's WiFi and a minibar, don't expect a state-of-the-art spa.
Things you should know…
Arrive hungry. Wear elasticated trousers.
While there's no sign of a green manifesto, the website states: "We're committed to doing things differently while making a positive contribution to industry." You can trust that the food here is seasonal and locally sourced.
What about accessibility?
All restaurants have wheelchair access and there is one ground-floor bedroom.
Within a short walk you can find…
Crockers really is in the thick of it all - step outside and you're right on the high street, which is packed full of restaurants, shops and galleries, as well as a street market every Sunday.