The Bottle and Glass near Henley was acquired in April 2017 by business partners David Holliday and Alex Sergeant, who worked together at The Harwood Arms. Mr Holliday used to be the head chef of The Pot Kiln, which has an ownership connection to The Harwood Arms. He was also involved with Hurley House. The head chef at The Bottle and Glass is Luke Fouracre, who used to be sous chef at The Royal Oak. The pub itself is off a quiet country road, with car parking and a pleasant garden and terrace at the back. The dining room can seat over 60 diners at any one time.
The menu had starters ranging in price from £7 to £8, main courses £17.50 to £21, vegetable side dishes at £4 and desserts £7 to £7.50. As a nice touch, there was also a vegetarian menu available. The wine list had around 90 references, ranging in price from £19 to £300. Examples were Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet 2015 at £26 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £11, Neudorf Chardonnay 2015 at £60 compared to its retail price of £25, and Chateau Giscours 2011 at £85 for a label that will set you back £41 in a shop. At the prestige end of the list, Ridge Montebello Chardonnay 2013 was £120 compared to its retail price of £69, and Vega Sicilia Unico 2008 was £300 for a wine that has a current market value of £216.
Soda bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and was very pleasant, not too heavy in texture (14/20). A starter of terrine of chicken, duck liver and ham hock came with carrot coleslaw and a puree of Earl Grey tea and prunes. The terrine was pleasant though it could have had deeper flavour. The coleslaw was fine but the little blob of puree tasted rather odd and did not obviously complement the terrine – tea with terrine?. On the side was some enjoyable spiced bread (13/20). Cured salmon came with cucumber and horseradish. The salmon was fine, though the pickled cucumber lacked astringency, and the little blob of horseradish was a token gesture. The salmon did not have a lot of flavour, so punchier pickles and a kick of horseradish were just what was needed to liven up the dish, yet both were too tentative (12/20).
Fallow deer haunch was cooked rare and came with beetroot and pickled mustard seeds, as well as some unannounced spinach. The vegetables were accurately cooked and the beetroot in particular had good flavour. For me the meat was under-seasoned, but this was easily fixed, and I liked the combination of venison and beetroot (13/20). Also nice was roast hake with cauliflower, hazelnut, verjus and smoked cod roe. Hake can be a tricky fish to cook but here it had good texture, going well with its accompaniments. One minor quibble is that fish skin should, in my view, either be removed or fried so that it is crispy; this one was slightly fried but still soggy (13/20). On the side, Charlotte potatoes were carefully cooked with a little butter. Honey-roasted Chantenay carrots with caraway seeds were cooked nicely, but caraway seeds are a powerful flavour at the best of times, and overwhelmed the taste of the carrots.
For dessert, apricot and ginger bread pudding came with marmalade ice cream and a garnish of chicory leaf. The ginger flavour came through but there was insufficient apricot flavour in the bread pudding. The marmalade ice cream was rather tentative in flavour and I have no idea what the chicory leaf was doing on the plate. It was as if it somehow got lost on its way to a salad. I appreciate that chefs feel the need to innovate, but I don’t think that too many customers think, when eating their bread pudding dessert: “Ooh, I know what this dish needs – a bitter salad leaf” (12/20). Millionaire shortbread was a deconstructed, modern take on the classic dish of shortbread, caramel and chocolate. Here chocolate mousse came with shortbread crumb to one side, along with stout ice cream. The mousse was actually very good, its richness nicely balanced by the ice cream, the crumb adding an interesting extra texture (14/20).
Coffee was from The Gentlemen Baristas in London Bridge, and was very enjoyable, rich and fairly mild. It came with a pleasant apple jelly and a rather odd thyme and sea salt chocolate, which seemed to me another symptom of a kitchen thinking they are in Shoreditch serving hipsters when in fact they are a country pub in the home counties. I have to put up with enough misguided herb-based desserts in London without being subjected to them in a setting like this, and I imagine that a large proportion of the likely client base around here would feel similarly put off.
Service was excellent throughout. The bill, with a good bottle of wine, came to £89 a head. If you shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per head might be around £65. Overall this was a nice enough meal, though the menu seemed to be aiming for something more ambitious than might be expected in the pub setting, yet not quite delivering on this promise. For me there were seasoning issues, with some dishes needing deeper flavour, and the odd garnish seemed rather misjudged, at least to my taste. Personally I would have been happier to see some more conventional pub dishes with a greater emphasis on top-notch delivery of classic British dishes.