Shaun Dickens at the Boathouse

The Boathouse, Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AZ, United Kingdom

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Chef and owner Shaun Dickens trained at Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons, Per Se and L’Ortolan before opening The Boathouse in April 2013. His wife Gemma runs the front of house operation. The restaurant was initially cooking a fine dining menu, but switched to a bistro format prior to the Covid pandemic, and now opens all day. The Boathouse is on the riverside in Henley, and has an outside terrace with seating in addition to the main dining room.

The wine list had 43 labels and ranged in price from £23 to £240, with a median price of £43 and an average markup to retail price of 2.6 times, which is very fair. Sample references were Yealands Estate Single Vineyard Late Picked Riesling 2020 at £35 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £17, Pouilly-Fuissé Les Préludes 2018 at £55 compared to its retail price of £26, and 2017 Barolo Tenute Neirano at £78 for a wine that will set you back £26 in the high street. For those with the means there was Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle at £200 compared to its retail price of £155, and 2006 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blanc at £240 for a wine whose current market value is £185.

My beef tartare was nicely presented, the fillet of beef being from a local butcher called Gabriel Machin. On the side was sourdough toast with horseradish cream. The beef was not chopped too finely and had good texture, was seasoned a little lightly to my taste, but the horseradish cream contributed its bite to make up for that. The sourdough, from Paul Rhodes Bakery in Greenwich, was very good and went well with the tartare (14/20). Scottish smoked salmon was from supplier Flying Fish, and was served with capers, grated egg salad, cucumber and watercress leaves. The salad elements were fine and the smoked salmon was decent, but it had a slightly grainy element in texture (12/20). It did not compare well to, for example, the Goldstein smoked salmon that I often buy, or the lovely home-smoked salmon at Parlour in Kensal Rise.

Rib eye beef came with onion rings, watercress leaves, chips and a peppercorn sauce. This beef came from the well-known Coventry supplier Aubrey Allen and was cooked to order. The meat had good flavour and the chips with it were suitably crisp. The batter coating of the onion rings wouldn’t stack up to a tempura shop in Tokyo but they were a pleasant enough accompaniment, and the peppercorn sauce was nicely made. There was some thyme with the watercress, though the whole stalks of thyme seemed a slightly clunky touch to me (13/20). Haddock and chips came with mushy peas and tartare sauce as well as chips, with a charred half lemon. The fish was nicely cooked, the tartare sauce had a good tangy flavour and the peas were fine (13/20).

Millionaire’s shortbread is a shortbread biscuit topped with caramel and chocolate, in this case with chocolate curd and salted caramel. The origins of the recipe are unclear but may be from Scotland, the name reflecting the upgrade of the regular shortbread with the rich chocolate. This version was pleasant, though I have eaten shortbread with better texture, but the salted caramel was a nice idea to offset the richness of the dish a little (13/20). Coffee was Illy. Service was very friendly, and the bill came to £55 a head including corkage. The switch to a casual format seems to have been successful for the owners and may suit the local clientele rather better than the former approach. Certainly, it now offers an appealing menu with capable cooking in a pretty setting.

Further reviews: 27th Sep 2015

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