Cheal’s of Henley

The Beast from the East scuppered our chances of getting to Cheal’s for a birthday lunch.

No taxi driver would make the trip, so we reluctantly postponed, assuming that if a professional wouldn’t risk driving nor should we. That, and a wine list that looked awesome, meant that neither of us wanted to get behind the wheel. Take 2 was booked for the following weekend.

With the knowledge that chef patron Matt Cheal cut his teeth at Simpsons, we figured we were in good hands. The exterior of the building looked less fine dining and more cosy country pub but inside the restaurant was beautifully decked out with neutral walls, exposed beams, a log burner and stylish accessories and furniture. With a glass of Laurent Perrier in one hand and a crisp cheddar beignet in the other, the belated birthday celebrations kicked off in style.

There were a number of menus to consider; a six course tasting menu called 77 and three further menus titled 33, 44 and 55, the number relating to the cost of each. Tasting menus are not my thing – I’m too much of a control freak – so I plumped for 55 and the birthday boy went for 33 due to a pork belly dish winking intriguingly at him.

First up, an amuse bouche of silky butternut squash espuma with trendy yeast flakes and a slick of curry oil was a great start and set the tone for what was to come. Crispy duck egg yolk with a lentil and celeriac risotto, oyster mushroom and watercress may have been the best choice we’ve ever made in a restaurant. It was utterly delicious, super rich and unctuous with a runny yolk which presumably takes some wizardry to get right. I can’t gush enough about this dish, but space is limited, so I’ll move on to another plate worthy of high praise.

Fillet of beef cooked perfectly medium rare with a little pie of beef cheek packed a serious punch. The accompanying jus was deep and silky with numerous accents of greatness adorning the plate. Honestly it was dreamy. A delicate rhubarb soufflé with a fragrant bergamot sorbet finished off proceedings beautifully.

There were too many incredible dishes to rattle through each one but needless to say we left the restaurant feeling utterly spoiled. Restaurant manager Anoop and his team were all brilliant. Aware that this all sounds a bit gushing, we should make it clear that we paid for lunch, so there’s no back scratching! The bill was relatively reasonable. Two hundred pounds for a truly special lunch which included a superb bottle of wine (Californian chardonnay Guenoc) and two glasses of champagne felt like unbelievable value. Had we known what awaited us, we’d have battled through the Beast from the East on foot wearing flip-flops. Go.

Cheals of Henley, 64 High Street, Henley-in-Arden, B95 5BX. Tel: 01564 793856 chealsofhenley.co.uk