Harden's survey result
Ryan Simpson and Liam Trotman’s smartly converted old pub – “beautifully situated” in the woods between Reading and Henley – has “grown in stature since it opened” a couple of years ago “and has not rested on its laurels”. One or two reporters accuse it of “trying too hard”, but the overwhelming picture is of “superb cooking matched by the quirky and superb selection of wines available from their Coravin”. “Surely Michelin must give it a star soon – it’s already a cut above many who have that honour!”
“In the middle of the woods between Reading and Henley”, Ryan Simpson & Liam Trotman’s converted pub – “a delightful spot with a secluded garden” – is firmly on the culinary map nowadays. “The interior has been done up smartly whilst retaining the character of a typical old beamy country inn, and is a good blend of ancient and modern”. The food “is very definitely haute cuisine”, and though the odd reporter “would prefer a bit more simplicity”, most are wowed by its “seriously top end” cooking, “based around local seasonal ingredients, beautifully dressed and presented”. (“The owners and co-chefs live above their restaurant and also farm their own allotment, and are avid beekeepers too!”). Top Tip – “set lunch is a real bargain”.
“Best by far in the Reading/Henley area” – this “very upmarket” gastropub is carving an ever-increasing reputation. Service is “warm, friendly and informed” and “more awards are surely coming” for the “memorable”, “exquisitely presented” cooking from chefs Ryan Simpson & Liam Trotman: the tyre men haven’t elevated the place yet but this is “Michelin star cuisine at very reasonable prices”.
Though it’s still “an unexpected find on a walk” for some first-time visitors, this “upmarket gastropub” is becoming increasing well-known as “the best choice in the Reading area”. It offers a “genuine welcome”, and the “adventurous” food is “superb”.
Orwells is set inside a pretty pub building, located just 5 minutes from the town centre of Henley on Thames and 10 minutes from Reading. Also easily accesible from London via Paddington Station, in only 30 minutes.
Chefs Ryan Simpson & Liam Trotman previously achieved 2 AA Rosettes a cooking score of 5/10 in the Good Food Guide and 1 Michelin Star at The Goose in 2010. After leaving The Goose Ryan and Liam went on to Open Orwells in May 2010.
Since then Orwells has achieved 3 AA Rosettes, a cooking score of 6/10 Good Food Guide, a listing in the Michelin Guide and won The Good Food Guides Readers Restaurant of the year, A listing in the Tatler Magazine, being recognised amount the best of British and finally 3 Gold Stars in the Sustainable Restaurant Association for being a champion of sustainability as well as other local recognition.
The ethos is to serve nothing but the highest quality food in a relaxed setting free from frippery and fuss where families, friends and colleagues can all feel equally at home. While you won't find a bevy of locals propping up our bar, we do have a beautiful garden that - weather permitting - is open to drinkers as much as diners, and through our set lunch and dinner menus we strive to offer something for every budget.
The ingredients are soured locally where ever possible that reflect the best of what Britain can produce, so although we take a modern approach to preparing them and aren't averse to the odd creative flourish, the idea of letting fabulous ingredients stand out is at the heart of what we do.
Orwells is located on Shiplake Row, near Henley on Thames, surrounded by farmland in the beautiful South Oxfordshire countryside just on the Berkshire boarder. Nearby we have our own small holding and apiary where most of our fruit, vegetables and honey are produced.
Orwells Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Orwells has returned to form. The Sunday lunch menu is a good value way of being introduced to this excellent venue"
"In the UK, Michelin has done 182 restaurants the honour of granting them one star or more for 2019, while in Belgium the total is 139. A quick comparison of the populations of the two countries and a simple calculation indicate that Belgians are at least four times more likely to be able to eat in a Michelin-star restaurant than a UK resident. The logical conclusion for us is that the France-based guide is biased against the fine dining scene in this country, because, on the basis of our considerable experience of eating out in the two countries in question, there is no way that the UK is lagging behind Belgium and for us Orwells is a perfect example of the way excellent restaurants in this country are underrated by the tyre-maker cum booking agency. On our latest visit we took the ten-course “taste the season” menu, and ten individual courses were served by the impeccable front of house staff in a perfectly balanced sequence of dishes showcasing the considerable skills of the chefs and a choice of wines expertly recommended by Arnaud, the restaurant manager and sommelier. I am not a great lover of popcorn, even as a snack, but the salt and vinegar version here began to sway me, and the clever smoked cheddar ploughman’s with its liquid cheese, pickle, toast crumbs, parsley and tiny apple cubes had us anticipating another historic evening. The menu proper began with potato foam surrounding soft chunks, fishy caviar and miso providing a vary umami back-up. Chorizo, scallop and clam came together as a brilliant trio luxuriating in superb honey and miso sauce, and then intriguing rib cap beef, full of body, supported by mushroom, oyster leaf and a smoky mayo, was elevated to specialness by beetroot from the restaurant’s garden with the epitome of proper taste and texture. Beetroot figured as the star in the next dish along with Innisbury goat’s cheese and a variety of beet confections in the form of dark and light versions of the root and an outstanding pickled beet sauce and finished off with a judicious cheese sprinkle. Who’d have thought we might rave about a dish of humble beetroot? Staying with humble, fish and chips figured next on the menu, but, as always, the boys in the kitchen had their own way of doing things, pickling chips, putting scraps on the plate, adding an unctuous curry sauce, and scattering lovely potato straws on the exemplary firm white fish. We had now arrived at the first meat offering - quite amazing confit pork with its sauce/reduction and crunchy celeriac and crazy brown sauce ice cream the taste of which on the palate matched and contrasted with the pork at the same time. And we now came, inevitably, to one of the dishes featured in the Great British Menu. Local venison, quite a large portion for a tasting menu, radiating freshness and flavour, tender as could be and paired with hazelnut bits, some pickled, more beetroot, kale and oyster mushrooms, was truly delicious and showed how close it must have come to going through to the final. The melon and ham palate cleanser led into the moreish first dessert - local honey and sorrel, nut crumble and apple, which prefaced the second GBM dish which was a veritable PLATE full rather spoon full of sugar with its chocolate, salted caramel, hazelnut and honeycomb combination. There is nobody in the NHS who would not have loved this! It was surely no accident that Orwells was extremely busy after both chefs had appeared on national television, but we trust that first-timers will have been as impressed as they should be and make as many return trips as we do to this beacon of inventive, top-class modern cuisine which pays homage to the seasons and to local ingredients."
"We are fairly local to this restaurant and have been fortunate to have dined there a number of times. We have got to know the team well and what a team! Ryan and Liam captain the good ship, with their left and right hands Arnuad (FoH) and Hannah. They eat, drink, sleep and breath food. It's all about the ingredients (as much own sourced or very local) and how to show them off. Every time, and I mean every time, we have been we have walked away thinking "Man, that was a great meal". It's always changing. They are always pushing for the next new way to cook something - it's insane."
"When you get to the end of a meal out and you just sit there, utterly content, reflecting on the superb food you’ve had, you know the restaurant has got everything right. Once again our dining experience here was absolutely brilliant and Orwell’s is a prime example of the tyre maker cum booking app (conflict of interests?) getting its rating wrong. We began the ‘Taste the season’ menu with a pre-amuse-bouche of radishes fresh from the garden with a wild garlic mayo which were followed up with a cheekily tasty smoky (cheddar) cheese and (Branston) pickle foam before things started in earnest with mouthwatering chicken skin wafer and smoked paprika cuttlefish and then sweet cured scallop in smoked roe sauce accompanied by charcoal focaccia and then cock crab with cunningly smoked rhubarb and a parmesan crisp. The signature duck crumpet was again something of a rich, ravishing surprise with the duck heart and sauce, meaty shiitake, parsley and burr cheese taken together providing a real treat. The John Dory that followed was day-boat fresh, perfectly cooked and splendidly combined with caviar, verjus and spring onion. Top-class wagyu was as good as you can get, melt-in-the-mouth yet with a quite imperious taste and seconded by local hen of the woods mushroom and a creamy wild garlic sauce. While purists might prefer lamb before beef, the sequence on the night seemed just right, with properly young lamb, pea mash, tiny potatoes and a black olive purée making a perfect match with he meat. The pre-dessert of sorrel sorbet, puffed rice, natural yoghurt and strands of fennel was good enough to be a dish in its own right, but it cleverly introduced the first dessert of rhubarb and custard, the aerated custard light as anything with smooth rhubarb and crunch added with flaked almonds; the final dish contrasted white chocolate with a subtle ginger ice cream and pistachios for the ultimate in sweet textures and flavours. The kitchen was excellently backed up by the minimal front of house staff who somehow manage to look after all the tables, and especially Arnaud who combines a wealth of wine knowledge, and has put together an exemplary wide-ranging wine list, with a number of Coravin selections. We will be back."