Blue-blooded onlookers dressed to the nines watch the rowers bedecked in straw boaters and striped blazers. The clink of champagne flutes toast yet another victory as team after team of oarsmen and women crosses the finish line on the River Thames to tremendous applause. This is the Royal Regatta in genteel Henley on Thames.
This annual event takes place each August and is the highlight of any socialite’s calendar. It is more importantly an esteemed sporting event seeing over 300 splendid boat races over four days. It’s international reputation has been earned over 175 years making it the world’s greatest rowing regatta. Furthermore, the town splashes out with the ‘joie de vivre’ of many art and music festivals all summer long making it the perfect place to spend a weekend break in luxury.
Surrounded by the Chiltern hills, Henley upon Thames is described as one of the most beautiful towns in England – a regular winner of the RHS Britain in Bloom award. Henley’s historic heart is but a few strides from the River Thames – its main street a lively artery framed by many Georgian and older buildings designated ‘special architectural or historical interest’. These include St Mary’s Church, the Town Hall, Market Place and the 18th century stone bridge.
All along this 13th century market town is a wonderful stretch of river with delightful independent shops, brilliant pubs, numerous cafes and great restaurants catering to high society who visit. Gentlemen can get a suit tailored at Laurence Menswear for an evening soiree and ladies can shop for dresses at Busby and Fox. Later on that evening book a table at Crockers Henley. This fine dining establishment opened its doors last August and recently partnered with Hobbs of Henley allowing for guests to unwind and experience a thoroughly tranquil boat trip up and down the river taking in the sites and beautiful scenery of the historic market town, before returning to Crockers Henley for a chef’s table dining experience and overnight stay.
Celebrate a special occasion in unique and comfortable surroundings on either a stunning classic Edwardian day boat, complete with a skipper for up to 12 people or opt for a self-drive Antaris which can welcome up to eight people onboard. Both boats are suitable for couples-only too and come complete with cushions and blankets. A fresh picnic and drinks offering to take on the journey is also available from Crockers Henley.
Once back on dry land, guests will enjoy a multi-course tasting menu at one of the chef’s tables – either pan-Asian or modern British, before turning in for the evening, staying overnight in an elegantly furnished guest room, complete with roll-top bath and four poster beds, giving a sense of understated luxury within the refurbished Georgian property. However, for those wanting a sense of adventure and for those who wish to extend their stay on the water, there is also the option to stay three-nights onboard a beautiful sleeper boat.
Housed in a Grade II listed building in Henley’s Market Place, Crockers has a strong focus on great food and immersive experiences in a relaxed and unpretentious environment. The converted townhouse holds seven boutique bedrooms, two intimate 16-seater chef’s tables, a larger robatayaki grill restaurant and bar. Crockers Henley is now open for restaurant and room bookings as well as the Hobbs of Henley package.
The restaurant features two chef tables offering different menus, while the front of the restaurant is light, bright and perfect for people watching. For those wanting a more intimate dining spot, The Grill can be found further back with cosy, stylish wooden furnishings and mood lighting, featuring matte copper tables and chunky crockery.
Alex Payne oversees Crocker’s intimate 16-seater chef’s table, The Thames chef’s table. Payne brings his classic-meets-modern style mastered during his time spent at the Michelin-starred The Latymer at Pennyhill Park, Heston Blumenthal’s Hind’s Head in Bray, and at The Savoy Grill – Gordon Ramsay.
Alex’s style is inspired by flavours and seasonal produce using ‘only the very best ingredients to produce bold flavours and to create an experience that guests will warmly remember for years to come’. His modern British tasting menu include the likes of Porthilly oyster, ginger, Rebellion beer; barbecued British hispi cabbage, ewes’ curd, yeast and bacon; Herdwick spring lamb rack and braised belly, asparagus, peas, curds and whey; and crab and avocado; truffle and gruyere; and smoked chicken liver parfait and Cumberland gel.
For those who prefer to choose their own food, The Grill is a relaxed and informal series of indoor and outdoor dining spaces. When the sun’s shining book a table on the Market Place terrace to watch the hustle and bustle of daily life or, relax in the private mirrored courtyard beneath a stunning Virginia Creeper. Inside you can sit in the bustle of the bar or try the cosy nook with its chandeliers and original inglenook fireplace.
All tasty food is cooked by Tom Westerland on a bespoke robatayaki charcoal grill. With a great selection of Hereford and Angus beef, fresh fish and the very best seafood. As a proud Welshman and former National Chef of Wales, Tom likes to make use of classic elements like laverbread alongside some genuinely innovative dishes, like his sublime Kentucky fried octopus.
All the food at the three restaurants and bar is accompanied by a first-class wine list by head of wine Gemma Aldridge, who works with winemakers and importers to ensure we have an exciting wine offering. Gemma also works closely with the two chef’s tables to create matched wine packages to enhance one’s dining experience.
The Quarters at Crockers Henley offers high quality accommodation based around a small estate of seven double bedrooms. The rooms reflect the Georgian heritage of the building and emphasise comfort and understated luxury. Swanky rooms decorated in monochrome hues feature heavenly freestanding roll top bathtubs. Pour yourself a cocktail and sink into the water and admire the high ceilings with exposed beams. Later dive beneath the duvet in a modern four-poster super king bed and enjoy a wonderful night’s sleep on the finest Hypnos mattress.
A one-night stay for two in one of the elegant and newly refurbished Georgian bedrooms includes dinner at a chef’s table, a three-course breakfast and two glasses of English sparkling wine on arrival.
For those who want to stay in the surrounding countryside, Greenlands hotel is a lush country pile set in 30 acres but three miles from the town centre. Home to Henley Business School, this magnificent Grade II Listed building dates to 1480. Then the WH Smith family purchased the house in 1871 renovating rooms to make it their country home. Cromwell’s fine dining restaurant provides a seven-course taster menu which features day boat turbot served with creamed celeriac, seawater foam, pickled grapes, anchovy crumb, mussels, and duck breast with blackberries, beetroot, forest mushrooms, watercress emulsion, juniper and orange jus to name but a few delights.
Meanwhile, Phyllis Court is a Grade II-listed building – found right on the finish line of the Regatta. Close to the beating heart of this buzzy town close to independent shops and restaurants, this gem is a former private members club, established in 1906, with a fine dining establishment attached to it. Alternatively, those seeking a home from home would be well placed to book the Dolls House, a five-bedroomed luxury townhouse that sleeps 10, with luxury living space that is immaculately furnished with a fully equipped kitchen and a terrace. The property is a few minutes’ walk from the river and has space for parking two cars..
A stay in Henley upon Thames never disappoints and if you visit during the Regatta, you will enjoy one of the finest events in the British sporting calendar. Henley Upon Thames is the ultimate weekend getaway in one of the UK’s most sought after and quintessential British towns.
Crockers Henley, 20 Market Pl, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AH
From £475 for Antaris.
From £650 for Edwardian.
From £1,800 for three nights on Sleeper.
Phyllis Court, Phyllis Court Drive, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2HT
From £180 for a delux double – which may be more during Regatta weekend.
Dolls House, 65, Friday Street, Henley-On-Thames, South Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire, RG9 1AN
From £5,730 for a week’s stay.