We were lucky enough to be invited to the soft launch of the Bull on Bell Street last week. The newly refurbished Bull is now open for bookings. On Easter Monday we took a family walk from Henley along the river to the Baskerville at Shiplake. Please read on for my comments on both dining experiences.
The Bull on Bell Street, Henley-on-Thames, is now a directly managed pub by Brakspear. Indeed Brakspear's HQ is directly behind the Bull. Brakspear's must have spent a small fortune on the total refurbishment of the Bull. It is now a splendid restaurant and bar with a conservatory and open air eating and drinking areas. The Bull has been beautifully refurbished in a contemporary style with many lovely touches but it is stilll in sympathy with the age of the building. In remodelled places I always check out the loos and the Bull did not disappoint as they have been cleverly redesigned and decorated.
Another test for me is the quality of the beer. Not always a great fan of the modern Brakspear's bitter I was delighted at the quality and taste of the pint that I ordered. To eat Gill and I both tried the scallops which were cooked delicately and came with a mango and chilli sauce. Gill had traditional fsih and chips for the main course and I tried the pork loin with crackling, apple round and cabbage. The pork mains was one of the nicest dishes that I have tasted for quite a while and my plate was totally cleared!
Would really recommend a visit to the newly refurbished Bull with its Grand Piano in the middle bar. The real test will probably be the service levels when it is really busy. The staff were very friendly when we visited but then they were quiet as it wasn't fully open.
I have always liked the Baskerville but to be honest have not been there for quite a while. So on Easter Monday I drove the car to Shiplake Station and cycled back home to Henley. This meant that we could walk along the river to the Baskerville and then have the car to drive home. Despite it being a desperately cold Easter Monday the walk from Henley via Marsh Lock to Shiplake was lovely. The cold weather certainly enhanced the appetite!
Being a real ale fan the Baskerville is a good place to visit as they have two of my favourite beers, Landlord from Timothy Taylor and Hoppit from Loddon Brewery. Also on tap was Doom Bar and London Pride. The pint of Landlord was quickly despatched. It looks like the front bar has had a makeover, and you can just go for a pint.
The restaurant had a lot of bookings for the time that we arrived but we were quickly seated and dealt with. The Baskerville restaurant has a warm and friendly feel to it and the service was excellent.
Also excellent was the food. With five of us dining I won't describe everything chosen but just to say that all five of us were delighted with our choices. Especially popular was the Scotch Egg starter, the Steak and Kidney Pie and the Chicken. This was the first day of the Baskerville's new Spring Menu.
We really liked the Baskerville and would recommend a visit either for just a drink, snack or a full meal. Also noticed that they hold special village nights featuring a limited British menu with money off house wine. The Baskerville has an AA Special Dinnner Award.
By Phil Chappell
Member since: 9th July 2012
Hi, We are Phil and Gill Chappell. We own the Best of Henley-on-Thames. We live in Henley so would love to hear your views and opinions about all things Henley.