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“Superb British Haute Cuisine (with haute prices to match)”
Review of Orwells

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Ranked #1 of 2 Restaurants in Shiplake
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: US$ 26 - US$ 99
Cuisines: European, British
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Restaurant details
Dining options: Dinner, After-hours, Lunch, Breakfast, Reservations
Description: Located in Binfield Heath, near Henley on Thames, Orwells' Kitchen is headed up by Ryan and Liam Simpson-Trotman. The aim is to source the best produce available locally and prepare memorable dishes with no fuss to let the quality of the produce shine. Our Rural Cooking with a Modern Approach has established Orwells as a 4AA Rosette Restaurant, number 31 in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2018 and Editors Restauarnt of the Year 2017. Orwells caters for everyone, offering an extensive choice from the A La carte menu, Lunch, Dinner menu and the Taste of Orwells menu. On Sundays Orwells is very popular for families and couples who enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and good food, in Summertime in the Garden overlooking the Oxfordshire countryside. We look forward to seeing you very soon
Reviewed 30 June 2017

As a devoted foodie in the Thames Valley, how have I not heard of Orwells before? Looking for a new place to go with my parents, we found this establishment with some top TA reviews so we thought we'd give it a try.

This review is a tough one. It is an absolutely superb establishment...BUT at its prices it had better be. £30+ mains and £15 starters either means (a) Michelin star quality, or (b) an exceptional venue (paying for the view, location, ambiance, etc.). Orwells doesn't have the latter, but might be nipping at the former.

SERVICE - Certainly the service was Michelin star quality. It was attentive without being officious. More importantly it had personality. A warm and effervescent engagement with the customers. I was intrigued by the plaice dish, but didn't fancy the plaice so they happily prepared it with turbot for me.

VENUE - The venue is classic gastro-pub. Nattily decorated with white linen table cloths, but still relaxed enough for casual attire. We ate in "The Room" which has large windows looking over the garden. With the summers evening light till late, we could look out on the abundant flowers and the expansive rolling valley in the distance. Unfortunately, the view was impeded by a large fence (if they found a way to get rid of this, then the experience would be quite a bit more impressive for the view) and the closed table umbrellas (they really should remove these eyesores completely in the evening). They serve lunch in the garden so we will definitely come back to try that some sunny day (hoping the lunch prices are a bit more down to earth).

FOOD - The very first course was the cocktails and this is what really got our attention. World class preparations from a superbly stocked bar. The challenge is the menu prices. When I saw them, all of sudden my expectations shot up.

The Smoking "Ploughmans" complimentary starter was fun, inventive and tasty. The bread was delicious (especially the brown sourdough, though Michelin quality would have served it warm). The asparagus soup was divine (soup is always an important acid test of a good kitchen as it is the chance to really meld flavours in different ways). So far so impressive.

The others had the duck and the beef. Everything was delicious. BUT for £30, I expected delicious. For £20, I expect delicious. £30 calls for some sort of "wow" in the dining experience. Either an amazing flavour, or an inventive twist or else a stunning venue. Unfortunately, none of the dishes has any real distinction at this level. My turbot was fine and that's about it. The caviar topping didn't really add any flavour. And my father had trouble distinguishing his duck from the duck my wife had cooked a few days before (she is a great cook). All of the mains were perfectly delightful on the night and instantly forgettable like some X Factor cover rendition.

A final note is that I would have made the portions just a tad larger. They were very nouvelle cuisine in scale. That's great if you are doing the trendy tapas thing or part of a tasting menu (which they offer), but if you are paying £30 for a main, I expect to have a satisfying serving. All of us felt we would have enjoyed one or two more bites of our plates.

The desserts went to the other extreme. A bit too much going on. Again, delicious and expertly prepared. But not award winning. I had the "Bounty Pebble" which is supposed to be a modern interpretation of a Bounty bar. The chocolate mousse with delicately coconut added was great. But then there was crumbled chocolate and honeycomb (?) sprinkled on top and a dollop of lime sorbet. It was just a bit all over the place taste-wise.

What I did appreciate was the British and even local touch to the ingredients. They served the locally produced (very fine) sparkling wine. Their cheese course option was a la carte so you could choose your cheese board with helpful descriptions with several from the nearby area. And the honey they use is from their very own hives.

SUMMARY - I instinctively compared Orwells to the Dog and Badger on the other side of Henley. D&B is our go-to fine dining preference in the area these days. I would struggle to say that Orwells is significantly better...but it is nearly 50% more expensive. If money were no object and you wanted a change of pace, then Orwells is a great night out.

Orwells also reminded me of the pre-star Hand in Flowers. Before Kerridge got all whimsical and inventive, he first distinguished himself cooking pretty conventional dishes with exceptional quality and a touch of panache. Maybe Orwells has that same potential and now is your chance to sample some of its delightful food and service before a Michelin star raises its profile and you can't get a table (the restaurant was only half full when we went). Just bring a full wallet.

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    • Food
1  Thank MaldivesComplete
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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111 - 115 of 614 reviews

Reviewed 25 June 2017 via mobile

We were recommended this restaurant. Decided to go for my husband's 50th birthday as a special treat.
I have food allergies and warned the restaurant when we booked. When we arrived the girl who greeted us made a huge deal about it saying I could have anything from the menu as the chef could accommodate my allergies.
We had a drink at the bar whilst looking at the menus. Half a champagne flute of prosecco cost £9.50.
We were shown to our table. Lovely place and very cosy.
Sadly the food was so disappointing. After making a big thing about my allergies they just served the fish dish I had chosen completely dry (as the sauce contained dairy) made no effort to do anything else and it was so overcooked it would have bounced off the floor. Served with one mouthful of veg and no potato. I cook myself and could have done a much better job which is really disappointing when the restaurant has Michelin rating!
In total we had 2 starters, 2 mains, 1 dessert and one glass of wine, left hungry and the bill was almost £100. We definitely won't be returning.

1  Thank janhcopp
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 June 2017

Great food, lobster starter was wonderful
Nice ambience, staff were very helpful
Only problem was, it all took so long

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    • Food
Thank Gillalhambra
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 June 2017 via mobile

What a shame, a disappointing meal at Orwells. You could argue ordering fillet medium-well isn't right, but even so, don't expect 4 shrivelled up pieces of meat that were tough as old boots. After pointing this out and not eating it - Nothing, no apology, didn't even offer to knock it off the bill. Not a word, really surprising. Sad that this restaurant has become so arrogant.

Thank RO55
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
orwrest, Owner at Orwells, responded to this reviewResponded 25 June 2017

Dear RO55,

First and foremost many thanks for joining us here at Orwells, your friend who booked your table and joined you on the night is a regular of Orwells and always enjoys.
I don't really want to come across as arrogant on here but i feel its more clear to bullet point for the general public who read these reviews.
- please read previous reviews from this person and from orwells.
- You will realise that he likes it well done, i myself like well done from time to time, but it is tough and it does not do the meat justice especially that cut of beef, it's a rump seemed muscle that is a small fillet that really needs to be cooked rare to medium rare.
- Finally i think we are not arrogant as we really pride ourselves on customer service as well as the food, but we are not the type of place that knocks things off the bill if you order medium well, shame really that you can't see how much we care about what we do

From a passionate cook who loves what he does and has a team who feel the same,

If you would like to call the restaurant to discuss i am more than happy to discuss this with you.

Kindest Regards

Ryan Simpson
Chef and Co owner

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 June 2017 via mobile

From the minute we arrived to the time we left was a very positive friendly experience.We sat in the garden and had a drink mine was a bespoke gin cocktail I named it Gin Tingle a little sweet and sour concoction fab. We opted for the tasting menu with wine flight I can only say wow !wow ! Each course was a late of flavours on many levels. Ryan and his team have a fantastic understanding of flavours and presentation Arno produced a masterful match of fab wines we had never tried before. Excellence food and wine and wonderful service Bravo we will not leave it so long to return. Ryan you were robbed on GBM thank you Nicky and David x

Thank Nicky H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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