If you’re looking for budget accommodation with a touch of style in The Chilterns, look no further.
The Cherry Tree Inn in Stoke Row is a darling of a country pub, a 400-year-old listed building whose exterior is framed with sprouting lilac wisteria when we visit in early June.
Situated in an area of outstanding beauty within The Chilterns, it retains its classic charm, original flagstone floors, beamed ceilings, and fireplaces but the new owners have given it a contemporary twist.
A wedding reception at the nearby Crooked Billet had us searching for a place to stay and the recently refurbished en-suite rooms here at the pub become our home for a couple of days.
There are a series of rooms in a barn-like structure, separate from the pub. Ours had a very comfortable double bed with decent feather pillows, thick cotton towels and a lovely hot shower with quality toiletries. There is a flat-screen TV and tea and coffee-making facilities. I looked into the other rooms when they were being cleaned and the standard is much the same.
Breakfast is eaten in the pub restaurant and there’s a choice of cereals, fruit, yoghurt and a very generous full English.
Staff are friendly and attentive and do everything to make you feel welcome without being overbearing.
The pub menus read more like that of a London restaurant and as you’d expect feature fresh, seasonal British, and where possible, local ingredients.
There’s a set menu (one course £10.50, two courses £14.50 and three £19.50), a la carte and a blackboard chalked up with various specials Some of the many that caught my eye was the braised shoulder of lamb with salt baked celeriac and aubergine caviar (£14.50), Cornish skate wing with garlic pomme puree, crab and caper berry brown butter (£13.50) roasted monkfish, sautéed spring greens with a cockle and chorizo broth (£17.50). The presentation is stunning and it’s clear that thought and effort go into all the dishes that leave the kitchen. Our neighbouring table had starters and they looked beautiful – the spring vegetable salad, English goat’s chefs and vegetable crisps (£5.75) – especially worthy of note. Fish looks like it’s a favourite of the chef and judging by Mr’s sea bream (£17.50) he knows how to cook it very well indeed. There’s braised shoulder of lamb with salt baked celeriac and aubergine caviar (£14.50) and a 10oz chargrilled rib eye steak with Bordelaise sauce and hand-cut chips. I’m positive he even makes the tagliatelle with wild garlic, cucumber ribbons, and a lime beurre blanc into a plate of vegetarian heaven.
I had the salmon and haddock fish cakes (£9.95) and there was an equal measure of the ingredients in a well-crisped breadcrumb casing. This sat on top of a bunch of purple sprouting broccoli, drizzled with a rocket and walnut pesto.
We didn’t order any side dishes and felt that we weren’t missing them either.
The desserts read like my kind of menu – peanut butter pannacotta with chocolate brownie and honeycomb ice cream (£6.50), pistachio treacle tart with poached apricots and rhubarb sorbet (£6.50) and the Willi Wonka-esque 100% chocolate soup with toasted marshmallow and drunken cherry (£6.50). I have the King bread and butter pudding with slow-roasted plums and almond Anglaise sauce and it was absolutely stunning. A generous helping of dense, raisin-studded pudding served with a soft red plum and a well-flavoured anglaise.
There’s a great choice of fairly priced red and white wines, I can wholly recommend the Domaine Bertier 2011 Sauvignon Viognier (£17.95/bottle) and Mr was in beer heaven with pints of Breakspear Gold. Sparking and champagnes include the usual finds and a Cloudy Bay, Pelorus. White wines were from France, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, and Chile, and there were also a couple of bottles of Rosé and an equally good choice of red.
There’s plenty to do in Stoke Row and the surrounding villages and if you have a car or bicycle it’s not that far from Henley On Thames. We explored the Maharajah’s Well in the village and did a couple of the local walks and there’s an abundance of public footpaths and bridleways in the area, so if you want to get away it’s a perfect spot. Just an hour and a half away from the centre of London, it’s a great option if you’re looking for a little peace and tranquillity.
The garden at the front of the pub is huge and we spent time reading the weekend papers and an intermittent mobile signal ensured we were text and email poor and we really switched off.
Bed with breakfast £100 and Bed, without Breakfast £80.
The Cherry Tree Inn, Stoke Row, Henley On Thames, Oxon, RG9 5QA