Last weekend my husband surprised me with a mini weekend in the beautiful waterfront town of Henley-on-Thames. He knows how much I have always wanted to go out to dinner in Henley and not have to drive the hour it takes to get home late on a Saturday evening. Henley is very dear to us as here is where my husband has a business having re-located from the Chilterns town of Amersham back in 2015. The people of Henley have welcomed him with open arms, he is “one of the family” a privilege that normally takes years to acquire but I didn’t doubt for a second that when he opened his business in New Street, people would soon come to love him and he has quickly gained a reputation as an astute and friendly businessman. His reputation is built upon years of experience and a love for his job.
So when he told me he’d booked a B&B and I had the choice to choose where we would eat, I was in no doubt where that would be. My love of Oysters is legendary and so I think my husband assumed we would be eating at Loch Fyne but no disrespect to them, I am saving my craving for Oysters where they’re revered, in Paris where would be spending the bank holiday weekend next week. Therefore, there could only be one place I was remotely interested in eating at, The Three Tuns Pub.
My love of pubs has become somewhat of a joke at home especially when we’re on holiday in the countryside, in Cornwall for instance where we spend many of our summer holidays. Everyone knows the first thing I say when we arrive is “Can we have dinner in a country pub tonight?” not just any pub, a “country pub” and I am frantically searching the internet (if you can get it in our remote Cornish cottage) for a good local pub, my family tease me about this endlessly. There was no joking on Saturday night when I suggested The Three Tuns to Mr Andreou, this is because this cosy tiny pub with it’s homely real log fire is a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen where it’s anything but cosy, only fiercely ambitious in gaining those Michelin stars it’s been recommended for. Don’t let first impressions fool you into thinking this is just “pub” food, yes there are the staples like fish & chips, sausage & mash and pies but there are also more adventurous dishes on the menu, nothing disappoints at the Three Tuns as I’m about to find out.
Beyond the cosy bar of this 18th century characterful pub is a small but intimate dining room with about 4 tables but beyond the half wall and another small fireplace, more tables are to be found and the kitchen, I’d say the pub seats about 30 comfortably. It is dimly lit with strings of fairy lights further adding to an already romantic setting. Along the narrow hallway, you will find a pretty terrace beer garden which must be wonderful to chill in on a warm summers day with a cold glass of cider in hand and also a multi-functional room, the Stable Bar which can be hired for events. The main part of the pub where drinks are served is like the front room of a cosy cottage with a real log fire, I can imagine it must be quite satisfying to have a drink here on a bleak winters’ evening or at Christmas time. After all as with many old pubs, it must have been someone’s home two to three hundred years ago.
Once we made ourselves comfortable we were brought the menus and wine recommendations, we took the waiter’s advice and ordered a crisp but floral white which was so refreshing. The menu sounded divine and it was really hard to make a decision. Knowing the portions of pub food, I really didn’t want to fill up too quickly so I didn’t order a starter however Mr Andreou chose the mushroom soup which was rich, creamy and earthy just like mushroom soup should be. We also had a bread basket with varieties of bread such as olive and sundried tomato and a delicious salty flavoured butter and also rather unusual I have to admit but nonetheless really welcome, a small dish of Caponata which is essentially a Sicilian vegetable stew rich in flavour, and appearance, it’s made with tomato, aubergine, capers, vinegar and sugar, there was a delicious piquancy to it which is very authentic, I pretty much finished it all!
My husband Andy chose pie which changes daily on the menu and today’s choice was chicken and chorizo and I decided to go for my customary fish, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be honest, with choices such as Three Tuns Burger, Moroccan Spiced Lamb Rump, Free Range Watlington Pork Belly slow cooked, I can imagine the meat to be soft and succulent, Scottish Ribeye and Seafood Linguine and more, it was hard to make a decision but at 9:00pm, I really didn’t want anything too heavy so I chose the fish of the day which was hake and ever since I had hake in Cornwall last summer, I am rather partial to it. The food arrived about 15 minutes after starters which is what I would expect, there’s nothing worse than food arriving really quickly. The pie was magnificent, it had a golden puff pastry lid in cute earthenware pie dish and was filled with big chunks of chicken not tiny minute barely there pieces you find in some better known pubs, chorizo which gave the sauce a bright orange hue and also sweetcorn which added more texture. The combination of all three ingredients and the creamy cheesy sauce was sublime, my husband was in Pie Heaven if there is such a thing, this was proper comfort food and we all need that now and again don’t we, I kind of wish I had ordered it too! But when my fish arrived looking splendid on the plate, I wasn’t disappointed. It was perfectly cooked, succulent and flaking beautifully with crispy skin, it sat on a bed of sweetcorn salsa, frisee lettuce and a creme fraiche sauce accompanied by buttery new potatoes sprinkled with chives. This was gastronomic pub food at it’s very best showcasing local produce.
As I didn’t have a starter, I had a bit of room left for dessert, I love my desserts, rather too much if I’m honest. We don’t have pudding at home after dinner, are there families that still do this? Even when the kids were small, we just finished a meal with fruit or on the odd occasion, jelly or that glorious 70’s invention, Angel Delight which I had as a small child and my children equally loved when they were younger so that was about it mid-week. However my mum always made Sunday dessert or cake and I have continued this tradition offering my family a homemade dessert or cake on a Sunday and of course, my passion for baking is such, it isn’t so much a “want” but a “need” to make dessert to get my weekly baking kick.
Desserts at the Three Tuns are the classics that we all love such as fruit Crumble with home made custard, only custard will do not ice cream, also treacle tart, hot chocolate fondant and cheesecake and as delicious as they were all sounding, for example the cheesecake was Baileys and Banoffee Cheesecake on an Oreo biscuit base! The Treacle Tart came with Stem Ginger Ice Cream. I was drooling at the prospect but in all honesty, I was totally full and wished I did not have any bread as I would definitely have ordered the Treacle Tart, which I haven’t had in years but I opted for roasted nectarines much to Mr Andreou’s disappointment because although he isn’t a dessert person, he would definitely have shared any of the above desserts especially his favourite, the crumble, I know I will come to the Three Tuns again and I will definitely avoid starter and bread to make essential room for proper dessert. The nectarines were roasted perfectly and served with a raspberry coulis and Chantilly cream, they held their shape and had some firmness to them rather than the usual soggy mess you sometimes get, I said to my husband that this dessert is essentially, a deconstructed Peach Melba! I felt I was eating something healthy although I am sure very calorific, it was a fragrant light dessert and that’s what I wanted.
We ended the meal with a walk around Henley before heading off to our home away from home, a B&B with a difference! TheThreeTuns or the “Tuns” as it’s affectionately known by the local Henley residents is worthy of the Michelin stars it’s been recommended for, it offers affordable, honest, good quality food, it isn’t trying to be something it isn’t, it is a pub after all but that’s what I loved about it – full of local people going out for a decent meal on a Saturday night and if you’re ever in Henley, make this your dining destination, you won’t be disappointed.
The Three Tuns
5 Market Place
All photos and opinions are my own.