Charlie & I recently headed back to the UK to catch up with friends, family & to squeeze in a wedding. We were fortunate as it coincided with one of the hottest Septembers on record & as everyone knows there is nowhere on this earth more wonderful & beautiful than the UK when the sun is shining. This is particularly true when you get into the rural Oxfordshire countryside, where my family are settled.
If you find yourself in this part of the world then you absolutely must head to The Crooked Billet. Whilst it is only about 5 miles outside the world-renowned regatta town, Henley-on-Thames, you’ll need your sat-nav to track it down. In the middle of absolutely nowhere, hidden down long windy country lanes & in a hamlet called Stoke Row you will stumble across this gem of a pub. It looks like it’s been there since the Big Bang & I’m pretty certain Frodo Baggins may have popped in at some point for a pint of ale with his hobbit pals.
If you’re looking for a warm, intimate, classic British pub with a wonderful selection of beers & ales, then you’ll love it, but more impressive is the food. It is not your average pub grub. It’s just about the best pub grub.
Because of its reputation The Crooked Billet is forever busy so I do recommend you book a table. There were 4 of us on this particular Monday lunchtime [catching up with mum & my sister, Soph] we had asked for a table outside in the hope to enjoy the rare heat wave. It might have been that we were still in Singapore mode, but the heat wave was pretty chilly on this particular day so the staff had blankets at the ready to keep us warm.
For my starter I had the falafel dish, that came with a small feta salad & an aubergine puree. The falafel themselves were stunning. Clearly baked since they had none of the grease that comes from frying & they were spongy, light & packed with flavor. The aubergine wasn’t quite a smoky baba-ganoush but more a delicate, smooth puree that with the salty feta & squishy falafel balls made for a delicious combination. Charlie went for the white bait, which was a little metal basket of perfectly, lightly battered fish with a garlicky dipping mayonnaise. All in all, a typically strong start.
For the main course I fulfilled my craving for good, British fish & chips with their beer battered haddock, mushy peas & chips. It was predictably gorgeous & an example of how something so simple can be so damn tasty. Perfectly crisp batter with shards of rock salt covered up the soft haddock flakes, sitting on top of a pile of crispy, fluffy chips & a mountain of minty mushy peas. Doesn’t get better. My only slight criticism would be that it went a bit heavy on batter versus the size of the haddock, but I’m picking holes. You’ll struggle to find a better fish & chips anywhere.
Charlie ordered the sea bream main course which was perfectly cooked with a crisp salty skin on top of a smooth avocado puree, delicious dressed heritage tomatoes, aspaagus & samphire. Everything you want for a light, fresh summer dish.
Mum & Soph both pushed the boat out with their choice of lobster thermidor that was by all accounts everything you want from a thermidor. Juicy lobster flesh doused in a rich, creamy sauce with a crispy, cheesy crust. Interestingly, lobster is a bit of a specialty at The Crooked Billet as they have special lobster evenings & events so they know what they’re doing.
The Crooked Billet remains my favorite pub in the world. The perfect rural, British pub sitting in beautiful countryside and knocking out stunning food over & over again. You can’t go wrong so make the trip & check it out.
The Crooked Billet, Newlands Ln, Henley-on-Thames RG9 5PU