Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Gourmet Dining at The Henley Festival

The Henley Festival is a five-day music and arts festival held every year on the banks of the Thames. Following on from the Henley Regatta, the festival attracts visitors from all over the world and features performances by both household names and relative unknowns. There are also displays by leading art galleries, and over the years I have seen exhibits that even included original works by Salvador Dali and Damien Hurst.  But the Henley Festival is not just a festival of music and art, it also showcases some wonderful food and drink. 

The festival caters for every price point and almost every taste you can imagine, from a caravan selling Mexican specialities out of its window, to a Chinese restaurant and right on to La Scala and Albert Roux by the Riverside. Many people picnic in the car park before coming in, and although this may not sound very salubrious, this is picnicking at its most elegant. Portable gazebos and folding chairs are erected and the prevailing sound is of champagne corks popping. You are far more likely to find smoked salmon, caviar and foie gras in these picnic baskets than pork pies and Scotch eggs.

We generally have a glass of champagne and some nibbles before going into the festival, but we always enjoy eating our dinner at one of the restaurants. In the past I have eaten both at Albert Roux by the Riverside and The Terrace Restaurant, and this year I returned to The Terrace with friends and family to enjoy a delicious meal before we went on to enjoy the evening’s main performance on the floating stage.  The Terrace Restaurant is just that, a terraced structure featuring tables on several levels. Overlooking the Thames, the Terrace’s riverside location lets you watch the boats and yachts attracted by the festival pass by as you enjoy your dinner.

I have consistently been impressed by the food served by The Terrace and their menu offers a broad choice of dishes, ensuring everyone has a good choice of things to eat.  Three courses cost about £40 and there is an excellent wine list.  The menu changes annually, and this year I started with the Smoked Chicken Tian with Summer Salad and Apricot Chutney. 

It had a beautiful balance of flavours, the sweetness of the apricot chutney perfectly complimenting the lightly smoked chicken.  Another member of our party tried the Goats Cheese, Shallot and Tomato Tarte which looked so pretty.

The Oak cured Scottish Salmon with Horseradish Crème Fraîche, Caviar and Chives was also beautifully presented. 

There was a selection of five main courses to choose from, and between us our party tried most of them.  I’m told the Whole Roasted Fillet of British Beef served with a Stilton and Spinach Potato Fondant and Port Wine Reduction was absolutely scrumptious,

as was the Three Way Gressingham Duck, a selection of a Crispy Duck Leg, a Pan-Fried Supreme of Duck and Shredded Duck Confit served with Sweet Potato Puree and Baby Vegetables with a Vanilla and Rice Wine Dressing.

My Pan Fried Fillet of Sea Bass was served with lemon oil, crushed new potatoes, summer greens and a buttered sauce made with fine herbs was the perfect summer dish, really light and delicious.

The desserts were equally lovely, particularly the Raspberry and Rose Scented Trifle with Vanilla Custard Biscuits which had just the right amount of rose water to give this traditional dessert a fabulously modern twist.

Although I am not fond of Summer Pudding, I have to say the one ordered by my husband did look wonderful, and for something that is difficult to serve in one piece, it was incredibly well presented. 

I was allowed to taste the Amaretto and Chocolate Torte with Vanilla Cream and Espresso Syrup which both our friends ordered and it was incredible.  The espresso gave it a really gutsy edge, and although it was very rich, the vanilla cream offset the potential heaviness a dessert like this could have beautifully. 

I was incredibly impressed by the choice The Terrace Restaurant’s menu offered this year, and by how consistently well presented and delicious the dishes were.  Despite the many challenges presented by serving food prepared in a marquee on a riverbank to patrons in a multi-level restaurant, everything was hot, delicious and although there were five of us, not one of us had anything even slightly wrong with our dishes. It was very nearly a perfect meal, with everything served hot, and with the waiting staff anticipating virtually our every need, as well as allowing us a lovely pause between the main course and dessert so we could take the time to enjoy the rest of our wine. I would definitely return to the Terrace Restaurant when next we visit the Henley Festival, and I have no hesitation in recommending it should you be planning a visit in the future!

The Henley Festival is held annually in July.  For more details as they become available, please click here

1 comment:

  1. A real treat , these stunning dishes!!

    I am a true Anglofile & have watched the Henley Regatta a few times, when we were holidaying in England.

    These dishes look oustanding & ooh so gourmet!

    Thanks for sharing, my friend!


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