When it comes to heading out to eat, I’m the first person to admit that I’m very much a creature of habit. While I’m not against trying new places, I very much have a tendency to stick with a restaurant or café that I like if it ticks all the necessary boxes. Surely I’m not the only one, right?
Chatting with my group of foodie pals on previous occasions, it came to my attention that The Butchers Social in Henley-in-Arden seemed to be coming up in our discussions on a regular basis. So naturally, I wanted to learn more about the place that was selling what people were claiming to be: “the best chicken wings they’d ever had in their life.”
So last Saturday, when the sun and blue sky finally decided to make an appearance after possibly the worst week of rain I’ve ever seen, myself and my Dad hopped in the car and made the 40-minute trip from the Shropshire countryside out to the beautiful suburb of Henley-in-Arden. The town itself is adorably attractive, the High Street lined with independent shops and pubs, but we were heading for one place and one place only – The Butchers Social.
Stepping through the front door, we clocked a number of drinkers who were tucking into a pint and some chicken wings which my Dad was eyeing up. We were greeted by a staff member who was incredibly welcoming. I explained that due to living quite far away, we’d arrived 40-minutes too early for our table, but this was no problem as she cheerily informed us that our table was ready and waiting.
The front of The Butchers Social is a casual bar area, where you can enjoy a fantastic selection of drinks alongside food from the bar menu. Had we not booked in for dinner, it’s safe to say that the pair of us would’ve happily sat and enjoyed a couple of pints and nibbles. And with the weather taking such a glorious turn, the large beer garden was looking more and more tempting by the second.
That being said, we were more than happy to find ourselves sat in the dining area. Having only been refurbished just a few years ago, the main restaurant is incredibly stylish. Blending bursts of orange and copper with dark coloured walls, it’s not hard to see that a lot of love and care has not only gone into the food, but into a creating a welcoming space that doesn’t leave diners intimidated by the thought of fine dining.
As the first table to arrive for the evening, we had the restaurant area to ourselves. Our waitress, whose name I sadly didn’t catch, went above and beyond every expectation to make sure that we enjoyed every element of our meal. At no point did we feel rushed – we took our time browsing both the tasting menu (£70 per person) but opted for the a la carte menu.
A gorgeous amuse bouche of Samphire in a light curry batter with a buttermilk sauce kicked off our meal, followed by a generous portion of the House Bread (£4). Served with a Beef Fat Whipped Butter and Volcanic Black Salt, it certainly set the bar for what we were about to experience. The butter was packed with flavour, it was almost like eating a piece of chunky bread dipped in beef gravy.
Following a short break, we moved on to the starters. While I opted for the Scorched Sardines with cherry, pistachio, frozen baby gem and caviar (£12), my Dad selected what was easily my second choice of Quail Breast with sweet and sour gooseberries, hazelnuts and red grelots (£9).
Beautifully presented, each mouthful was an utter treat. My sardines were perfectly cooked and the tomatoes brought an extra burst of flavour, while the pistachios and frozen baby gem added an extra element of texture. My Dad enjoyed his quail, the portion was decent and he was pleased with how the breast was cooked. Washed down with a bottle of 2009 Ondarre Rijoca, it was five-star approval all around.
Moving on to mains and it’s fair to say that we were both left spoilt for choice. After much deliberation, I selected the Roast Rump of Lamb, served with lamb’s liver & onions, English peas, braised lentils and a mint jus (£27), while never one to turn down a steak, my Dad chose the 12oz Rib Eye (£28) with a side of Bone Marrow triple cooked chips (£5) and a Peppercorn sauce (£4).
Stunningly presented, we both tucked into our mains with little conversation had between as we were just enjoying the food too much. My lamb was perfectly cooked. With a melt in the mouth texture, it went down an absolute treat. And, despite not being a huge fan of lentils, I finished the lot. My Dad asked for his steak to be cooked rare and it was bang on. The chips were nice and chunky too and there was plenty of sauce to accompany his mamouth steak.
No meal is complete without a pud and as the sun was shining, the BBQ Peach Melba with meringue, peach jelly and raspberry (£8) seemed like the ideal choice, so we both went for that. Light, packed with flavour and the perfect palate cleanser, it really was the perfect end to a fabulous meal.
A truly wonderful place to dine and drink whatever the occasion, I simply cannot wait to head back to The Butchers Social – most likely for the Sunday roast, because head chef and owner Mike told us wonderful things after we’d indulged in three stunning courses. Far from intimidating and a true celebration of modern dining with knock-out food, The Butchers Social really is a jewel in Henley’s crown.
To book a table at The Butchers Social, click here to make a reservation or call 01564 792135.
Disclaimer // I was invited to review the a la carte menu at The Butchers Social with a plus one. Our meal was complimentary in exchange for a fair and balanced review. All words, images opinions are entirely my own.