Foodie delights at The Quince TreeBy Hilary Scott
June 22, 2012
Hilary Scott discovers an intriguing new complex where you can eat and shop in Stonor
I occasionally wish I was a lady who lunched and lived in Henley.
It's not my biggest fantasy of course (that involves Camelot, champagne.. you get picture).
But swanning round Berkshire with the means to indulge in the very best would suit me very well.
And now there's a place that can cater for a lot of those needs – a lovely pub, cafe, restaurant and deli in an idyllic setting where I could while away many an hour.
It's The Quince Tree in Stonor – a village that sits almost plumb in the middle of the triangle that takes in Reading, Oxford and High Wycombe.
It's Midsomer country indeed, with thatched roofs, wisteria-entwined cottages, large 4x4s – and now the unique building which is a mix of old and new, the old being the Stonor Arms (a pub made famous for being owned by businessman and former Royals chairman Roger Smee) which has had an ultra modern extension put on to house the deli, meeting room and conference space.
Surrounded by a minimalist and modern garden (with inevitably a quince tree), you can dine light or fine, just enjoy a drink or shop in the deli for local breads, meat, cheeses, veg and artisan products.
When I visited for a look around just a week or two after The Quince Tree's 'soft' opening, we ate at the pub (the restaurant wasn't open) and had sensibly priced fare, ie my Cornish fish soup, rouille and Gruyère croutons was £6, not £5.99, (and absolutely delicious) and my partner's steamed mussels with cider and samphire the same price.
For £14 I had the slow braised shin of beef in local ale with confit shallots, smoked bacon and parsley mash which was meltingly good and my partner had a huge dish of wild mushroom risotto, tarragon and Parmesan for £13.
I loved the platters on the menu (all £13) and will try again. Choose from Cheese – local cheese with fig & pear chutney; Charcuterie – locally cured meats and hams, with relish; Pie & Egg – hand raised pie, Scotch egg, homemade piccalilli; Garden – slow roast red peppers, baby artichokes, confit vine tomatoes, grilled fennel, with green herb dressing or Sea – smoked salmon, prawn cocktail, crab crostini, with red wine vinaigrette, lemon and capers.
In the cafe you can fuel up for the day with a breakfast of veggie and fruit juices like beetroot, orange and celery juice followed by porridge with Jersey cream, both at £4,50, grab a lunchtime sandwich, salad or pasta or risotto or simply afternoon tea.
I really liked the deli – great local produce alongside the stuff we love from oils to saffron. But beside the top-notch olive oils from small producers in countries like Italy and Spain you'll find English rapeseed and sunflower.
Cakes (served in the cafe too) are home made in Stonor, and to be honest too big and fat and sinful for me to even glance at after my hearty lunch.
A nice touch is a chilled cabinet of The Quince Tree's chef's ready-cooked meals for busy people.
But The Quince Tree is not just somewhere to eat or shop, it's giving its meeting room over to the community for free when it can, from yoga classes to film groups. The Almshill Room can also host a small conference, team meetings, and much more – and it comes with start-of-the-art audio visual facilities.
And it’s also a place to peruse the stunning photographs dotted all around by local artist Caroline Hyman (www.carolinehyman.co.uk) from farmers in the area to still-life fruit and veg.
Owner Bobby Yerburgh says: “I hope that The Quince Tree will make an exciting addition to the area. Everything we have set out to achieve – a building that sits comfortably in a beautiful village, sourcing the best products and suppliers from around the UK and further afield, developing a range of tempting menus and choosing the right team – has all been with our guests in mind.”
He also says it's a work in progress – as I write the restaurant is not open, though it's ready and I guess they are practising. The complex is closed on Sundays and Mondays and the owners say: ”We appreciate this is a little frustrating for some, but it means that we have the chance to catch our breath a little and tweak where needed.”
It's a good strategy because as well as the captive Henley market, visitors will travel from around Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire to The Quince Tree.
And I will be back, yes even if I'm still toiling at the day job.
The Quince Tree, Stonor, Oxfordshire RG9 6HE. www.thequincetree.com For reservations call 01491 639039.