Having been mightily impressed by my visit to The Woodspeen earlier in the year, I was excited to visit Henry & Joe’s, Newbury’s second good restaurant. Well, it’s actually Newbury’s first good restaurant (The Woodspeen is technically just outside Newbury). Unusually, it was my Mum who suggested going. I think my foodie hobby is starting to rub off on her 👍.
It’s got five stars across the board on TripAdvisor so I was expecting big things.
Henry & Joe’s is a small, unassuming place tucked in between a fish and chip shop and an Indian restaurant. It’s pretty small, with no more than eight tables and an open kitchen. Their website describes it as a “Cosy Bistro”. It’s certainly cosy, but in reality, it’s a darn sight more than a bistro. It’s a Michelin star-quality restaurant disguising itself as a bistro. It’s pure class.
First up, the overall experience is enhanced by Joe’s amazing front of house skills. Within seconds he knew our names and was treating us like old friends. He took time to take us through the menu, encouraged us to ask questions about the food and managed to make you feel like a VIP from start to finish. I don’t often spend much time writing in detail about good service, but this really was next level. He was also rather generous with the wine pouring, which is always going to appease me.
Unsurprisingly, Henry is the chef. And he’s assisted by a chap called Ben. It’s not often you leave a restaurant knowing the names of most of the staff.
Anyway… onto the food.
What I ate:
Wood pigeon, smoked beetroot ketchup, black pudding, girolles, cobnut granola (£10)
I don’t tend to eat a lot of game. As an aspiring food critic that’s something I definitely need to change. And if all game tastes like it does at Henry & Joe’s, I’ll be eating a lot more of it. This pigeon dish was nothing short of outstanding. The breast was beautifully pink, tender and earthy. And everything that had been carefully put on the plate to accompany it, was exquisite. The beetroot ketchup was inspired – quite how there was so much flavour in one small, perfectly formed purple globule I’ll never know. The girolles were earthy and buttery. And the granola was a really clever touch, which not only added a lovely crunch, but brought a further flavour element to an already wonderful plate of food. However, the absolute star of this course was the homemade black pudding. Wowzers. I could eat Henry & Joe’s black pudding with every savoury meal under the sun. It’s nutty, fruity and, of course, porky. Seriously porky. Unfortunately, I was going to have to eat it again with my main course. A crying shame…
Crab ravioli, brown crab mousse, pickled fennel, apple, crab bisque (£13)
Unless you’ve got a shellfish allergy, there are few better things in life than a crab ravioli (or is it not, raviolo?!). I’ve eaten a few of these over the years and feel I’m now pretty good at judging them. At Henry & Joe’s they’ve almost abandoned the classic rich, creamy flavours for a more subtle, layered and adventurous take on a much-loved classic. The fennel and apple create bursts of sweet and sour flavours throughout. I couldn’t help but be reminded of pickled Korean vegetables at times while eating this (that’s no bad thing!). And the bisque, while being rich and deep with the flavour of shellfish as it should be, holds back just enough to allow all the other ingredients on the plate to shine. It’s a fine balancing act, but one which is done expertly. And, it goes without saying, the pasta is beautifully made – thin, yellow and glistening. This isn’t just accomplished cooking, this is cooking that attempts to be just that little bit different. And it succeeds. It succeeds very well indeed.
Autumn squash and rosemary terrine, purple broccoli, chestnut, tunworth espuma (£18)
Henry & Joe’s is a place that cares a great deal about the seasonality of ingredients. This is really important not only for sustainability reasons, but also because everything tastes far better in season. The downside of Autumn’s arrival is clearly the fact it spells the end of Summer, but the upside is being allowed to return to eating copious amounts of comforting carbs, stews and soups. Anyway… this squash terrine was beautifully presented and had the evocative flavour of rosemary present throughout. And, quite rightly it was nice and buttery. The tunworth espuma (essentially foam, but slightly thicker) was a nice touch – tunworth is a British camembert-style cheese. And the pine nuts were a perfect addition to the plate. As delicious as the dish was, there were a couple of ways it could have been further improved. I felt the terrine to broccoli ratio wasn’t quite right i.e. the terrine should have been bigger. I also thought the tunworth espuma could have tasted a more strongly of cheese. It was perhaps a tad too delicate. I’m being picky though…
Roast partridge, chervil root, black pudding, cavalo nero, braised onion, black garlic (£20)
I found it hard to choose between this and the pigeon for dish of the day, but the partridge just edges it. Just. The partridge itself was tender and moist. Part of it had been coated in an oaty crust that was akin to stuffing. Simple, but really damn clever. The onion was stupidly soft, buttery and caramelised. And we already know how good the black pudding was. The star of the dish, however, was the chervil root. What serious, serious flavour. It was sweet and buttery (I’m using this word a lot!) roasted perfection. And the whole dish was brought together by a black garlic puree and a silky, smooth gravy. Come to think of it, this plate of food reminded me of a roast dinner – fine dining styley. Absolutely wondrous. And they’ve just published their Christmas menu…
Chilled chocolate fondant, salted caramel butter sauce, peanut butter ice cream (£9)
My Mum and I couldn’t agree on sharing two different desserts between us. So rather than risk her hogging this heavenly sounding chocolate pud, I got one to myself. And thank God. Almost every ingredient put on a plate at Henry & Joe’s has its flavour amplified by ten. Nowhere was it more apparent than in this dish. The chilled fondant (kind of like a cross between a mousse and a ganache) was pure ecstasy – smooth, velvety and with the flavour of buttery (there it is again) caramel. The peanut butter brittle sitting on top not only tasted like a snack you’d want to finish every day of eating off with, but it also brought a wonderful crunch to an otherwise rather soft dessert. The peanut butter ice cream was insanely peanut buttery, but somehow still light and able to cut through the richness of all the other ingredients on the plate. And finally, the salted caramel BUTTER sauce. Yes, yes, yes. Wow, wow, wow. Everything worked together perfectly. This was over indulgence at its absolute finest. This is a dessert so good that with each mouthful you can’t help but roll your eyes into the back of your head while projecting sounds of “Mmmmmm” and “Aaaaaaah” out of your chocolate-filled mouth.
Overall, Henry & Joe’s is a seriously special place. It’s fine dining without any of the pretense. Every plate of food put before you exudes the love and care of people who are truly passionate about delivering stunning, creative food to their customers. This is somewhere I already know I want to go back to as often as I can justify. This is a place you leave grinning like a Cheshire cat and with the feeling you’ve met some new friends who just happen to run an unbelievable restaurant. This is what dining out should be like. While not cheap, spending £50 a head here seems 100% worthwhile. In case you don’t get the gist of what I’m saying, you need to get yourself down to Henry & Joe’s because it’s awesome.
Should you go to Henry & Joe’s?
Yes, if you live anywhere within a 30 mile radius, or if you happen to find yourself in Newbury. It’s somewhere to go for a special treat as often as you can justify!
How much does it cost?
£50+ with drinks and service
|Overall:||(9.4 / 10)|
|Flavour:||(10.0 / 10)|
|Creativity:||(9.0 / 10)|
|Presentation:||(9.0 / 10)|
|Service and Ambiance:||(10.0 / 10)|
|Value for money:||(9.0 / 10)|