UK Restaurant and Hotel Reviews

London Hotels
Family Restaurants
Press Contact

The Spice Merchant, Henley

Alistair Marsella togged up in his best blazer for a stunning day out

I took the train from Paddington to Henley and then enjoyed the wonderfully scenic view from the river bank as I walked along to The Spice Merchant, on this first day of the Henley Royal Regatta, for The Spice Merchant’s special Regatta menu and programme. The Spice Merchant is situated in a traditional rustic framed building on the river’s edge roughly opposite the famous Leander Club and is a creation of owner, proprietor and food guru Bashir Islam. I had arrived for the Indian breakfast at this superb location on a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was rising.

The hospitality was excellent from the point of arrival – being offered coffee and champagne ( Mumm Brut NV Cordon Rouge or Mumm Brut Rose NV ) to commence – champagne and the Henley Royal Regatta do go rather well together !

Breakfast was served in the ground floor front part of The Spice Merchant which is where drinks and snacks are usually served with views across the river. The breakfast comprised choliy, bhatore, egg paratha, plain curd and aloo bajji. This was a flavoursome selection of mild dishes plus a touch of spice which set the tone for a blend of Indian with the quintessentially Edwardian ambience of the Regatta. This Indian Breakfast was served at the suggestion of part owner Richard Pugh (also a surveyor), rather than an English breakfast, based on his faultless logical reasoning that it is an Indian restaurant. It was certainly interesting and should be tried at least once !

Following breakfast I boarded The Spice Merchant boat immediately outside for a trip along the Regatta course to just beyond Temple Island and back, complete with Pimms and more champagne. Delightful ! It was fun to observe some racing at close quarters and also served as a lively reminder of the substantial length of the course, 6930 feet, and the very high level of fitness required to row that at speed.

Then back to The Spice Merchant for lunch in the first floor room with a panoramic view over the river. ( There is also a small private dining room adjacent, suitable for approximately 8 diners). Lunch comprised 7 courses with carefully chosen accompanying wines. This is when executive chef Narenda Singh, and his team (originally from the highly regarded London Amaya restaurant), came into their own with a selection of inspired and very refined dishes. Winners included delicious Oysters and King Scallops; a flavoursome ginger potato and broccoli with home made yoghurt infused with a hint of mango and a superb Hydrabadi Briyani ( Chicken Birani). This was some of the best Indian food I have had ; the carefully thought out menu was extremely light and blended exceedingly well and it is not surprising that Indian food is particularly well suited to a hot day. So please cast doubts aside - I felt in very good shape for the walk over the bridge to the Stewards' Enclosure where I admired the  elegant ladies, a number with superb hats – all with dresses below the knee as per the regulations for this Enclosure !

It was soon time to return to The Spice Merchant for afternoon tea which was served al fresco by the river  - mixed pakura, samosa and fresh fruits with a choice of Indian spice tea or English tea – I chose the Indian spice which was most refreshing. All extremely civilised.

At the back of the Spice Merchant on the ground floor is a much larger contemporary style dining area. My preference is for the old part – front ground floor or upstairs with scenic views over the river; much greater aesthetic appeal. The location of The Spice Merchant is excellent with just a short walk over to the Leander Club and Stewards Enclosure and only 10 minutes walk from the station should you choose to arrive by train. This excellent, beautifully located restaurant is open 7 days a week throughout the year except Christmas day: lunch 11.30am – 2.30pm; dinner 6pm – 11pm and if you have a party of 6 or more there is a complimentary trip available either before or after dinner on the Spice Merchant boat. An approximate price per head is £40 excluding wine. They will be arranging a special programme again for the Regatta 2007 – so book early to avoid disappointment ! ( The price for the special Regatta day was £195 + vat per head).

Spice Merchant Henley 
Thameside, Henley-on-Thames

Tel: 01491 636 118

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

Your comments please!

Email us your suggestions, reviews, comments.

We very much want to hear your comments on restaurants you have visited, wines you have tried. Maybe you disagree with us, or perhaps you want to recommend a place we haven't yet covered. Email us at with all your suggestions, reviews, comments.

Back to Dine Online Home Page

Copyright © 2007 MidasCode Ltd

Views or opinions expressed by authors are not necessarily those of the publishers, Midascode Ltd.
While every care is taken in compiling this publication, the publishers cannot assume responsibility for any effects arising therefrom.

MidasCode Ltd
5 & 6 The Azure Suites, Churchill Court, 112 The Street, Rustington, W Sussex BN16 3DA
Tel: 01903 779538 International: +44 1903 779538 - Fax: 01903 856683 – Mobile: 07860 899235 – International +44 7860 899235

Want your Restaurant Reviewed? Send requests to

Registerd Office: Highland House, Mayflower Close, Chandlersford, Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO53 4AR - Company No 05916096

Grape Seed Extract | Collecting Debt | Food Gadgets