With grounds stretching down to the River Thames, practically at the finish line of the Henley Regatta it’s no surprise that at first glance you think Phyllis Court Club in Henley on Thames is a privilege only private members can be part of, it is something that you can only admire from afar, a place to have a game or two of croquet, take refreshments in the private bar or sit on the large outdoor terrace admiring the breath-taking river views, lifting a hand like Royalty to wave to an over excited boat as it sails past, but it’s not and you can.
Founded in 1906, Phyllis Court is situated on the borders of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, with 18 acres of picturesque lawns that sweep down to the River Thames, it is not just a private member club it also opens its doors for business meetings, weddings, special occasions or even an overnight stay in one of its 17, luxurious bedrooms most of which overlook the Thames, and stay the night is exactly what we had decided to do and we couldn’t wait!
Arriving at the main entrance, unless you’re a member and have a card to swipe, you have to ring the bell to be let into the spacious reception area that leads into a large regal looking lounge. Think large velour sofas, in bottle greens and deep reds, antique wood furnishings, gold framed pictures on the walls, light accents reflected in the lamps and soft furnishings around the room, a perfect place to enjoy morning coffee, afternoon tea or even a G&T or two. A place to read the papers, have a little catch up with friends or just to sit back and reflect on the day ahead – There are no businessmen on laptops here, no one making calls in loud voices that the whole lounge can hear – because the use of laptops/electronic devices and mobile phones are not allowed in the public areas – which means for me who loves a little instagramming and FB uploads had to pop to our room to do it – Not that that was such a hardship!
Our room, a Deluxe Double, (more like a suite) was elegantly furnished with a sofa and 2 chairs in deep greens and reds, the walls were light in colour as was the carpet, with a feature fireplace wall having deep red wallpaper to tie the whole room together. A flat screen TV, desk and tea and coffee facilities finished the look of a high-end London apartment – and of course the icing on the cake – The views from the large windows over the Thames.
Much as I was tempted to just laze in the room, boat and people watching, I decided to do this from the comfort of the outdoor terrace where we ordered a couple of G&T’s from the lovely barman and sat down enjoying the sunshine, views, drinks and nibbles (available in small dishes to help yourself to off the bar). The terrace had a lovely atmosphere of relaxing charm, although fairly busy with people having drinks, afternoon tea and food from the all-day menu it didn’t seem overcrowded or noisy, and there’s certainly no pomp and circumstance as you may expect from a private member club.
We had a lovely afternoon, the outlook couldn’t be more perfect, looking out over the manicured lawn, as it stretched down towards the Thames – There was a game of croquet taking place in the distance, the white of the participants clothes glistening in the sunshine, we sat there for a while taking in our surroundings, enjoying our drinks before we decided to have a walk across the lawns to the river to watch the boats sail by.
Whilst staying as a guest at Phyllis Court you have the added bonus of having temporary membership which means you have use of all the facilities including the recently opened fitness centre. But there was no time to visit the fitness centre for me I had to get ready for dinner.
Dinner was served in The Orangery, an elegant room that has been designed to complement the Georgian architecture within Phyllis Court – and to enjoy of course the spectacular views along the river.
The ethos of dining at Phyllis Court, is you never know when hunger may strike, the menu is based on the all-day dining concept, whether it’s a hot croissant with butter and strawberry jam for breakfast, a salad or steak for lunch, a mid-afternoon sandwich, or a three-course meal in the evening, the menu is there all day and the choice is yours.
As it was evening and all that exploring had made us hungry we were going for the full three courses, starting with fresh grilled Cornish sardines with a tomato and shallot salad, this was utterly delightful, I wanted to bottle up the tomatoes and take them home they were so juicy and full of flavour as was the buffalo mozzarella with vine tomatoes and fresh basil, in hubby’s words “proper mozzarella” (he’s Italian so that’s a big compliment).
Griddled Suffolk BBQ chicken with avocado salsa and sweet potato fries followed along with the Hereford red rump cap steak both were delicious and beautifully presented.
We kept dessert very traditionally British (well we were in a private member club) and opted for fresh English strawberry and vanilla tart with clotted cream and The Phyllis Court Eton mess, both were an absolute treat and looked just as good as they tasted.
The service, ambience and the beautiful outlook all add to the overall dining experience here and it was impeccable, which mustn’t just be our opinion, as it was a Monday evening and The Orangery was full.
We couldn’t resist an evening walk around the grounds, before retiring for a restful night’s sleep.
Breakfast the next morning is again served in The Orangery, a selection of continental (help yourself) or cooked (from the menu), including eggs Benedict, pancakes, waffles and full English. After breakfast we took our coffees out onto the terrace to enjoy the morning sunshine one last time, before we had to head back home.
Phyllis Court is a hidden gem that not many people will be aware of, you can spend your time exploring the beautiful grounds, walking along the River Thames, or relaxing on the terrace with some delicious food and drink – the choice is yours you can do as much or as little as you like – just be sure to tell your friends!
Prices start from £135 per night in a Queen Room, inclusive of full English breakfast.
Prices start from £245 per night in a Deluxe Room, inclusive of full English breakfast.