Spoon: a special find in Henley-on-Thames

Spoon is one of those neighbourhood gems that you come across on your travels and wish you lived nearer to. I discovered it, by chance, in Henley-on-Thames – en route to the town’s Literary Festival, and in need of sustenance following a gruelling journey from north London (three changes of trains due to engineering works: grr). With just enough time for lunch, I was lucky enough to nab the last free table in this charming café.

It had been raining since dawn and there was a distinct nip in the air. Luckily, Spoon proved warm and inviting and I settled myself down onto one of its comfy sofas, propped up against a combination of colourful cushions, and prepared to relax.

Spoon isn’t large, but it was buzzing with a clientele that included both locals (always a good sign) and Festival attendees. It also serves just the kind of food I was looking for: toasted sandwiches, brunch options and mouthwatering cakes. The salads, too, looked delicious but I was more in the mood for carbs (blame the rain) and opted instead for a bowl of French Onion Soup, followed by an Open Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Avocado Sandwich.

The soup arrived piping hot and was exactly what I’d been hoping for, laden with finely-chopped onion and boasting the sweetness unique to that particular root vegetable. I was able to mop up every last drop with the lightly-toasted, multi-seed bread that came with it.

My sandwich was equally good, piled pleasingly high with three of my favourite foods. The ciabatta was perfect – nicely chewy without endangering your teeth (not something you can always say about this bread).

I ummed and ahhed over the fabulous range of home-made juices before deciding that, actually, I rather fancied a glass of wine (what happens at Festival…) and thoroughly enjoyed my glass of  house white, a Sauvignon Blanc which served as the perfect foil to the salmon.

It was a delicious lunch and I had a great time chatting with the very friendly staff about their own experiences of the Festival which, so I learned, is in its thirteenth year and continues to attract speakers of the highest calibre. Attendees travel from far and wide and it’s a great boon to Henley’s local businesses, as you can imagine: apparently, the team in Spoon have been rushed off their feet since the Festival opened on 29th September.

Enlightened by our conversation and fortified by my very tasty meal, I gave the toffee popcorn brownies a last regretful look and headed off towards Henley Town Hall, to see Frances Welch and Agnes Grunwald-Spier. I can’t, though, end this post without giving a special mention to the lovely waitress from Spoon who chased after me in the rain because I had left my blogging notebook and all my pens in the café: it’s fair to say that, without her, neither this nor my two other Festival posts would have been written, let alone published.

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