May 18, 2024

The Relais Henley 

OVERVIEW

This former 16th-century coaching inn on the riverside in the pretty market town of Henley has been tastefully renovated into a luxury boutique hotel with 40 uniquely designed rooms inspired by Henley’s rowing tradition, the River Thames and the natural beauty of the Chiltern Valley.

It is the first property to open under the Relais Retreats brand, a collection of English waterside escapes founded in 2021 by international hotelier, Grace Leo, and global investor, Tim Hartnoll. (The second is The Relais Cooden Beach in Sussex.) Earlier this year, the group launched new 24-hour and day delegate packages at both properties, aimed at MICE and corporate guests.

The Relais Henley’s location lends itself to walks along this picturesque stretch of the Thames, famous for the Royal Regatta (or alternatively borrow bikes from the hotel) and exploring the many shops, bars and restaurants close by.  

THE CHECK-IN

We arrived to a warm and friendly welcome in the charming and intimate lobby, with a distinctive Red Lion above the door in a nod to its former life as an inn. The check-in included a helpful overview of the hotel’s facilities and the option to make a dinner reservation, before we were quickly heading to our room, a short walk away on the first floor. 

THE ROOM

Our room was bright, spacious, elegantly decorated, with a carpet in rowing regatta stripes and a striking botanical-inspired wardrobe. It had all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay, including a flat screen TV and a comfortable arm chair. Although we were on the river and road side of the hotel, there was little noise. We were also lucky to have far-reaching views up-stream. The ensuite bathroom was white marble tiled with under floor heating, sink, a large roll-top bath and shower. Toiletries were by Algotherm, a vegan and cruelty-free brand. 

THE BUSINESS

The Palm Court and the adjoining Petit Palm are perfect for meetings or private dinners and have a comfortable and luxurious members club feel to their design and layout. The Palm Court is an open-plan lounge which is ideal for intimate board room gatherings of two to 28 people seated and up to 80 people standing for drinks receptions or other events. The Relais group also runs a private club, The Salon, giving members access to an elegant ‘alternative office’ environment and to network, exchange ideas and share best practice through hosted events, such as networking breakfasts with thought-provoking speakers or informal evening debates. 

THE FACILITIES

The hotel has two bars, The Quarterdeck Bar which is in the oldest part of the hotel and the cosy Clip Bar where you can sit around the log fire and enjoy river views. The Clipper restaurant is an elegant dining room with a wooden rowing boat hanging from the high ceiling. The restaurant is open all day for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, with quality, locally-sourced ingredients at the heart of its menus. I enjoyed a tasty surf and turf, with a generous portion of lobster meat. The service was excellent, despite the small number of waiting staff. 

THE VERDICT

You’ll feel relaxed and at home the moment you arrive in this luxury hotel. There’s no better location in Henley and the excellent service from the friendly staff will leave you wanting to return. 

THE DETAILS

The Relais Henley, Hart Street, Henley-on-Thames RG9 2AR. The Riverside Reset delegate day rate starts from £55 and a 24-hour rate starts at £265 (including VAT). therelaisretreats.com 

By Matt Bonner

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