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“Smaller and smaller crowd every time I go back. Time to shake things up?”

Spice Merchant - Henley on Thames
Price range: US$44 - US$130
Cuisines: Indian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: After-hours, Delivery, Reservations
Description: As our picturesque riverside restaurant, Spice Merchant Henley has a lot to live up to. Located in a traditional, rustic-framed building and alongside the finish line of the Henley Royal Regatta, the restaurant boasts a glamorous dining environment for you to enjoy.
Vancouver
Level Contributor
119 reviews
94 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
“Smaller and smaller crowd every time I go back. Time to shake things up?”
Reviewed 4 June 2014

Time to shake things up! Smaller and smaller crowd every time I go back.

There was a time when it was hard to get a table at Spice Merchant – even during the week! It was THE place in Henley for a delicious Indian meal in a slick atmosphere. Not an easy feat in any town! But there IS something stiff and uncool about this place. I think it might actually lack a soul!

While I’m not exactly sure what’s changed, and whether “soul” has anything to do with it, something definitely HAS. Is it the food? Is it the service?

Or is it that NOTHING has changed, and that’s the problem? Is it the fact that the menu hasn’t changed in ages? Is it the management?

I think a restaurant has to mix things up – don’t fix what’s working for the sake of change, but improve what isn’t. Make the menu seasonal – it tells your patrons that you cook the freshest food according to the time of year. It’s the done thing!

Also, I think the waiters shouldn’t wear those performing monkey jackets. This is 2014 – it’s time to loosen up! What’s wrong with black pants and a black dress shirt?

And play some cool Indian music – loud enough for diners to hear! Introduce a smart but concise cocktail list – with drinks made by a seasoned bartender, not some poor bloke who got stuck behind the bar that night.

Food-wise, what’s most curious is why the food isn’t consistent. Our starters were luke warm, and there’s no reason for that.

Sometimes I’m there and the bengun bharta is made with butter or ghee, and other times it is make with vegetable oil. Sometimes the vindaloo is vegan, other times it’s had dairy. I know this, because every time I go, I ask, and the answer.

This time, however, the eggplant was dairy-free, and it tasted great. I called in advance to find out if it would actually BE dairy free this time, and I was assured that it would be, so I was glad to arrive and find that this was still the case.

The wine list is still one of the best I’ve seen at an Indian menu, but expect a steep mark-up, and maybe stick to beer.

This is not an inexpensive restaurant overall. Starters are more than mains at most other Indian restaurants. Spice Merchant has to set itself apart, if it’s going to ask for that kind of cash.

Not sure what’s going on here, but if they don’t improve things soon, I think the crowds will get smaller and smaller, and it will lose its place in Henley’s sun. I know I won’t go back for a few years now, and this used to be somewhere I’d go about six times per year.

  • Visited May 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
6 Thank turkergirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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199 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Savannah, Georgia
Level Contributor
184 reviews
154 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 275 helpful votes
“Very good and civilised place”
Reviewed 10 May 2014 via mobile

There are a lot of poor Indian restaurants around but the Spice Merchant is not one of them. It is consistently very good and an excellent place to take friends or business associates.

Helpful?
1 Thank Sicnarfer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Henley-on-Thames, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
23 reviews
20 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“Indian with a swagger and sytle”
Reviewed 3 May 2014

Popped into the spice merchant without a booking and the staff managed to shuffle us into one of their romantic booths.... On a Friday night. The food does live up to the decor and really did deliver to our expectations. The service was very swift and the food really did deliver a very pleasant kick..the only disappointment is that they still don't sell the large bottles of cobra, which is quite frustrating as you always seem ready for another beer to complement the wonderful food. Come on guys everyone's been asking you to do this for years... Listern to your customers...

  • Visited May 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank Ian S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Henley-on-Thames
Level Contributor
188 reviews
127 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 106 helpful votes
“International Indian menu”
Reviewed 13 April 2014

A bit pricey, but worth it if you love Indian food of the kind they serve in top international hotels. Not your average curry house by a mike. Frequented by local actors and celebs, it's riverfront location is hard to beat. For special occasions unless you are minted.

Visited December 2013
Helpful?
Thank 928JohnF
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Vancouver
Level Contributor
119 reviews
94 restaurant reviews
common_n_restaurant_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
“Can be hit and miss, but when it hits it's fantastic”
Reviewed 7 April 2014

Lovely ambience. A nice departure from most curry houses, but if it's busy the staff seems pretty frazzled. Just wish they would chill out and enjoy it, because a stressed out staff begets a stressed out restaurant experience, and for fine dining this just won't do.

The eggplant appetizer is great, as are the samosas, which just seemed extra fresh. Lots of options, too, that you don't see everywhere else, like baingan bharta, a true favorite!

Nice wine selection too! Go. It's worth it, but let them know that it's not necessary to be so stressed out! ;)

  • Visited March 2014
    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Helpful?
Thank turkergirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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