Believe it or not, Henley Business School provides an unusually attractive venue for a meal out. Sandra Carter goes upriver to find out more.

Walkers on the Thames footpath between Marlow and Henley or travellers on the river never fail to notice a grand mansion on the opposite bank.

With its wide lawns and majestic trees, this is Greenlands, the impressive home of Henley Business School.

I’d often gazed across and thought what a great place to study for my MBA (fanciful dream).

I wasn’t aware that the likes of me could join the high-flyers for dinner or a night’s stop-over.

Time to investigate. We book in for afternoon tea, and what a dream of a place to enjoy the river view from comfortable armchairs beside a deep bay window.

Forget any memories of school or uni canteens.

Crisp table linen, three-tier cake stands, neat fingers of generously filled sandwiches, oodles of clotted cream for the scones, a variety of dainty cakes, silver tea and coffee pots… This is traditional English afternoon tea in a unique setting, and at a good-value price of £17 each.

This business school is the elite branch of Reading Uni, with a world-class reputation for its MBA courses as well as a venue for business conferences.

With 100 en-suite bedrooms, it’s also a hotel open to the public.

So can anyone come to stay or to eat?

“We love to open our doors for others to enjoy the lovely surroundings of Greenlands,” says Abbie Edwards, one of the hotel and conference team.

“We need to fit in with the academic courses, but are always happy to take bookings for overnight stays, buffet dinners or afternoon tea.

“We have also long been a venue for weddings, parties, balls and dinners for small or large groups - anything from fine dining to a buffet on a river boat from our private jetty.”

Greenlands, once the home of the son of W H Smith, was described sniffily by Jerome K Jerome in Three Men in a Boat as “the rather uninteresting-looking river residence of my newsagent”.

The Queen seems not to have agreed: she hosted a huge garden party here on the lawns during her Jubilee year in 2012. We’re with the Queen on this one.

To book a meal at Greenlands, email or call 01491 418810 (Monday to Friday), or see for more.