The Henley Chocolate Café’s story began in the 1990s, opened by Master Pâtissier and chocolatier Roy Hastings in Windsor, but it was when Vivienne Lee foxtrotted into the business in 2011 that it really started to grow.
Together Roy and Vivienne opened the Henley Chocolate Café near to the town’s fashionable river rendezvous. They have quickly made a name for themselves, featuring stunning desserts, cakes and a unique hot chocolate menu featuring 20 different varieties. Following their success, two additional cafés opened in Goring and Wokingham in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Previously renowned for the sweeter side of life, Vivienne elevated the café’s savoury menu with delicious all-day breakfasts, luscious lunches, and afternoon tea options. Born and raised in Crosby, Liverpool, Vivienne’s passion for hospitality began at the age of 14, when she was poached from the local greengrocers where she had been working since she was 11 years old.
With time spent working for Bass Leisure and Gala Bingo in the corporate world, Vivienne has juggled having children around social work, residential property investment and even qualified as a masseuse and reflexologist.
“I had done a bit of everything but with my kids being a bit older, I was looking at all types of opportunities to start a hospitality business,” explains Vivienne. “Pubs, cafés and even a bed and breakfast were all considered. When Roy approached me, I immediately saw the potential and never really looked back. We have three cafés, an amazing customer base and 30 incredible core staff members including my daughter Lydia and son Kali, who are now key parts of the business and are just as passionate about continuing to improve and grow.”
“Each café retains its own personality and reflects the local area and the staff, so the menus have common themes but also special differences. Twenty different hot chocolates, great coffee and pastries, home-made cakes, all-day breakfasts for all tastes, sensational salads, packed paninis and wraps – it’s not over-fancy but great quality ingredients, honest, imaginative and made with love. Gemma at our Wokingham Café really stamps her personality on her menu through her sublime and imaginative cakes, ice creams and coffees.” “We use a variety of the Country Range spices, seasonings, sauces, and dressings in our menu. For example, the Country Range Honey & Mustard Dressing is a big favourite of mine, especially when lathered on our popular Halloumi Salad.”
While many hospitality businesses have been struggling with staff shortages, Vivienne has managed to retain her core team. “We’re lucky to have a great bunch of people in our team. Gemma, Becca and Monika the chef are brilliant at our Wokingham café, Jo the manager and Dawn the chef always impress at Goring and Bernie and our chef couple Hedwig and Arpi, plus our pastry chef Sam are pivotal in providing personality at Henley. You would have to ask them why they stay but I like to think that we pay well, we’re flexible, understanding and that we empower them.”