Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Waterside Inn, Bray

View down the river from the inn.
I love a treat for no real reason at all...who doesn't! Chris and I have been back in Blighty for about six weeks now and last week he announced that I should keep Friday free for a surprise. Whoop! Chris wouldn't be Chris if he didn't let slip a few bits and bobs and I basically deduced pretty quickly that we were going out for lunch somewhere nice...mmm I love lunch! What I wasn't expecting was a three Michelin star extravaganza at The Waterside Inn in Bray. Luckily Chris got confirmation of his new consultancy job at GAM the day before so we actually had something to celebrate and didn't feel too over indulgent!

Bray is a small picturesque village that for some unfathomable reason has attracted a wealth of top notch restaurants all vying for the greatest number of Michelin stars they can muster. Chris and I joked as we made our way to The Waterside Inn that popping down to the local pub for a pint and a pie and chips held a whole new meaning for the residents here. The Waterside Inn was the first fancy restaurant to open in the village, forty years ago, and has retained it's three Michelin star accolade for a whopping twenty five of those years...the first restaurant to do so outside of France! Move over Heston and The Fat Duck! It was founded by the Roux brothers after the success of their London restaurant Le Gavroche and is currently run by Michel's son, Alain Roux. With an enviable position on the riverbank complete with their own private boat to shuttle guests too and fro and take them on jaunts, aperitifs in hand, it is the perfect place to while away an afternoon.

Our day started off with a beautiful stroll in the autumn sunshine from Maidenhead to Bray along a riverside foot path. It felt like we were on an adventure again. Only minutes out of London and here we were in what felt like the middle of the countryside, leisurely sauntering through the trees, birds chattering to each other above our heads. All the worries of finding work and getting back to real life melted into the background for the day.

I was so excited by the canapes that I ate them before I
thought of taking a photo...oops!
When we arrived, appetite well and truly worked up, we were invited to take an aperitif on the deck. How very civilised. With a glass of champagne in hand, and some delicious canapes to nibble on (pork belly, smoked salmon mousse, mini welsh rarebit and blue cheese pastry thingy), the day was getting better and better. Unlike many top draw restaurants these days that force you into selecting their extortionate and belly ache inducing tasting menus, The Waterside Inn offers a lunchtime Menu Gastronomique (2 or 3 courses), a tasting menu (Menu Exceptionnel) and then has an extensive a la carte to boot. At £70 for an average a la carte main course though and a whopping £150 for the tasting menu, the seasonal Menu Gastronomique is by far the most economic and sensible option; at £59.50 inclusive of 3 courses, coffee, petit fours, and service it really is pretty reasonable. The menu offers two choices for each course so we got one of everything to taste!

Here's what we ate:
Spinach soup
For our first courses Chris had a spinach and sorrel soup with poached egg, scallops and croutons. I went for the foie gras with pistachios and chicken liver, toasted brioche and a small salad. Both were rich and sublime! As usual the foie gras came as a big slab without enough toast so I left half of it for fear of filling up. Chris polished a fair bit off for me though so not too much went to waste! The soup was a beautiful taste of autumn, the salty taste of the spinach soup pairing beautifully with the sweetness of the scallops.

Foie Gras

For mains, I had the stone bass with squid, a spinach puree and a chorizo flavoured jus. The fish was cooked beautifully, firm but light and melt in your mouth and the chorizo jus lent the dish just the right amount of flavour and saltiness. The textures of the flakey, soft fish and the firmer squid went perfectly togehter. Chris had chicken filled with veal sweetmeats, mushrooms and mini vegetables. I didn't try his but he said it was delicious.

Unfortunately I ate all of mine before I remembered to
take a photo...Chris' was still half eaten though...

The deserts were absolutely incredible (Alain Roux is known for his expertise in the patisserie kitchen).We shared a chocolate teardrop mousse with a mango mousse centre and mango sorbet, and a paris brest; choux pastry filled with praline cream and crushed up nuts served with a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream. I rarely eat desert but these were something special.
Chocolate teardrop


Finally we were presented with coffees and a beautiful cake stand of  petit fours, or mignardises as they called them there, the majority of which were boxed up to take home.

Amazing cappuccino and mignardises!

Overall the food was exquisite without being overly inventive or flash (no foams or liquid nitrogen in sight here!) - just good, fresh ingredients put together well and cooked to perfection.The staff were attentive but not overbearing or too formal, the atmosphere was polished but unstuffy and with a buzz about the place rarely found in other high end restaurants I have been to. We were welcomed to our table by the Maitre d', a very charming and friendly man, and Alain Roux came to chat with us at the end of our meal, a nice touch. All in all it was a fantastic experience and I would highly recommend a trip here. For anything other than lunch it might be a bit of a budget breaker though!

PS. I personally enjoyed our three course menu experience far more than tasting menus I have had at similar restaurants in the past. I find that you are already getting so many different courses and flavours to try what with the canapes, petit fours and amuse bouches, that sometimes the extra four or so courses on a tasting menu can be a bit too much for the palate. Plus this way you get a nice sized portion of things that you have chosen, and hopefully like, rather than mouthfuls of lots of different things. But that is my personal preference.

For two menus gastronomiques, a bottle of Sancerre, and two glasses of champagne and canapes our bill came to £215 including service. For a three Michelin star experience, a chat with the chef and a beautiful day in the countryside I thought this was pretty good value and would highly recommend it for a special occasion. The canapes and champagne were a whopping £24 per person so if you want to cut down on the extras this is where to do it...we didn't see a menu before we ordered these so beware! (But that is what these restaurants are all about...so we didn't mind)


  1. Amazing! I want to go! x

    1. You should :) Thanks for the comment! See you soon x

  2. Looks fabulous - you should do another review soon! ; ) xx

  3. Yum scrum in my tum! It looks amazing - wonderful blog darling girl xxxxx love ashropshirelard xxxxx