Sunday 2 January 2011

The Waterside Inn, Bray, Berkshire

Duo of game - partridge & venison

For my birthday last week, TPG and I took a turn at The Waterside Inn, in the quaint 16th century village of Bray.

Bray is quite the hub for Michelin stars it seems. The Waterside Inn is only one of 4 restaurants in the UK to hold 3 of them (it's held them firmly for 25 years) - another, The Fat Duck, is just down the road. While Heston Blumenthal's gaff is all about pushing the boundaries of modern cuisine, Alain Roux's elegant French restaurant focusses on perfecting the classics. Boring? Quite the opposite. I think it's the all round best meal I had in 2010.

Set on the banks of the Thames, a long lunch was a first class way to enjoy the sunlit, genteel setting, riverside views and the simply wonderful food and service. It's nose bleedingly expensive but, based on the a la carte prices (a cup of coffee costs you £12 so you get the drift), the 6 course tasting menu is the better value way to go at £140 (including service and coffee) - it includes starters priced at upwards of £50 on the a la carte menu. There's also a 3 course menu gastronomique for £56.50, which I'll be going back for.

Parmesan cream

After a lovely selection of amuses bouche (I particularly liked a pretty dome of creamy foie gras), we start with a smooth parmesan cream, pink fir apple potato topped with truffle and served with an almond pastry straw. It's elegant and light, despite the luxurious creamy "truffleyness" of it all.

Foie gras

Warm escalopes of silky foie gras follow with cardamom, glazed root vegetables, verjuice and sultana sauce. I normally see the word "sultana" and burst into tears (eg. why ruin a good scone etc.). However, it appears that if you pop a bit of foie gras beneath them, I can handle a sultana with ease. Again, a dish so rich, but so well balanced.


Pan fried lobster medallions with a white port sauce and ginger flavoured vegetable julienne were a marvel - the meat is sweet and prepared perfectly (there's no chewiness in sight) and then served back inside the shell to beautiful effect.

Challandais duck

For mains, a choice.  TPG's roasted Challandais duck was served with slices of poached quince, soft, creamy polenta, chestnuts (I'm addicted at the moment) and a cider flavoured sauce. When 2 people order this, it is carved at the side of the table where lavish slices of duck are splayed across the plates. Highly recommended if you're both up for it. Being picky, the only criticism that could be made of TPG's plate was that the meat was a fraction chewy, but it had a fabulous flavour - still the best bit of duck we've had for an age.

I opted for the duo of seasonal game (partridge and venison) with a pumpkin subric, parcel of wild mushrooms and spinach and poivrade sauce. It was the best piece of partridge I've ever had and the venison was succulent and pink. I worried over this one as I knew the duck would be good, but my game was at least its equal on the table.

Chocolate teardrop

Our first dessert was a teardrop of milk chocolate mousse flavoured with caramel, mango and passionfruit and accompanied by a mango sorbet. The chocolate mousse was divine. DIVINE. It's light but with the right amount of richness and chocolate. The mango worked so much better than I expected (I don't usually go fruit with chocolate) and it was all done so well that I still didn't want this meal to end.


A warm date souffle is flavoured with cognac and comes with coffee ice cream. The flavours are extremely subtle, but the souffle is cooked perfectly and is as scrumptious as it sounds.

We finish with mint tea, coffee and lovely mignardises.

Service was excellent, and not overly fussy. Our sommelier was also terrific - we shared bottles of white and red, both of which we loved (although I've since lost track of the details).

If you have a special occassion coming up and are looking for one fine dining restaurant in which to have a splurge, this is certainly a place I'd heartily recommend. The Waterside Inn feels really special.

This was easily one of my best meals of the year.

The Waterside Inn, Ferry Road, Bray, Berkshire, UK

Waterside Inn on Urbanspoon

Two of my other favourite meals of the 2010 include the seafood extravaganza we shared with our Italian friends at the far more casual Ristorante I Savoia in Modena and the meal I claimed in January would be my meal of the year (getting in early!) at Le Chateaubriand in Paris.


  1. I've been wanting to go for ages but keep forgetting when asked what I want for my birthday! DOH! Senility is definitely getting in the way of my eating!

  2. Sounds like a great birthday meal - so which was better Waterside or Per Se?

  3. Kavey - I do that all the time! I really must keep a written wish list somewhere. The Waterside Inn is totally worth a visit - particularly when it's your birthday and someone else is paying!

    Gourmet Chick - Totally amazing. So hard to choose between TWI and Per Se. I went to one at lunch time and one at dinner time so the feel was quite different. Per Se had real highpoints but overall I probably liked The Waterside Inn even more. Happy to go back to both again to make sure..!

  4. I went there for lunch in 2009 with Libbie, we had a tasting menu with wines to match. Dressed to the nines as ladies who lunch, of course. We were there for hour and hours watching people get out of their boats and come to the restaurant and the waiters delivering silver tea service onto the boats. I loved it! You have to go back in summer, definitely.

  5. Vintage Macaroon - that sounds wonderful. Summer at The Waterside Inn - I'm sold!

  6. Greedy!! how could you forget the wines? Hmm, guess I'll have to go there myself then ;)
    That lobster looked divine!!!

  7. Winesleuth - OK, I have them now! We loved the Beaune Clos des Mouches, Joseph Drouhin 2004; and the Cote Rotie Ogier 2004.

  8. Wow, that's a hell of a way to end a year. 2011 has plenty to live up to!

  9. LondonRob - Thank you!

    Gin and Crumpets - It certainly was.

  10. WOWzers. £50 for a starter? £12 for a cup of coffee? Still, the food looks stunning, especially that lobster.

  11. Lizzie - Yup. Mind blowing prices - so the set menus are definitely the way to go unless you're arriving by private jet, wrapped in furs and jewels. But the food IS stunning.

  12. This is food porn. Unbelievably immaculate looking food, and tantalising descriptions. It certainly looks and sounds like it was worth every penny. If I'm good, maybe I can drop enough hints to make it a birthday summer treat.

  13. Laura - Total food porn. Start hinting now.


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