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Sunday, 6 October 2013

50 B4 50-The Waterside Inn

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The months of waiting are over as Matthew's (my son) birthday arrives. 

Being 'The Big 30' deserves something special, and Matt & Kayleigh, along with me and my wife, are off to The Waterside Inn in Bray.

The Waterside Inn was opened by Michel & Albert Roux in 1972 and became the first restaurant outside France to have held three Michelin stars for 25 years. Today the Chef/Patron is Alain Roux, Michel Roux's son. (His cousin, Michel Roux jnr, son of Albert, runs Le Gavroche in London.)

As we entered the delightful 16th century Berkshire village of Bray, we were immediately charmed by the mix of timber framed buildings and Victorian architecture. It soon became clear that Bray is a gastronomic heaven.

With a population of just 8,425, the village is home to Heston Blumenthal's flagship restaurant. The Fat Duck (3 Michelin stars), Two Pub Restaurants; The Hinds Head and The Crown (Both owned by Heston, and the former has a Michelin Star) and The Waterside Inn (3 Michelin Stars). So that is; One Michelin Star per 1200 or so residents! - and two of the four '3 Michelin Star' restaurants in the entire UK!

We turned down a single track lane which led directly to a slipway straight into the River Thames, The Waterside Inn is set next to the river bank on the left. As we approached, we were greeted by a valet in a smart grey suit and peaked cap. In a matter of seconds he had taken our car and we were stepping into the restaurant to a warm welcome.

We were guided to a comfortable snug lounge, presented menus and offered aperitifs. The ladies menus had no prices, just the wonderful selection of inspirational cuisine which was unashamedly French. The deliciously decadent concoctions demonstrated Alain Roux’s passion for food, and as a Master Pâtissier his enthusiasm for desserts, which is unparallelled across the UK.

It seemed that there was no other choice for us other than to try it all!, so we opted for Le Menu Exceptionnel (Taster Menu). (A full list of the 7 course menu is below.)

A tray of delicious canapes arrived, and I was a bit surprised we were not served saucers of milk as we all sat on the sofas looking like Cheshire cats.

We were escorted through to the impressive dining room on a wave of smiles and welcomes. All of The Waterside team we dressed immaculately, in smart uniforms that reflected their role in the dining room. The red flourishes with the black suits were elegant and the sommeliers gold badges indicated their years of dedicated training.

Our table was, as you may imagine, loaded with fine china, sparkling glasses, classic cutlery and crisp white linen. We possibly had the best table in the restaurant, next to the full length glass windows with a fabulous river view.

The homemade breads were served and offered continually. With Matt & I's love of bread and real butter, this was often accepted, and the salt bowl on the table enabled us to add a pinch of naughtiness.

As our courses arrived, each one was a picture on a plate. The colours were only excelled by the great fusion of flavours and textures. A particular highlight was that my wife does not like nuts in food, so her chestnut and champagne velouté made mine into a 8 course meal!

Throughout our courses, all of the dining room staff were one step ahead of everything, they were incredibly (but subtlety) attentive and knew what we wanted before we knew we did.

The duck carved at the table was pure theatre, and we all watched the excellent knife skills attentively.

It was also a great place for people watching. The girls enjoyed working out what had bought people there. They declined my offer to go and ask them, and concluded there were family parties, romantic getaways, business meeting, ladies who lunch and a couple who had pots of money and probably came daily!

As the showery morning weather changed, and the sun came out, the doors next to our table were fully opened and we felt like we were actually sitting on the terrace whilst enjoying the stunning view of the river.

As we sat, full, enchanted and amazed, there was a lonely half a wafer petit four sitting on our tiered stand. I enquired of our waiter 'Whether they did trade-in's?' Slightly confused, he quizzically looked at me; 'What would you like to trade-in sir' he replied in charming French accent. 'How about a wafer for a chocolate truffle'. 'Certainly sir, but as you only have half left, I will replace it with a half of  a truffle'. he grinned.

Seconds later 4 chocolate truffles were on our table, (Along with our remaining half a wafer) and yet another request to ensure we wanted for nothing; 'Any more coffee, or perhaps a licquer sir?'.

As we stepped outside, our car had been driven into the road right outside and we were waved away by a smiling valet. We could not have asked for more.

Exquisite service, non-stuffy attitude, a touch of humour, fabulous location, and sublime food. Things just don't get any better than The Waterside.

Le Menu Exceptionnel (Taster Menu)

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Canapé tray

Lobster salad served on a delicate citrus jelly, raspberry vinaigrette
(Salade de homard servie sur une délicate gelée aux agrumes, vinaigrette à la framboise)

Chestnut and champagne velouté, with partridge and foie gras “diablotins”
(Velouté de châtaignes au champagne et ses diablotins de perdreau au foie gras)

Breaded medallion of monkfish served on simmered coco beans with tomato, chorizo flavoured sauce (Médaillon de lotte pané, servi sur une mitonnée de haricots blancs à la tomate, sauce parfumée au chorizo) 

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Roasted loin of venison in a pastry crust with wild mushrooms, garnished with florets of broccoli, Hermitage wine sauce with blackcurrant vinegar
(Mignon de chevreuil rôti en feuillantine aux saveurs de champignons sauvages, bouquets de brocolis, sauce à l’Hermitage au vinaigre de cassis)

Spit-roasted Challandais duck, butternut squash flavoured gnocchi enhanced with horseradish, red port and beetroot sauce (for 2 people)
(Caneton challandais rôti à la broche, gnocchis de courge "butternut" relevés au raifort, sauce au porto rouge et jus de betterave (pour 2 personnes)

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Iced pineapple parfait surprise, served on a gingerbread struzel sablé
(Parfait à l’ananas en surprise, sur un sablé de struzel au pain d’épices)
Warm golden plum soufflé
(Soufflé chaud aux mirabelles )
Coffee & Petit Fours
(Café et mignardises)

The Waterside Inn
Ferry Road, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AT
01628 620691

Michelin Stars So Far: 23

3 Michelin Star
London | Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester -
Berkshire-Bray | The Waterside Inn -

2 Michelin Star
London | Hibiscus -
London | Pied a Terre -
Buckinghamshire-Marlow | Hand and Flowers (*Twice)
France | Georges V Hotel, Paris -

1 Michelin Star
London | L’Autre Pied -
London | L’Escargot -
London | The Savoy Grill -
London | Veeraswamy -
London | Quilon -
Hampshire | Terrace Restaurant (Montague Arms)
Hampshire | Vetiver (Chewton Glen Hotel) -

*To read the review on any of the above restaurants, put 'restaurant name' in this blog's search box.
No Michelin Stars, but restaurants visited since July 2013 that are worth a mention:
Yarmouth, IoW | The George -
Nice fresh menu, excellent crevettes & lobster dishes. Delightful beachside dining on sunny summer days.
London | Dishoom -
Described as a 'Bombay Café in Convent Garden. Completely different Indian dining, unexpected menu serving tasty spicy tapas style dishes.
London | J Sheeky Oyster Bar -
Excellent fish & seafood restaurant. Voted 3rd in Zagat ' Best Seafood Restaurants in London' after Wiltons & Scott's.

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