Review of 'The Waterside Inn'

Bray is a gastronomic Mecca in Berkshire with two of the four three-Michelin-starred restaurants in the United Kingdom. One of these restaurants is The Waterside Inn whose head chef is Alain Roux - One of the famous Roux family who are largely considered responsible for bringing fine dining to the UK. We have always admired the Rouxs and very much enjoyed our trip to Le Gavrouche in London two years ago, incidentally, on our anniversary. For this anniversary I called ahead as soon as the Christmas booking season was open in early September to secure our anniversary lunch - Lunch so that we could enjoy what little sun there is this time of year and where I thought that I could more easily get a booking!

The Waterside Inn is located on the Thames in the middle of Bray. Following a narrow alley down to the river we were met at the front door of the restaurant by the valet who helpfully takes the car keys from us. The walls behind the front desk are lined with pictures of the staff and Roux family helping make us feel very much at home. The feeling continues into the small dining area where Christmas ornaments tastefully decorated the interior. We were shown to a table for two near the floor to ceiling windows near to the river. Eventually we would be surrounded by larger groups celebrating Christmas (and other things). Our table had two glass Christmas angels along with a crystal salt cellar and pepper grinder (untouched during our meal, of course, since everything was impeccably seasoned).

We were shown the menu with a brief introduction to the restaurant and food ethos at the front. Next page was the two set menus: “Le Menu Gastronomique” (changed every two weeks, lunch, three courses, £69.50 on Saturdays) and “Le Menu Exceptionnel” (changed four times a year, considerably more courses, £160, if ordered, must be ordered by all at the table). The following pages was the a la carte but since this was our first visit we figured we would go for “Le Menu Gastronomique” which promised to be an excellent set of seasonal dishes specially created by the chef…and since it was lunch we did not really want a lot of courses.

We were given a selection of canapés which were wonderful small parcels of flavour - Cod fritters with a light tartar sauce served in a spoon, pastry and anchovy twists, a quiche with goats cheese and beetroot, and melba toast with an amazing meat topping.

I started with the “Venison Carpaccio” which was absolutely amazing. A ring of thin slices of venison on top of a (thankfully) very mild Roquefort sauce around a small rocket salad. Scattered salted walnuts added a wonderfully light note of texture to the dish. The venison was incredibly tender but none of the flavours here were overwhelming. My wife had the salmon which was covered with a lovely mayonnaise sauce and capers - Lightly poached and full of flavour but not fishy (as it should not be).

For my main, I had the roast pheasant which was a generous portion perfectly cooked - slightly pink served with a wonderfully meaty jus and small slices of vegetables. Again, beautifully tender and subtle. My wife had the roast rump of beef with a potato croquette and vegetables on the side.

For dessert we had the passion fruit “Yule Log” (we had to, it is Christmas!) which was a light cream bar covered with the fruity sauce and with a side of chocolate ice cream. The plate was decorated with several small Christmas tree cookies.

For our tea/coffee we were invited to take it in a corner of the lobby furnished with a comfy sofa where we made ourselves comfortable as our drinks were brought out to us as well as a final selection of small petite fours - Small slices of nougat, mince pies, a jelly, a Madeleine, a macaroon (with a fruit filling), and a dark chocolate truffle (with Alain Roux's signature on top).

The service throughout was impeccable with things disappearing and appearing on our table as if by magic. They were very friendly and often stopped to talk to us throughout the meal. When sitting in the lobby we had a nice chat with several of the staff and when they found out it was our anniversary returned with a large plate having “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate on it and a small chocolate to share (two spoons).

I cannot say we found anything to fault here. Ok, it was not the cheapest (the bill came to £200 – With drinks though my wife only had two glasses of rose and I only had two glasses of “fruit cocktail”) but we could not fault the food or service. It was a bit noisy when we left the dining room as pretty much all tables were taken but this it to be understood with so many larger groups (one can assume that at other times of the year it is not so noisy).

We will be very much looking forward to our next visit…perhaps this time for “Le Menu Exceptionnel”…We don't think we would stay in the Inn (they have rooms) as there is not much really to see here (other than the restaurants, of course) and the village can get awfully busy with traffic.

Rating:

Review Date: 2014-12-20


Cuisine: French

Address: Ferry Road, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AT

Location: Bray (England)

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Telephone: +44 (0)1628 620691

URL: http://www.waterside-inn.co.uk/