The Waterside Inn, Bray Review
There is something to be said for a full restaurant, on a Sunday evening, in the heart of the English countryside, in the midst of the worst economic recession to date.
Not just any old restaurant, mind. Rather a restaurant that has been around for many years and has led the way for restaurants and chefs alike in the United Kingdom: The Waterside Inn, Bray.
Anyone that has travelled to Bray will know the beauty of the small village and the proximity to the water’s edge. It is a little corner of England that is also renowned for its multi-starred eating establishments. And narrow roads.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I regard it as my favourite restaurant in the UK. Yes, it is expensive and yes you pay for quality. They both go hand-in-hand and deservedly so.
I have no wish to eat at a greasy spoon, 5 nights a week, and regale pub-goers with my ability to “eat out 5 nights a week” rubbish. I’d much rather save the pennies and then eat out at decent restaurants where you know you don’t feel mugged for paying the sometimes ludicrous prices, for below average meals.
The occasion demanded a splendid meal, with wonderful surroundings and a comfortable bed. Down south, we have a saying: “Go big, or Go home!”
Big, it was decided: DBB (Dinner, Bed and Breakfast for those not in the trade and unfamiliar with the patois).
We checked in late afternoon and were shown to the wonderfully luxury-boutique accommodation. The river suite nestles in a double storey smallish house that has been transformed into something quite spectacular.
The attention to detail in the rooms; the lounge area and the small kitchen makes you want to move in and chill out, indefinitely. I particularly loved the demonstration of the TV that is discreetly hidden within the sideboard and the rest of the bells and whistles. Yup, that is one gadget I will one day have to own! Not that we were there to watch television.
Before getting dressed for dinner – yes, this IS one of those restaurants that you make an effort to dress up for – we had a quiet glass of Chef Michel Roux’s selected bubbly on the patio. Anyone who forgets what English summers can be like, will be impressed. The weather played ball and it just got better.
“Suited and booted” for dinner, we were shown to the patio for pre-dinner canapés and some more Champagne. The ever gracious Mr Diego Masciaga arranged for a quick tour of the kitchen and then it was down to business of eating: The tasting menu with matching wines (sadly, I forgot to take notes or a copy of the wines we were served. Big oops!).
The amuse bouche was a selection of Provence tomatoes, with a tomato “tartare”. Stunning little introduction to the meal.
Next up was a pre-starter of flaked Devon crab with melon and a marinated prawn. A lovely dish that was a prelude to the wonderful seafood courses that was to follow.
Next up: an intermediate course of terrine of foie gras and rabbit, with violet mustard toasted brioche. This was one of my favourites of the whole meal. Then again, I am a sucker for heavenly foie gras, which has been expertly prepared.
This was followed by a second intermediate course of scallop with sliced octopus and celery puree. A simple dish that looked and tasted just wonderfully.
Next up was a third intermediate course of red mullet with samphire. For me this was the outstanding dish of the evening. I can’t quite recall the actual garnish items, however if you see this on the menu at all, be sure to order it!
Main course were Roast Challandais duck for the Madame and roast loin of lamb for monsieur. I loved the moussaka “gateau”.
Next course to arrive was the theatrical cheese trolley. Any half-decent establishment will have an extensive cheese selection and this was no exception. Smelly cheese; hard cheese; soft cheese.. I LOVE cheese! And it comes with some bread too.
This was followed by a rose petal sorbet: A palate cleanser for the desserts to follow.
A pre-dessert of an apricot-scented mousse with apricot and rosemary sorbet sounded rather different. The way it married on the palate, accompanied by a healthy slurp of wine was outstanding. Wow!
For dessert, we had the signature raspberry soufflé. The only comparable version of this dessert I’ve eaten was when the late Peter Chandler served the same at Paris House in Woburn, a few years ago. Yes, he was a former student of the Roux brothers, which comes as no surprise. This too was stunning.
We then rounded off the meal with mignardises and coffee, whilst sitting at the water’s edge, listening to the beauty of the English countryside.
Twelve courses in and we were full. Sated, watered and with a pleasant buzz of another extraordinary meal. The attentive service, the wine selection and the ambience all deserve a very special mention too. It is what you would expect and it is something they deliver so effortlessly. I struggle to understand why some people think it unworthy of 3 stars and simply ask that they too “Go Big or Go Home”. The penny will drop and they will appreciate why they have been awarded their stars and why they continue to hold them.
We awoke the next morning to a glorious day, being served a continental breakfast on the patio. At first I thought that it would be too small (ruminating prior to dinner, contemplating breakfast the next day), and discovered the simplicity of it. The balance of the previous evening’s meal is indeed complemented by the breakfast they serve. I had to smile. They’ve done their homework, naturally.
Mr Masciaga had arranged for the pleasure boat Waterside Inn ll to be brought around at some point during the evening’s meal, to the small jetty, bracing the accommodation. Yup, it was to be a half hour pleasure cruise on the Thames, piloted by us (taking turns at the wheel) and enjoying a glorious summer’s morning in Bray. Yet seeing it from the river.
If you’ve wondered how to round your “escape to the countryside”, I cannot think of a better way to do this. Yes, I might be a romantic at heart and will fiercely downplay and form of acknowledgement to this effect, however I will unashamedly say that if you are even slightly romantic and have a love for food, attention to detail and simply wish for a little bit of pampering to remind you of how glorious life is and can be, then this is it. No more, no less.
A huge thanks to all the staff – from Chefs Alain and Michel (and their team) to Mr Masciaga and the rest of the front of house team, including the delightful Maggie) for ensuring a truly memorable DBB at the Waterside Inn. I cannot wait to return for more.
I’ve not seen them on Twitter yet, however you can find them on Facebook:
The Waterside Inn on social media: Facebook
And of course on their website:
Their website details: