The Waterside Inn at Bray, Berkshire is the only restaurant in the UK to have held 3 Michelin stars for over 25 years. The restaurant was opened by Albert and Michel Roux in 1972 and gained its first star in 1974, its second in 1977 and the third in 1985. In 1986 Michel took over the running of the restaurant and passed the reins to his son Alain in 2002.
At the time of writing there are only 4 restaurants in the UK that hold 3 Michelin stars, so that gives you an idea of the enormity of this achievement. You know that when you dine here you are going to experience something truly special. The restaurant is in a lovely setting. Bray is a sweet little English village that could feature on a jigsaw or a chocolate box, and the Waterside Inn is right on the river Thames.
When you arrive at the restaurant, one of the staff valet parks your car for you, such a lovely touch, but also a sensible one because parking is limited. The staff are very friendly and welcoming, they are attentive, but not overly so, and you soon get the feeling that you are about to have a very special dinner in a friend’s dining room.
You can choose A la carte or Le Menu Exceptionnel – we chose the latter which is a tasting menu showcasing the best of Alain’s creations. I have had tasting menus before, and they are usually fairly small portions which end up with you feeling just full, but the Waterside Inn is different, the portions are relatively generous, so be careful not to fill up on bread (I saved some bread on my side plate to mop up the delicious sauces with every course).
We were served canapes consisting of a tart with mussel and lemon, a light as air cheese pastry bun and a duck terrine served on a crisp biscuit. Each mouthful was perfect, no flavour was too overpowering and every ingredient added something to the overall taste. Mmmmm what a taste of things to come.
Apologies for the quality of some of my photographs, but I am no photographic expert, and I couldn’t seem to get the lighting right. The quality of the photos on the Waterside Inn web site is much better.
Next came an amuse bouche which was a profiterole of mushrooms with a parsley sauce:
Next was a lobster salad with citrus jelly and raspberry vinaigrette. This was one of my favourite courses – I love lobster, and I loved the fact that the serving was large enough to give you a real taste of the lobster:
Next was an incredibly smooth chestnut and champagne veloute with partridge and fois gras dumplings:
Following the veloute was a fish course of turbot baked in a vine leaf and served with white grapes and a verjus emulsion. I love turbot. :
There was a choice of main course – we chose the duck, which was expertly carved at the table. This was a spit-roast Challandais duck with a bubble and squeak patty, some apple, and a calvados flavoured jus:
Then onto dessert, firstly a sable biscuit with pears and blueberries:
Followed by a very special warm golden plum souffle:
With very full tummies we were invited to sit in the lounge for tea and coffee, when we were presented with a tiered stand of amazing petit fours, each one expertly crafted:
The whole experience was memorable, and each course an absolute triumph. The restaurant manager, Diego chatted with us during the meal, he was charming and entertaining, and before we left, we met Alain Roux who was interested to gain our feedback on the meal.
I can honestly say that the Waterside Inn is a unique, memorable and enjoyable venue, and I am very much looking forward to returning there.