Fine dining that won’t blow the budget
Berkshire's foodies status is undeniable – 12 Michelin stars don't lie – but eating in restaurants this fancy can put a crater in your bank balance. Not any more. We've found 11 purse-friendly fine dining options.
Berkshire is awash with foodie hotspots, but with our constellation of Michelin stars (12 to be exact) and an abundance of top-notch chefs, comes the price tag to match. It’s fair to say, that the level of cookery and the quality of ingredients, doesn’t come cheap. But eating posh nosh no longer needs to be saved for special occasions or gastronomic pilgrimages, because lurking among the big-ticket a la carte dishes are more affordable menus for you to get your fine dining fix. Grab your gilded fork, and tuck in.
The Waterside Inn, Bray ***
Le Menu Gastronomique
What to expect: The legendary Waterside Inn is Alain Roux’s three-star thriller with delicious riverside views. The dishes on the Menu Gatronomique are decided on the day, based on market availability, so you know what your troughing is super-fresh. Portion sizes are really good and, having eaten this menu myself, there’s good choice and every dish is a taste sensation. Not as heavy as the butter and cream rich a la carte menu, your belly will thank you later.
££: 2 courses, £52.00; 3 courses £63.50 (Wed-Fri lunch) and 3-course lunch £79.50 (Sat-Sun)
The Hind’s Head, Bray *
Weekday Lunch Set Menu
What to expect: If Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck is the eccentric genius in his gastronomic family, The Hind’s Head is its laidback little brother. Set in a historic 15th-century building in Bray, this one Michelin Star foodie destination, is a celebration of seasonal, British cooking. Dishes from your childhood, re-imagined to spark culinary joy. The lunch menus offer exceptional value for the quality fo the cooking. Expect to see posh Shepherd’s Pie and Cherry Bakewell Tart on the menu.
££: 2 courses, £25; 3 courses £29.50 (Tue-Fri lunch) and the Sunday Roast Set Menu is £47 for three courses.
L’Ortolan, Reading *
Menu Du Jour
What to expect: Reading’s only Michelin starred restaurant and the food created by Chef Tom Clarke tastes as good as it looks. It’s French, it’s fancy and almost too pretty to eat (*Ahem* not a problem I’ve ever had). What can you expect? You’ll demolish a chef’s appetizer, starter, main, pre-dessert and then your chosen pud. The current menu has a goats cheese mousse, pan-fried Sea Bream and chocolate orange tart, giving you a culinary wink. It’s one to try and there’s no need to seel a vital organ to pay the bill.
££: 5-course lunch, £39 (Tue-Fri).
Restaurant Coworth Park, Sunningdale *
Sunday Lunch Menu
What to expect: Chef Adam Smith is without question a very talented chef – hence the Michelin star hanging over the Restaurant Coworth Park. For food of this quality, it’s definitely not the most expensive – three courses Wed-Sat is £80 and the tasting menu is £110 (£185 with wine – yes please). But for more bang for your buck, pop along on a Sunday. The lunch menu is diverse and crowd-pleasing but with all the refinement you would expect from a Michelin twinkler. You cannot beat the draw of posh roast beef and Sticky Toffee pud. Yum.
££: 3-course Sunday lunch menu, £50
The Crown, Burchetts Green *
What to expect: Not only did the Bonwick clan retain its Michelin star this year, it also snagged a special service award. The Crown is family run and chef-owner Simon Bonwick’s 20-seater pub is like receiving a culinary cuddle. The cuisine takes a classic gastronomic approach, with a short and punchy menu that I don’t think is overpriced anyway: starters are from £7; mains from £23 and puds £8. But Sunday lunch definitely offers the best value for money.
££: Two-course Sunday lunch, £30.
The Woodspeen, Newbury *
Weekday Lunch Set Menu
What to expect: The Woodspeen quietly goes about its Michelin starred business without fuss or fan fare. Chef John Campbell (ex Vineyard exec chef) has transformed an old country pub into an elegant, Scandi style restaurant, serving modern classics that put flavour on a pedestal. The micro-seasonal market menu is inspired by whats growing in their kitchen garden and is available at lunchtimes and evenings too, for early birders heading off to the theatre or if you simply want to whizz home for a Netflix fix and an early night.
££: 2 courses, £24; 3 courses £28 (Mon-Fri lunch and evenings between 6pm and 6.45pm).
The Blackbird, Newbury *
Weekday Menu Du Jour
What to expect: Chef Dom Robinson (Tom Aiken’s former head chef) has quite frankly transformed this tired old boozer into a dining experience that stands out from the crowd. It was awarded a Michelin star in its first year, with inspectors wowed by Dom’s classic French cookery. The decor will divide people – personally, I love batty nana chic decor, but it’s not to everyone’s taste. Regardless, the food is first class, they play cracking 60s, 70s and 80s tunes and the set lunch menu is the more affordable in Berkshire. At £19 for two courses, peeps, it would be rude not to.
££: 2 courses, £19; 3 courses £24 (Tue-Sat 12pm and 2.30pm).
The Vineyard, Stockcross
What to expect: A brand new chef and a revamped menu at The Vineyard in Stockcross. Chef Tom Scade joined the five-star hotel from The Ritz in London in September 2019 and, although the big draw has always been The Vineyard’s belting wine cellar. Tom Scade’s cookery is getting plenty of foodie love. Dip your toe in the water for lunch. Great value at £24 for two courses – and plenty of money left in the kitty for a cheeky bottle of wine. Taaaaxiii.
££: 2 courses, £24; 3 courses £29
Caldesi in Campagna, Bray
Sunday Lunch Menu
What to expect: Pure escapism. If you’re sick of the dreary British weather, then a trip to Calddesi in Campagna will whisk you off to the Italian sunshine in one sitting. Giancarlo Caldesi puts his heart and soul into the menus here, and a foodie Italian pal confirmed it is the best food she has tasted outside of her home country. Need I say more? Probably not, aside from saying you have to try the heavenly and Parpadelle sausage ragu and the Tiramasu.
££: Three courses £39.50 and four courses £45.50.
Cliveden Dining Room, Taplow
Sunday Lunch Menu
££: 3 courses, £60
What to expect: It’s not the cheapest menu, granted, but what you get in return is a restaurant that’s sexier than Harry Styles on heat, a ‘wow’ view and a history of chandelier swinging (Cliveden’s entertained them all from rock stars to royalty). Chef Paul O’Neill’s Sunday menu offers plenty of choices, with five dishes giving you the wink. I can vouch for the garden beetroot salad and rump of lamb, both full of flavour and elegant in their presentation. Throw in a stroll around Cliveden’s 365-acre grounds and I reckon it’s the perfect Sunday.
Oxford Blue, Old Windsor
Game Keeper’s Lunch
What to expect: Chef-proprietor Steven Ellis opened the Oxford Blue at the end of 2016. He’s a top chef caked in stardust having worked at three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsey and Ian Pern’s Star Inn in North Yorkshire. It’s a relaxed vibe with a menu that’s heavy on game and locally-sourced ingredients. The Game Keeper’s lunch is a dose of comforting ‘there there’ dishes – the pumpkin and truffle soup, gamey bangers and mash and spiced apple doughnuts, sound right up out street.
££: 2 courses, £25; 3 courses £30 (Tue-Sat)
- It’s worth noting, veggies, vegans, or allergy sufferers, can all be accommodated at any of the restaurants mentioned above. Just let them know any special dietary requirements when you book. Bon appetit.