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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 *

Heston Blumenthals's legendary Hind's Head scotch egg served in silver egg cup

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 *

L'Ortolan Head Chef Tom Clarke's raspberry pudding on a handmade grey plate

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 *

Restaurant Coworth Park sunday lunch menu

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 *

Crown Burchetts Green michelin star berkshire beef potato quinelle greens and yorkshire pud

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 *

The Woodspeen set menu roast poultry and kitchen grown vegetables

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 *

The Blackbird Bagnor menu du jour vintage plate with greens and seafood moose

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

The Vineyard trout dish with caviar and veg gel

Lunch Menu

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

Vine riped tomatoes draped across a piece of fish on top of beans popping out from the white plate – Caldesi in Campagna

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

Cliveden Sunday Lunch

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

Oxford Blue Old Windsor parpadelle truffle and mushroom

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.

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2 comments on “Fine dining that won’t blow the budget”

  • Richard February 3, 2020

    We used to dine at THE WATERSIDE INN, Bray, quite regularly until last year, when the dining experience really changed for the worst, following the departure in 2018 of its General Manager and Director of 30 years, Diego Masciaga. Diego really knew how to make his guests feel welcome and had built up a substantial, loyal clientele, who dined there regularly, throughout the year, rather than as one-off guests. He essentially had made and was The Waterside Inn and I know many guests, who like us, do not feel welcome there now, under the new management team, directed by Michel Roux senior. The food itself remains excellent, prepared by Alain Roux and his team but the overall welcome, treatment and service afforded guests, lacks warmth and that personal, welcoming touch that Diego so perfectly delivered and recognised as important, in maintaining customer loyalty.

    Reply
    • rachel February 18, 2020

      Give it another go! It’s just been refurbished.

      Reply

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