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Monkeying around in Bray

A new hotel brasserie in Bray with an ex-Simpson’s on the Strand head chef. We felt it our duty to nail three courses *ahem* actually make that five.

Monkey Island Estate Bray Berkshire white grade 1 listed Temple building lawn and shrubs


One of the hottest hotel launches of 2019 has finally opened. After a few false starts, Monkey Island Estate in Bray (sister hotel to the Gainsborough Bath Spa) has been resurrected from a crumbling Grade I listed wreck to a luxury crash pad and party palace for a cosmopolitan crowd (well there is a long tradition to keep up)..

For over 800 years the sliver of land has been the playground for royalty, aristos, artists and well-heeled Berkshire locals. Edward VII had afternoon tea, it hosted famous singers Clara Butt and Dame Nellie Melba, and HG Wells and lover Rebecca West, would often slope off to Monkey Island for clandestine shenanigans (not gonna lie, it’s the perfect spot for that sort of naughtiness).

Monkey Island is on the fringe of the gastronomic enclave of Bray – the Michelin stars guiding you in like an airport runway. Head down Ferry Lane, over the motorway bridge and, ta-dah, the white Palladian stucco of Monkey Island peaks out through the greenery. Park up, cross the pedestrian bridge, you’ll spy the Dutch barge – home to the hotel’s bijou spa – before clapping eyes on The Temple (bedrooms are here), with The Pavillion, home to the bar, Monkey Lounge, Whiskey Snug and Brasserie.



Monkey Island Estate Brasserie yellow and blue ceiling wooden floor open kitchen and upholstered chairs and wooden tables Bray Berkshire

Feeeeeeel the quality. Hand-painted wallpapers, herringbone parquet flooring, scented candles (no Michael Gove we’re gonna give them up), squishy sofas in the bar, artworks that mind map Monkey Island’s past and a flat-capped staff that look like they’ve stepped off the set of Peaky Blinders.
The brasserie makes the most of those river views, is decorated on the funky side of elegant with teal and mustard yellow ceiling and walls, with a window into the the kitchen where Executive Chef Will Hemming is working his magic. A brave move as you can hear every word, but fortunately it’s more camaraderie and banter, than effing and jeffing.


Monkey Island Estate Brasserie chef Will Hemming formerly of Savoy

Chef Will Hemming (ex head chef at Simpson’s on the Strand) is not chasing Michelin stars, but he does want people to enjoy every mouthful of the dishes he creates. He’s using local produce where he can, and on the island he’s keeping bees, growing herbs (used in both the kitchen and in products for the spa), pickling veg and he’s even experimenting growing tea. I’m excited to dig in.

Monkey Island estate brasserie smoked salmon starter on grey plate

Before you raise a quizzical eyebrow at the amount of food I’m about to consume, Will served five small dishes on the menu. To start I tried the Estate smoked salmon with infused goat’s curd, shallots and capers with foraged sea herbs and pickled cucumber. The smoked salmon was one of the best I’ve tasted and worked beautifully with the salty curd and pickled elements.

Monkey Estate Brasserie Bray Berkshire bowl of heritage tomato salad with bloody mary dressing

Next up, the English heritage tomato salad, an absolute showstopper. The humble tomato has been given a rock star makeover – and it’s all down to the Bloody Mary dressing. I didn’t want it to end and happily moped up what was left of the dressing without actually drinking it from the bowl.

Monkey Island Estate Bray Berkshrie vegetable risotto served in a bowl with lid

My least favourite dish was a 35-day dry aged steak tartare. Unfortunately for Will, the last time I had steak tartare was at The Waterside Inn, and it was epic, so the bar was ridiculously high. The egg wasn’t runny enough for me and I think the beef lacked a bit of flavour. But the Wood smoked pepper risotto, that followed, was an absolute joy. It came out in a bowl with a lid, and the colour and smell that drifts out when you lift it off are phenomenal. One of my favourite plates of the day.

Monkey Island Estate buck breast duck wellington and croquette of cheesy potato

The final course (defeated before we got to the puds, sorry) was a rich duck breast (crispy skin heaven), duck leg sausage roll, with scorched kale, wild mushrooms and potato dumpling. It was indulgent, comforting and bloody lovely. Right up my street.

The dessert menu has plenty of ‘there there’ puds from sticky toffee and bread and butter to Death By Chocolate and a British cheese board. I think you’ll love the Little Monkeys menu for kids. There’s not a chicken goujon to be found but plenty of family faves like fish and chips, pasta dishes, a burger, mini roasts and steak and chips.



Good for: The informality will suit families, the anonymity will suit the naughty and the location will be loved by everyone looking for a peaceful spot to enjoy lunch, dinner, afternoon tea or cocktails on the terrace. It’s an oasis of elegance and charm.

Not for: For those who enjoy starchy table clothes and fine dining and dedicated followers of food fashion. This is not Michelin star food, but it’s a lovely place to hang out with your other half, friends and family

£££: It’s good gastropub prices, so won’t shock Berkshire residents. Starters kick off at £12; mains are £17+ (£32 for a 35-day dry aged 10oz sirloin); desserts from £12; kids meals are £8  and chef will make mini portions for any dish on the regular menu too, if you’re child has a more refined palate than fish fingers, chips and beans..

Monkey Island Brasserie, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2EE. Tel:01628

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4 comments on “Monkeying around in Bray”

  • Sarah Walker May 5, 2019

    This is a must for us to visit thank you. We had our wedding reception here in July 2000.
    Are the peacocks still there?! Happy memories. Will tell them Muddy sent us back.

    • rachel May 6, 2019

      Geese, ducks, but no peacocks. Well worth a visit Sarah. I think you’ll like what they’ve done to the place.

  • Nicky Davis May 5, 2019

    Hi, went for Sunday lunch last week. It was absolutely fabulous. Great service, loved the bar, and the food was really good. Will definitely go back. Loved your review!

    • rachel May 6, 2019

      It’s a lovely addition to Bray


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