Three star thriller
The Roux's Waterside Inn in Bray boasts 3 Michelin twinklers, river views, classic cookery and you don't have to sell a vital organ to eat here. *Dabs napkin*.
I get to eat in some pretty spectacular places. So much so the bathroom scales and I aren’t talking right now. But, to be fair, I would wear an elasticated waistband forever to eat at Berkshire’s three Michelin star restaurants – we have two and they’re in the same village! Heston’s Willy Wonka-style Fat Duck and the Roux’s French fancy, The Waterside Inn in Bray.
Lured by the delicious riverside location and ooh la la accents, we’re off to The Waterside Inn. Opened in 1972 by brothers Michel and Albert Roux, the restaurant is now run by Michel’s son Alain, and is the only eaterie outside of France to retain three Michelin twinklers consecutively for 35 years.
You’ll find this gastronomic mecca down a pretty side road in the historic village of Bray, where you’re met by a beautifully turned out doorman and valet parking, allowing you to dart inside and enjoy a glass of something cold and bubbly. Happy to oblige.
The thing about seriously posh nosh is that, for some, the formality of starched table linens, complex menus and high end service freaks people out, it’s a bit like the culinary equivalent of putting on a telephone voice. I didn’t get that vibe at The Waterside Inn. It’s friendly, dare is say it, informal, the staff are helpful but not overbearing. In fact the service is as well balanced as the food that comes out of the kitchen.
It has possibly one of the best river locations EVER – total peace and tranquility. It’s the perfect spot for a long, luxurious lunch or dinner – and they have rooms too if you really want to make an event of it and dive into the wine list, you can.
The exterior is a pretty period property, but the inside is reassuringly retro and as sexy as an ageing Bond Girl. A curved wall of mirrors at one end, lined with soft banquettes, with the best seats the house (in my opinion) saved for those Thames views. No fancy chairs, elaborate artworks, trendy lighting or obsession with the Farrow & Ball paint chart, The Waterside Inn is without pretension and that is its secret weapon.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Three Michelin stars don’t lie. The food here is phenomenal. Chef Patron Alain Roux has an army of 24 chefs in his kitchen lead by Belgian head chef Fabrice Uhryn (above) who has worked in the Waterside kitchen for 18 years.
You can go on a deep dive into the 7 course tasting menu (£172 per head), hit the a la carte with gay abandon, or dip your toe in with the lighter Menu Gastronomique – three course lunch, a glass of wine, coffee and petit fours (£63.50 per head). Frankly I don’t have the stamina these days to eat course after course, so this was perfect. The starter was a choice of pea and mint soup with a sweet scallop and pea shoots or steak tartare with a warm confit egg yolk at its centre with puffed potato and wild garlic emulsion. The soup was velvety, fresh and light, while the steak tartare was on of the most tastiest things I have ever eaten – the perfect blend of flavour and texture.
Next up, Lemon Sole fillets with asparagus and a classic creamy shellfish sauce and chicken with baby spring veggies and a cider sauce. My instinct is to go for food I wouldn’t cook at home, so I’m more inclined towards the fish. But food at this level, you could eat a seasonal salad and it would sing.
I will never be able to eat out and order chicken again. In the words of Sinead O’Connor nothing compares to you. The blobs of mustard and the silky sauce certainly gave this underrated meat its rock ‘n’ roll credentials. Both mains were an absolute pleasure to eat – rich but not sickly.
The grand finale? Cheese, obviously. A slice of Fougerou (type of brie) with walnuts and cumin seeds bread or the Mocha dessert with candied pecans and a Baileys ice cream. Mr M and I love fromage, but in the interests of this review (we are nothing but thorough), we also hooked up with the pretty chocolatey pud of dreams too. The meal was faultless.
No prizes for guessing that the wine list is formidable. There are more than 1,000 bottles – every single one them French – nestled in the tiny wine cellar. Restaurant director Frederic Poulette, and his top notch team, know the perfect pairing for each plate (and budget). He’s incredibly knowledgeable, runs a quietly slick operation and is partial to a bit of banter too.
The 3-course lunch menu, is great value for food of this quality. Three courses, coffee and petit fours is £63.50 Wed-Fri and £79.50 at weekends. I mean seriously, it would be rude not to. It’s when you stray onto the a la carte that things get expensive, add wine and you may have to sell a child, pet or favourite Aunt. For me the Menu Gastronomique is a no brainer. Portion sizes are good – none of these dinky plates that leave you feeling hungry and resentful as you pass through the Golden Arches on the way home.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: French food lovers wanting the real deal; those looking for accessible fine dining, bucket list foodies and special occasion dining.
Not for: Family foodies – kids under 9 are persona non gratis at The Waterside Inn. Call me an old bag, but I’m not sure I would waste food of this quality (and price) on my boys – take them to Roux at Skindles down the road. Hipsters looking for interior design and food trends.
£££: The Menu Gastronomique starts at £63.50pp; the 7-course taster menu £172.50pp and the a la carte will get rack up a hefty bill with starters from £40.50, mains from £55; desserts from £32 – and an extra £12.50 for sides. It’s not somewhere you’ll be dining all the time, but everyone should eat her at least once.