After our first encounter with Manchester we made a stop at Bray before heading back home. You may remember Bray from this old post where I told you all about our visit to Heston Blumenthal’s 3 restaurants (well… pub, gastropub and restaurant) but this time we went to see his (almost) neighbours and colleagues at The Waterside Inn.
The Waterside Inn is a restaurant with rooms, that has been awarded 3 Michelin stars in 1985 and has held this high standard ever since then (30 years!).
Heston’s places are all located along the central road in Bray, but the Waterside Inn is on Ferry Road, right next to the river Thames, what a stunning location!
The Waterside Inn is one of the Roux family treasures, Michel Roux made it all happen and now it’s up to his son Alain Roux to maintain that high standard. He is chef-patron and together with Fabrice Uhryn (Belgian!) he runs the kitchen, in the restaurant it’s Diego Masicaga who assures a pleasant evening for all. These 3 men fulfill key roles, but they couldn’t do it without about 60 more staff members!
Enough theory now, let’s get down to business!
After a short lunch stop in Stratford-upon-Avon, which really deserves a longer visit, we arrived in Bray and made our way to the Inn at about 16h00. Guests who had enjoyed lunch were just leaving and we actually saw Alain Roux outside, talking to one of his guests.
We were immediately welcomed and after getting our bags out of the car, the car was whisked away for valet parking, fancy!
Because we had booked the Signature Experience we found our foodie goodie bag when we entered our room. A book, some preserves, champagne and coffee neatly in a bag for us take home.
And not just that, we were also treated to our first bite, some salty almonds, so simple yet so delish! We also found a little card for us to specify what we wanted for breakfast and at what time we wanted breakfast, as it is served in the room.
We wanted to take a quick look around Bray but as soon as we left it started to rain so we spent the rest of our time relaxing and getting ready for the Menu Exceptionnel.
At 19h00 it was time to make our way downstairs (how convenient, loved it) and surrender to The Waterside Inn experience. I will admit that, although I had very high expectations about the quality and level of food and service (30 years with 3 Michelin stars doesn’t just happen like that), I didn’t expect to be blown away by anything “new”. I didn’t expect to experience new and exciting flavours, which was okay by me, it doesn’t always have to be experimental and mind-blowing. However… I was proven wrong!
The Waterside Inn’s cuisine is undeniably classic French, so if you want to get a lesson in true gastronomy without any futuristic gimmicks (nothing bad about those though…): this is the place to be!
The restaurant itself was lovely, with big windows to enjoy gorgeous views of the river Thames. It was dark when we were there, but I could imagine it being amazing during the day or Summer.
Now… the food!
After being served a glass of champagne and a gin tonic (I don’t drink champagne… I know!) the food fun began.
As I said, we had the Menu Exceptionnel that came with the Signature Experience which meant we only had to chose our main course, the other 6 courses were fixed. Of course, our waiter kindly asked if anything needed to be replaced because of allergies or preferences, but as always we said “no, thanks, we will eat it all!” and eat we did…
First up, after some appetizers, was a lobster salad with beetroot and caviar. A great start, but not mind-boggling. The next course however, rocked our worlds! The soup (or vélouté according to the menu) of chestnut and champagne with some foie gras might just be the best soup I ever had. I’ve never ever tasted anything like it and as you can tell this was the moment when I retracted the statement I had made earlier about not expecting anything mind-blowing. This definitely blew my mind! I still have delightful dreams about this course, my oh my.
Next up was the fish course: breaded monkfish on beans in a chorizo sauce. Another hit for me, this was so so tasty without being overpowering. And this dish was one of those things you could slightly adapt to make at home, not that I have, but it seems possible… I’m not that into fish, but I would not hesitate to order this again.
The main course was the one decision we had to make and although we love duck, we decided to go for the venison. We had had duck as a main course at The French the night before and venison is really nice too. We would’ve each chosen a different main each but the duck was for 2, unfortunately.
So we had the venison that was wrapped in pastry with mushrooms, broccoli and a wine sauce. It was a good choice, but when we saw the duck being served at other tables we were curious about that dish too! The duck was carved at the table (love that!) and served with a potato puree… Maybe next time?
The first of 2 desserts was a creation of yoghurt ice-cream, raspberries and lime marshmallow. I’m all about the desserts, always, and this is definitely one of my highest rated desserts, if not the highest. It was absolute perfection, everything was just right. A job well done, very well done.
The second dessert is probably the most classic French dessert you can get: a soufflé. More precisely, a golden plum soufflé. It was very nice, but the first dessert had stolen my heart and there was simply no competition anymore.
My husband and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary and my birthday, so we each got an extra dessert, as if we hadn’t had enough yet! But it was very considerate and delicious, so thank you, lovely people at The Waterside Inn!
The food flood was almost coming to an end, but coffee or tea never comes alone in a place like this. We got a few more little “mignardises”: some nougat, some chocolate, some little pastries,… We didn’t manage to eat them all, but the ones I had were excellent.
And that was the end of our dinner, but not the end of our experience just yet!
As you can see, I don’t have pictures of the restaurant or food. It’s requested that no pictures are taken there and I rarely take pictures of my food in these kinds of places anyway. However, some naughty guests have taken pictures, so if you look on Twitter and TripAdvisor you will definitely find some.
Another thought on the restaurant: usually in these Michelin star places, we rarely see anyone eat à la carte, but here we saw quite a few tables do that. So if you’re not a fan of 5 or more courses you can go for a little less here in terms of quantity but have top quality!
We got back to our room only to discover more treats! A little bag of sweets (I think that’s what it is anyway, we haven’t even opened it yet!) accompanied with a note wishing us a good night. It’s small things like these that make all the difference and they sure know that at The Waterside Inn.
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep (I need to ask where those sheets are from, because they were out if this world), we got a phone call just before 9h00 announcing the imminent arrival of our breakfast.
Delicious croissants (French cuisine knows all about croissants), an amazing almond pastry, some bread,… And then a little mix of fruit, some jam and a chocolate hazelnut spread (very Gianduja-like, I’d love some more, please!) to seal the deal. All accompanied by fresh orange juice, a hot chocolate for me and a coffee for my husband. Amazing, beautiful, delicious. We also got a newspaper to keep up with current events. Check out my instagram (I’ve changed it to @beautywandereva) to see the breakfast in all its glory.
It was time to leave, but not without getting another bag (!) with a magazine and a bottle of water each “for the journey back home”.
I was so happy we decided to do this, we were in doubt if we would spend the money on the room in addition to the menu, but honestly, it was so worth it. It really was a mini getaway, a little trip within a trip. It was perfect to celebrate our anniversary and my birthday, I couldn’t ask for anything better.
So if you want a taste of fine French food with impeccable service to celebrate a special occasion: consider The Waterside Inn! And to make it even more special: stay for the night, you won’t regret it. It’s the perfect ending to a wonderful evening.
Thanks again to the lovely, attentive staff, you made it a night to remember!
Oh Bray, you and all your amazing food, I should move there!
Any foodies out there who want to go to Bray or have been before?