The Waterside Inn is tucked away in the unassuming village of Bray upon Thames, which in a crazy twist of fate, is home to two, three Michelin star restaurants. When Prince Philip phones to book a birthday bash, a restaurant is seriously posh. The Waterside Inn caught the royal eye for a reason; it is the only restaurant in the UK to have retained three coveted Michelin stars for twenty-one years. I’ve long thought the Roux family were a thoroughly decent, hard-working lot; personable, despite their unrivalled culinary achievements.
To appreciate The Waterside Inn to its real potential, the Le Menu Exceptionnel, accompanying wine flight, supplementary cheese and recommended digestives was ordered e.g. les bollocks complètes (which I said, to nobody’s amusement). All the dishes were graciously composed, with delicately and sophisticatedly balanced flavours. As lovely as it all was, I was left waiting for it to get into top gear.
I appreciate it’s hardly an issue of pending global catastrophe, but the dishes of Foie gras, crayfish, scallops, lamb and soufflé were all beige. Putting aside a mint leaf garnish and a lonesome grilled tomato, The Waterside Inn produced an almost entirely monochrome meal.
The Waterside Inn’s best bite? It had to be the pan fried Foie gras. At the risk of sounding as morally respectable as an international arms dealer, it simply brought a broad smile and a sort of evil warm afterglow.
A restaurant cannot be all things to all people; I respect The Waterside Inn for sticking by its “unashamedly French” heritage for a generation. Not that there is anything to be ashamed about. The Waterside Inn’s food is all about balance, quality and refinement, creating a pleasant journey through French cuisine. However, it certainly did not offer the deepest of flavours, the most exciting of combinations or any real surprises. I hoped for something similar to La Maison Troisgros, which is similarly run by an industrious dining dynasty, and also consistently held three Michelin stars for generations. The difference is that the younger generation revolutionised the cuisine of its ancestors, yet still retained the highest levels of excellence. There was no such dynamism at The Waterside Inn, but I can understand the if it aint broke, don’t change it approach.
All The Waterside Inn staff were undoubtedly genuine and hard working – a credit to the restaurant. The maitre d’ was a jovial and instantly likeable chap, who combined formality and familiarity in perfect measure. My only gripe was the consistent recommendations of the most expensive wines and spirits possible. I spent £31 on a skinny cheeseboard, anymore Armagnac and I’d have been selling a kidney.
Finally, the drinks were top drawer – the evening’s highlight – lifting The Waterside Inn experience. If you’re tempted to journey to Bray, make allowances for their cost; as they, if anything, will keep in your memory.
I enjoyed the privilege of the visit, but perhaps through stifling expectation, given the frankly exorbitant cost, The Waterside Inn is utterly unjustifiable for anyone but the 1%.
The Waterside Inn
Atmosphere 7 Cost 2 Quality 10 Service 10
The Waterside Inn Bray