Lunch at The Waterside Inn, Bray
Driving through Bray it is easy to be ignorant that you are passing through one of the greatest gastronomic villages in Great Britain. It is a modest, quintessentially English town with quaint cottages and arching Tudor houses. In the summer, people can be seen playing bowls on the local village green or taking a stroll down by the river. But hidden here down an unsuspecting cul-de-sac lies the Waterside Inn. Opened by the infamous Roux brothers in 1972 and boasting three Michelin stars since 1985, it has become globally renowned for its refined French cuisine. The chefs here will allow nothing less than perfection through the pass, as precision, timing, and presentation are second nature.
I was fortunate enough to dine here during the summer for a graduation and birthday celebration. We were warmly welcomed by a gentleman who bore an uncanny resemblance to Auguste Gusteau from Pixar’s animated movie, Ratatouille. He served us with grace adding ‘Monsieur’ or ‘Madame’ respectively at the end of each address and this gentility of service continued throughout our afternoon.
Our waiter mentioned that my dessert platter, La grande assiette de douceurs contained ‘ze-ro calories’. Their charm and ability to anticipate your needs, creates relaxed ambience. Cries of ‘Oui chef!’, and the busy noises of cooking can be heard in the kitchen. If the weather permits you to take your coffee and petit fours in the gazebo outside, you may be lucky enough to spy a chef pâtissier calmly and skillfully placing the final layer of a mille-fueille through the kitchen window.
The restaurant looks out over the river Thames and in the summer the large French windows are opened wide, extending the restaurant onto the terrace beyond. Despite the tranquil setting there is an energy within the room as waiters to and fro with various dishes. Two lobsters are presented to a table nearby. There is a sense of theatre and flair as you watch practiced hands expertly prepare and garnish the dish at an adjacent table before gracefully placing it down in front of the diner. The anticipation one feels for your own dish is not undermined when it arrives. The food presented is art as well as cuisine, a perfect balance of colours, shapes and textures. Michel Roux is known for being fanatical about the quality of the produce he uses. As far as he is concerned, if you source your ingredients well, it is hard to go wrong. The dishes may be simple to the eye but they are exquisite examples of classic, French cooking. I have never had lamb melt on my tongue that way, or ever been so delighted by the culinary skill of cooking green vegetables.
It is the extraordinary attention to detail which makes The Waterside Inn such an exceptional place to dine. In addition to the petit fours served with coffee, we were presented with two petits Opera cakes. The plates they were served on were decorated with the words ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Happy Birthday’, written calligraphically in chocolate. Such personal touches heighten your experience beyond that of other restaurants. Next time you are down south, try The Waterside Inn. It will exceed expectations and give you a gastronomic venture to remember.