Archive for February, 2013

Hotel Review: Stoke Park, Stoke Poges (Feb 2013)

Posted on: February 27th, 2013 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Stoke Park Exterior

Set in 300 acres of parkland, lakes, historical gardens and monuments, Stoke Park was used as a private residence until 1908, when it was converted to Britain’s first country club. It now provides five star hotel accommodation, conference rooms, three restaurants, a health spa and fitness centre. These are housed in two contrasting buildings, the original 18th century Mansion, designed by James Wyatt (architect to George III) and the modern Pavilion. This is not to mention Lancelot “Capability” Brown’s landscaped gardens upgraded by Humphry Repton, or championship golf course set within the grounds.

Stoke Park Aerial

Given the stunning surroundings and excellent facilities, as well as its closeness to Pinewood Studios, Stoke Park has provided the filming location for several major productions, including Goldfinger, Tomorrow Never Dies, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Layer Cake.

Stoke Park Bond

At the heart of the estate is the three storeyed Georgian Mansion.  An imposing edifice of white stone, it is set on a podium with elegant proportions and symmetrical planning typical of the Palladian style. The core is extended with outward looking pavilions linked by Doric columned porticos. The walls are punctuated by sash windows and niches with statutory. The crowning glory is a dome enclosed in a balustrade.

The clean lines of the exterior of the building contrast with the richer style of the interior. This is seen especially in the neo classical plasterwork, high ceilings lit by chandeliers, and walls lined with large, gilt framed mirrors adding to the sense of space. The ten function rooms, bars and dining rooms all have their own distinctive style of décor. The Chalfont, often used for private dining, is decorated with alternative works of art and a touch of art deco. By way of contrast, the Chapel, now an informal meeting room and lounge, has intricate carved panelling and classical themed paintings. Everywhere, lavish furnishing and fittings in sumptuous fabrics are evident.

Passing through reception, the visitor arrives at the Great Hall, from which many of the public and conference rooms on the ground floor are accessed. Dominated by a vaulted ceiling, marble pillars and exquisite chandeliers, it is lined by a flying staircase with a wrought iron balustrade leading to 21 bedroom and suites.

The Orangery, facing east, and shaded by the columned portico, has expansive views of the estate and St Giles Church, the churchyard in which Thomas Gray wrote his famous elegy.  Dressed in tones of beige, brown and yellow, with Festoon blinds, curved back Bergere chairs and Abusson rugs, this light airy room is ideal for more casual dining, be it breakfast, light meals or afternoon tea.

Stoke Park_Orangery

Equally impressive but smaller is Humphry’s, the fine dining restaurant, set in south east pavilion (see restaurant review). However, one of the most beautiful space is to be seen in the Fountain Room, a grand room whose marble columns and elegant interior design help make it a perfect venue for weddings and other celebrations.

Guest rooms in the Mansion are individually designed and named after an historical connection with Stoke Park. A personalised welcome letter from the general manager, Giammario Ragnoli together with chilled Saumur buvet, chocolates and fruit provided a delightful start to one’s stay.

I was lucky enough to stay in the Pennsylvania Suite which has a south facing terrace overlooking the fountain and golf course. Used in the film Bridget Jones’s Diary, its country house eclecticism is reflected in a panelled four poster tester bed, an antique chest of drawers, and easy sofa and chairs. A large gilt framed mirror hangs over the handsome Georgian fireplace. These, together with chandeliers, fine art paintings and windows dressed with gold trimmed drapes, give a traditional, stately ambiance. Not that the room lacks modern conveniences, given the HD TV, iPod dock, WiFi access, tea and expresso coffee making facilities and well stocked mini bar. The marbled bathroom features a double sink, a long deep bath, drench shower and bidet alongside traditional dressing table and full length pivoting mirrors.

Overall, the luxurious, indulgent comfort of staying in this suite, surrounded by an embarrassment of riches, was a real joy.

Equal attention to detail, but in a more contemporary vein, has been lavished on the 28 rooms and suites in the Pavilion, opened in 2008. Far eastern antiques, modern artwork including oil paintings, large photographs and Andy Warhol lithos are set alongside bespoke furniture handcrafted in the UK. Adjustable mood-lighting, air conditioning and under-floor heating in the marble bathrooms contribute to the modern, boutique feel,

The Spa and leisure facilities in the Pavilion are second to none. These begin with the changing rooms enhanced with under-floor heating, Italian marble showers and steam rooms. Guests can then luxuriate in the indoor heated swimming pool with two hydro seats, the Italian marble steam rooms, the deep relaxation room or the spa garden. Luxury treatments such as Thalgo and Terrake offer indulgent yet therapeutic qualities. CACI International beauty treatments are also available.


The more active will delight in using the 4,000 square foot state-of-the-art Gymnasium which boasts state-of-the-art cardiovascular and resistance based Technogym equipment. Award winning personal trainers are available throughout the week. Alternatively, guests can join one or more of the 50 studio classes, including Yoga, Body Combat and Studio Cycling.

For golf lovers the 27 hole championship golf course is a sheer joy – designed in 1908 by Harry Colt – the original 18 are named Colt and Alison for each nine respectively.   The later developed Lane Jackson 9 holes is named after the property developer who purchased, converted and developed Stoke Park (1908).  The signature 7th on the Colt course has subsequently been replicated during the development of Augusta National – any golfer that regularly watches the US Masters will recognise this extraordinary golf hole immediately.  By mid handicapper standards the course is long, especially on a brisk February morning, and your local club handicap may also get found out around the slick, well protected greens.

Stoke Park Golf

Facilities for tennis are particularly strong with six Wimbledon specification grass courts, three indoor and four all-weather courts. These have enabled Stoke Park to host the annual Boodles tennis tournament each June since 2002. Top players have included Andre Agassi, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic.


Within the same building, the San Marco restaurant provides Italian dishes, children’s menus and bespoke smoothies in pleasant, informal surroundings.

Given the scale of operation at Stoke Park, with large numbers of front of house and waiting staff, one might expect the level of service to occasionally slip. This was certainly not the case on my overnight visit. The welcome at reception was friendly, helpful and informative. The guided tour around the large site, conducted by the enthusiastic events coordinator Joanne Gooder was thorough, with ample opportunity for questions. Afternoon tea, dinner and breakfast were all served with consummate professionalism. On departure, assistance with luggage was well received.

Overall, staying at Stoke Park is a highly memorable experience, combining history and tradition with ultra-modern facilities. With much to offer both older and younger generations, its continued success is guaranteed.

Restaurant Review: Humphry’s (Stoke Park, Feb 2013)

Posted on: February 26th, 2013 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Humphry’s is the fine dining restaurant of Stoke Park, now open to the general public. Lined with patterned gold fabric panels and large gilt framed mirrors, this handsome, elegantly proportioned room benefits from broad bow windows for natural light. In the evening, chandelier, wall and spotlighting create a seductive, warm glow. Above, the high ceiling retains the intricate plasterwork of the decorative cornices. Below, comfortable beige carver chairs are set around well-spaced tables with fine napery.

This is the magnificent setting for the cuisine of Executive chef Chris Wheeler who is celebrating ten years at Stoke Park. A disciple of Jean Christoph Novelli at Provence in Lymington and Maison Novelli in London, then later in the Hell’s Kitchen television series, Chris has achieved distinction in his own right. Within months of opening, Humphry’s was awarded two AA rosettes and has recently been awarded a third. Harper’s Bazaar has also voted it one of the “Top 20 Best out of Town Restaurants.”


With an emphasis on seasonality, locality and freshness, his modern British cooking based on classical technique demonstrates his skill and creativity at a high level. Whilst not cutting edge – and thank goodness for that – there are elements of innovation and playful interpretations. These are restrained, with a minimum of foams, smears and other superfluous flourishes. Employing a brigade of five chefs, Chris offers a choice of set, a la carte and a ten course tasting menu, the last showcasing popular dishes over his ten year tenure.

Fine Dining Guide sampled three courses from the carte and found much to appreciate.

An amuse bouche of pea soup was deeply flavoured and not too creamy. Deep fried cod brandade provided a well-seasoned accompaniment.

Humphry's Pea Soup

A first course of seared scallops was accurately timed to produce a caramelised crust and sweet, succulent flesh. For garnishes, the earthiness of a smooth celeriac puree was balanced by the sweetness of a red apple gel. Caviar gave an element of decadent luxury whilst a slice of crisp pancetta added another dimension of taste and texture.

Humphrys Scallop

Another starter of crab tian benefitted from a finely-judged balance of seasoned brown and white meat. (Why do so many chefs omit the brown meat?) With a base of cubed avocado and an innovative topping of cucumber gel, together with garnishes of soft boiled quail’s egg, caviar and micro leaves, the dish was finished with a grapefruit dressing. This gave the gently bitter acidity needed to offset the richer elements.

Humphrys Crab

The two main courses were veritable masterclasses in the art of meat classical meat cookery.

Lamb came in two ways: tender canon, evenly cooked to a blushing pink, and slow braised, unctuous osso bucco, with meat that fell off the bone. Roasted garlic perfumed the dish whilst roasted vegetables, crisp green beans and champ potato proved highly satisfying accompaniments. A lip smacking, reduced red wine sauce based on veal stock brought the elements together perfectly.

Humphrys Lamb

Equally impressive was the beef course. A tournedos, topped with a generous serving of rich, melting bone marrow, was cooked to a perfect medium rare as ordered. Set on mashed potato and wilted spinach, and garnished with wild mushrooms which added an earthy note, this was another uncompromisingly indulgent dish, enhanced by deeply flavoured classic saucing.

Humphrys Beef

Desserts showed more innovation than the preceding courses but were still firmly rooted in classical skills.

A wonderfully light vanilla cheesecake was crowned with a pineapple and passion fruit raviolo, which, when punctured, oozed with delectable puree to mix with a sweet syrup spiked with chilli. A tropical fruit salsa added texture and a zesty tang, whilst a coconut sorbet of velvety smoothness completed this refreshing, well balanced dessert.

Humphrys Cheesecake

A deconstructed Snickers dessert proved to be a tour de force of playful, imaginative confectionery. Quenelles of milk chocolate and peanut mousse were paired with salted chocolate caramel, a foam of caramel and a peanut tuile.

Humphrys Snickers

Other aspects of the meal were exemplary. The seamless service, from assistants with gold and black waistcoats and white gloved hands was welcoming, friendly and well informed. It was helpful and efficient without being obtrusive. The sommelier chose and explained the matching Chablis, Beaujolais and Zinfandel wines with a knowledge that comes from years of experience.

Humphrys Chris Wheeler MarathonClearly, Humphry’s has much to offer the discerning guest who wishes to eat first rate food in sumptuous, exquisite surroundings. It has made a strong impression on a leading restaurant guide and will no doubt extend its appeal to others.  Fine Dining Guide will return to sample the tasting menu but in the meantime will follow the fortunes of Humphry’s with interest.

Note: Chris Wheeler is participating in the 2013 London Marathon, here is what he has to say on the subject!:-

‘In a moment of madness I decided to enter Capital FM’s competition to win one of ten special ‘Help A Capital Child’ charity places to run in the Virgin London Marathon 2013 and they picked me out of hundreds of applicants. Seven years ago I ran the marathon flipping a pancake all the way, so thought this year ( with 10 weeks prep time and no visits in the past 7 years to the gym!) I’m doing  it with a stock pot.  With your help, I aim to raise £10,000 for Help a Capital Child which supports children and young people affected by abuse, homelessness, disability, poverty and illness in and around London.  I am running for the Breakfast team, alongside Capital FM presenter, Pandora.’

Donation can be made via:

Michelin Guide France 2013: Press Release

Posted on: February 26th, 2013 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Available March 1 in stores as well as on the Internet and cellphones (via the MICHELIN Restaurants website and mobile applications), the 2013 edition of the MICHELIN guide is a showcase for French excellence in gourmet dining and hospitality. It lists 8,768 establishments, of which 4,461 hotels and guesthouses and 4,282 restaurants.

MIchelin Guide France 2013

Faithfully reflecting France’s skills and unique expertise in the art of cooking, the 2013 selection features a new EtoileEtoileEtoile restaurant, La Vague d’Or, at Résidence de la Pinède in Saint-Tropez, where chef Arnaud Donckele, only 35-years-old and trained in some of the most prestigious restaurants, has succeeded in creating a highly-personalized style of cuisine, a rare achievement accomplished by just a handful of chefs around the world.

“Arnaud Donckele’s cuisine provides diners with a unique, unforgettable experience,” says Michael Ellis, International Director of the MICHELIN guides. “His fish dishes are highly original and he has personally sought out local producers to find the highest quality ingredients. Overall, he meets all the criteria for a third star.”

As further proof of the dynamism and very high quality of French gastronomy, the MICHELIN guide also includes 5 new EtoileEtoile restaurants: Yoann Conte in Veyrier-du-Lac and La Table du Kilimandjaro in Courchevel – both in the Savoy Alps – William Frachot in Dijon, La Marine in L’Herbaudière in the Vendée, and Auberge du Pont d’Acigné in Noyal-sur-Vilaine, Brittany. There are also 39 new Etoile restaurants, for a total of 596 starred restaurants. The selection also includes 632 Bib Gourmand restaurants, of which 98 newly chosen.

Always on the lookout for outstanding new restaurants, the guide’s inspectors travel throughout France. Every day, they test all sorts of restaurants – brasseries, bistros and small eateries as well as truly outstanding establishments – that serve all styles of cuisine: French, Italian, Asian, contemporary and traditional. Dining anonymously like ordinary customers, they systematically pay their own bills. But as specialists in haute cuisine, they evaluate each dish according to five criteria: product quality, the chef’s personality as revealed through his or her cuisine, preparation and flavors, value for money, and consistency over time and across the entire menu. The best restaurants are awarded the Bib Gourmand label or stars, distinctions that are based solely on cooking quality and are always attributed on a consensus basis. Comfort and service are rated separately on a scale ranging from Couvert to Couvert.

The inspectors’ extensive fieldwork has proven that French gourmet cuisine delivers consistent value. Today’s chefs prepare their products using authentic, time-tested methods and show more restraint in their dishes while deploying a cooking style that is both traditional and resolutely modern. This consistent value is also reflected in the fact that French restaurants attract more and more foreign chefs, eager to master the secrets of France’s very high-quality cuisine. What’s more, these chefs often export France’s cooking style to other countries, thereby enhancing the prestige of French gastronomy around the world.

For more than a century, the MICHELIN guide collection has been committed to making life easier for travelers by providing them with a selection of the best restaurants, hotels and guesthouses around the world. Today, the 24 MICHELIN guides cover 23 countries on three continents.

    The MICHELIN guide France 2013 lists 8,768 establishments, of which:

  • 4,461 hotels and guesthouses and 4,292 restaurants
  • 596 “starred” restaurants:
    • 487 Etoile, of which 39 new
    • 82 EtoileEtoile, of which 5 new
    • 27 EtoileEtoileEtoile
  • 632 Bib Gourmand, of which 98 new
  • 229 Bib Hôtel, of which 11 new

Restaurant Review: Midsummer House, Cambridge (Feb 2013)

Posted on: February 18th, 2013 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Competition between England’s two ancient universities has always been fierce, with top place in the academic league tables frequently changing hands. However, in the race for gastronomic excellence, Cambridge has for many years outrun Oxford, (Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons does not count as it lies outside the city limits), being the proud possessor of two Michelin starred restaurants. Of these, the more established and highly garlanded is Midsummer House, which holds two of the coveted stars.

Midsummer House Exterior

Set on the banks of the River Cam, by the Common which gives the restaurant its name, the unremarkable exterior of this grey, two storeyed Victorian villa gives little idea of the contemporary and spacious interior that lies beyond the modest canopied entrance.  A large conservatory extension more than doubles the original dining area, giving a light, airy feel. It has views of a delightful walled garden outside and the busy kitchen inside. The décor, in natural tones, is complemented by comfortably upholstered chairs and well-spaced tables with fine napery. Equally sophisticated in feel upstairs are the private dining room, and glass walled lounge which opens out to a terrace overlooking the Cam.

Daniel Clifford’s cooking, rooted in the classics, employs finely tuned skills, advanced techniques and a measured creativity to produce highly refined dishes. Their clarity of flavour, precision of temperature, variety of texture, allied with well-balanced if sometimes unexpected combinations do full justice to the supremely fresh, high quality seasonal produce. Ingredients are sometimes cooked in very different ways on the same dish, be it, for example, broccoli, celeriac, apple or venison.  Presentation often involves a degree of restaurant theatre, with ingredients being carved or sauces being poured at the table.  Whether choosing the three course Classic, the seven course Market, or the ten course Taste of Midsummer menu, diners are assured of a truly memorable gastronomic experience.

A Market Menu lunch in early February began with crisp, warm gougeres generously filled with gruyere. These went well with the house Bloody Mary – vodka infused tomato foam spiked with shallots and peppers and garnished with a celery sorbet. This amuse bouche, demonstrating both classical and modern techniques, definitely served its purpose of exciting the taste buds.

The first course saw Cashel Blue cheese rendered into pannacotta form with the correct degree of wobble, smoothness and lightness of touch. Crisp, charred broccoli florets added a gentle bitterness offset by the soft sweetness of fresh pear, the whole dish being brought together by a warm, intense broccoli veloute poured at the table. Served in a rustic pottery bowl, this dish was a triumphant balance of tastes, textures and temperatures.

Midsummer Starter

Next came a whole celeriac, cooked for four hours on the outside barbeque, and halved and scooped at the table. The warm, soft flesh with its mild celery flavour, proved a good foil for the well flavoured ham hock with parsley. Texture and flavour were added by a crisp celery Branston pickle and flakes of charred celeriac skin. Dusted with fine celeriac powder, this was a tour de force in elevating that humble, knobbly vegetable to gastronomic heights. (Wine: Midsummer House Klein Steenberg, Sauvignon blanc, South Africa, 2012)

MIdsummer Celeriac

The fish course showcased an accurately timed and perfectly seasoned tranche of pan roasted cod. A thin golden crust crowned delicately soft, translucent flakes of flesh. Wild garlic and onion puree, together with chanterelles and trompettes de mort added well-judged herbal and earthy notes which complemented the beautiful freshness of the fish. The dish was finished with a rich consommé poured from a cafetiere.  (Wine: Summerhouse Pinot Noir, New Zealand, 2009)

Midsummer House Cod

Next came a dish that exhibited the strengths of game cookery. Venison loin, slow roasted to medium rare, was flavoursome and meltingly delicious. A suet pudding containing the shoulder, with the rich jus cascading out when cut, was an inspired addition, adding contrasting texture, depth of flavour and an element of fat which the dish needed. Parsley root, onion puree and a chiffonade of savoy cabbage proved suitable garnishes, whilst the fragrance of pine lifted the whole dish. (Wine: Joseph Swan Vineyards, Mancini Ranch, Zinfandel, USA, 2006)

Midsummer Venison

The impressive selection of artisanal cheeses, supplied by Premier Cheeses, proved to be an embarrassment of riches. We chose Epoisses, Roquefort, Chaource and Morbier, which all came in perfect condition of ripeness and flavour.

A composite pre-dessert featured baked yoghurt vanilla base, apple crumble, apple sorbet and apple crisp. The marriage of flavours, textures and temperatures was again exemplary.

MIdsummer House Apple

The final course had a distinctly Christmasy feel. The poached figs and dates had an excellent, rich flavour enhanced by the reduced spiced wine syrup. A crisp cannelloni tuile, filled with cinnamon foam was light and airy, whilst the velvety textured gingerbread ice cream gave a creamy finish to the dish. (Wine: Banyuls, Cuvee Tradition Moulin de la Rectorie, France, 2011)

Midsummer House Dessert

Other aspects of the meal were first rate, from the white and brown sour dough bread, to the warm sugared beignets served with good coffee. The seamless service was friendly, efficient and knowledgeable without being obtrusive. The flight of wines, chosen from a wide range, proved to be excellent pairings for each course.

Since arriving in 1998, Daniel Clifford has gradually developed both a premises and a cooking style of which he can be justifiably proud. He gained his first star in 2002 and a second in 2005. As most chefs would acknowledge, holding onto stars is in many ways more demanding than being promoted to them in the first place. That Daniel Clifford and his team have done so for over ten years – in addition to gaining four AA rosettes and 7/10 in the Good Food Guide – is a testament to their consistent high level of skill, creative talent and inexhaustible energy. Nor is further promotion in restaurant guides out of the question given the progress seen so far. Fine Dining Guide will follow the fortunes of Midsummer House with interest.

Restaurant Review: The Waterside Inn (Jan 2013)

Posted on: February 2nd, 2013 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

The magical setting of the Waterside Inn is unrivalled, whatever the weather. It is nestled in a tranquil setting on the banks of the Thames at Bray, where often the only sounds are those of lapping water and quacking ducks. The terrace, ideal for pre and post prandial drinks in the summer, commands glorious views of the river.

Not that all this is immediately apparent as guests approach the original white pebble dash building at the end of Ferry Road. The modest entrance and reception, insulated from the sounds within, give little idea of the Waterside’s spacious, understated luxury. The restaurant, built as an extension in the early 1970s, comprises two distinct halves: the semi- circular back section with panelled mirrors and sumptuous banquettes has a more intimate feel, whilst the front, overlooking the terrace, is fully glazed with sliding doors, giving a light, airy effect.

Waterside Outside

Only on entering this dining room is the theatre of the bustling restaurant fully unveiled.  Besuited front of house staff chatting with guests; silver domes simultaneously lifted to gasps of delight; ducks expertly carved in gueridon service; the provenance of cheeses being explained; and sommeliers offering expert wine suggestions. Against the conversational buzz of contented diners, the service is executed with seamless effort and great aplomb.

Waterside Diego Alain

Diego Masciaga (left) with Alain Roux

Overseeing the operation is the charismatic and engaging master of house, Diego Masciaga. He has rarely missed a service and ensures he visits every table at lunch and dinner. As restaurant director, he has elevated service to an art, giving it equal importance to the food in making the Waterside experience a truly memorable one. Professional but not stiff or intimidating, the service is genuinely welcoming and friendly. Guests are quickly put at their ease, with deputy manager Frederic Poulette injecting a little wit and humour into the proceedings. Guidance on menu dishes is well informed whilst anticipatory service is excellent. How amazing that just as one is thinking of asking for a little more sauce or bread or a fresh napkin they suddenly appear.  Constant yet unobtrusive observation, attention to smallest detail, and a genuine love of the craft, all qualities cultivated by Diego, have helped to produce a level of customer care second to none.

Although it has retained three Michelin stars for 27 years, a unique achievement for any British restaurant, to describe The Waterside as a temple of gastronomy does it a disservice.  Whilst some might come to worship a chef who has reached the height of his profession, discussing in reverential tones the qualities of the cooking, the atmosphere is far less serious than this. Indeed, a feeling of relaxed formality, reflecting real enjoyment, pervades the room: “pure gold happiness” as Raymond Blanc would have said.

This is testament to those in the front of house and the kitchen in equal measure.

Alain Roux’s creativity and technical skill, initially emulated his father’s move towards a lighter style of modern French classical cooking. Now he has stamped his own seal on the cuisine, each dish being an expression of his personality.  Both luxury and more humble ingredients are treated with equal care and attention, producing skilfully crafted, impeccably balanced and beautifully presented dishes. As a master patissier, Alain’s forte for desserts, as shown in his Péché gourmand selon “Alain,” is unquestioned. Whilst not cutting edge in style – the Rouxs have never, thankfully, been slaves to culinary fashion – the cooking has, in moderation, embraced foreign influences and contemporary techniques.  The menu moves with the seasons, showcasing new creations but retaining some distinguished signature dishes such as Filets tendres de lapereau grillés aux marrons glacés, Caneton Challandais roti, and  Tronçonnettes de homard poêlées minute au porto blanc. These are likely never to leave the menu.

A birthday celebration on a January lunchtime began with champagne and a generous array of canapés: delicate olive straws; flavoursome Welsh rarebit; creamy salmon mousseline on crisp, cool cucumber; and moist, well-seasoned steak tartare topped with a soft boiled quail’s egg. These dainty mouthfuls served their purpose in exciting the palate without stealing the thunder of what was to follow.

The first course, the classical La Quennelle de brochet a la Lyonnaise,was probably the most labour intensive of all the savoury dishes eaten. Ethereally light and soft textured, the warm pike mousseline had a delicate earthiness which worked well with the intense shellfish flavour of sauce nantua. Succulent langoustine tails, barely cooked to preserve their sweetness, also provided a contrasting texture to the dish.

Waterside Brochet

Next came an escalope of foie gras, seared to give caramelised crust and melting interior. Spiced with the gentle warmth of cardamom, the rich, creamy quality of this delectable piece of offal was balanced in texture by glazed root vegetables and in flavour by a well-judged sauce of verjus, the acidity of which was tempered by saltanas, giving a slightly piquant taste.

Waterside Foie Gras

Poaching in sea water emphasised the clean taste and firm, dense texture of a fillet of halibut. A layer of oscietra “Royal Belgian” caviar acted as a seasoning and added a decadent luxurious edge. The accompanying sauce, enriched with sea urchin roe added colour and depth of flavour. Visually, also, this dish was stunning.

Waterside Halibut

A main course of lamb was prepared two ways: precisely timed roasted French trimmed cutlets topped with a pine kernel crust; and braised osso bucco. Both cooking techniques maximised the flavour and texture of the different cuts – the sweet soft cutlets and the firmer, deeper notes of the leg. Einkorn risotto gave a nutty texture whilst the whole dish was lifted by a rich jus infused with rosemary.

Waterside Lamb

Roasted Challandais duck, a sharing dish for two, is presented at the table and carved effortlessly with swift upward strokes. This spectacle, one of the great highlights of Waterside theatre, always draws the attention of other diners. The thin slices of duck have the texture of rare roast beef and a gamey flavour without fattiness. Paired with a ball of cabbage stuffed with a farce of leg meat and offal, and served with a spiced damson jus, which cut the richness of the meat, this is one of the Waterside’s great iconic dishes.

Waterside Duck

Frederic Poulette (Right) organizes the Challandais Duck


Given all the variety and complexity of preceding flavours, a palate cleanser was more than welcome. The lime sorbet with raspberry, drizzled with tequila successfully filled the brief, refreshing and enlivening the taste buds.

For dessert, a Frasier gateau of sponge, strawberries, cream and marzipan was ordered in advance. This beautiful construction in red, white and green proved remarkably light, the perfect birthday cake after four savoury courses.

Waterside Frasier

Alongside this was the celebrated peche gourmand selon Alain, a veritable masterclass of miniature desserts. Amongst these, an exemplary rum baba was liberally soaked in the alcoholic syrup; fragrant pistachio crème brulee was a model of its kind in taste and texture; tarte tatin was beautifully caramelised; and a smooth and well flavoured vanilla ice cream had a velvety texture.

Waterside Peche

Strong coffee came with petits fours, another tour de force from the pastry section. These included tuiles, palmiers, nougat, passion fruit tartlet, fruit jellies and chocolates.

The Waterside Inn, under the strong leadership of Alain Roux and Diego Masciaga, continues to delight the guest as a progressive restaurant.  While evolution not revolution remains the mantra, the ongoing passion for excellence in all things is apparent.  No detail is too small, nor too unimportant. Everything is just so.  From a visit to the kitchen to a relaxing drink in the summerhouse, The Waterside Inn has nothing to hide, a seamless well-oiled machine but one that comes with a welcoming humility.

The inspector-led guides (such as Michelin) and reader-led guides (such as Trip Advisor, Hardens and Zagat) share equally in their admiration – a rare feat by any standards – reflecting the status of The Waterside Inn as one of the long standing restaurant greats, not just in Bray, Berkshire or Britain but in the world.