For Christmas I decided to take Lucy to two of the most accoladed restaurants in England, the legendary Waterside Inn and recently awarded best in the UK by The Sunday Times – Gidleigh Park.
Now helmed by Alain Roux, The Waterside Inn was opened by his father Michel and uncle Albert Roux in 1972 and is the only restaurant outside of France to retain three Michelin stars for more than 25 years.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon to the picturesque village of Bray and were shown to our room by very friendly staff. The room was exceptional, highlights being the large freestanding bath, fantastic view over the river Thames and delicious selection of fresh fruit and shortbread biscuits.
Our thoughts quickly turned to dinner and after a while spent going back and forth through the menus we eventually decided we would opt for the tasting menu when the time came, otherwise know as “Le Menu Exceptionnel”.
Dinner time arrived and we headed to the restaurant, expecting something amazing – and we were not disappointed…
We planned to take photos of every course but were unfortunately asked to stop doing so after being caught taking the one above! Ah well!
Ceviche of sea bass and octopus slices marinated in passion fruit juice, served with a crisp vegetable salad
An extremely light yet flavoursome and fresh starter. The sea bass was very delicate in taste and texture while the passion fruit sauce added a punch. The salad complimented it beautifully and the standout for us was octopus which had a subtle smokiness and a meaty texture.
Pan-fried escalopes of foie gras with a thin slice of ginger bread, quince compote and mulled wine flavoured sauce
Fois gras is one of my favourite things to eat while Lucy has never been overly keen so this dish was always going divide us. However on this occasion the division was smaller than expected. The fois gras was incredibly rich and had a fantastic texture to it, the accompanying ginger bread an excellent contrasting companion. The quince added some freshness as expected while the mulled wine flavour went surprisingly unnoticed. Overall though another truly superb dish.
Pan-fried lobster medallions with a white port sauce and ginger flavoured vegetable julienne
If fois gras divided opinions, then lobster would reaffirm them. We were both looking forward to this from the moment we read it and it certainly did not disappoint. While the port sauce read as a slightly odd companion to lobster it worked brilliantly and provided a rich, almost meaty accompaniment to the sweet, delicate lobster flesh. In what felt like a rather generous portion within a tasting menu we were treated to both claw and tail meat in a dish that looked amazing on the plate. The vegetable julienne added a much appreciated crunch to proceedings, almost resembling a very fine slaw. Overall a faultless dish and one we’d love to eat again.
Duo of seasonal game with a pumpkin subric, parcel of wild mushrooms and spinach, poivrade sauce
The menu offered two choices of main course, the other being “Roasted Challandais duck with green olives, garlic scented fondant potatoes, braised baby fennel, olive and truffle jus”. Normally Lucy and I would each choose a dish in this sort of situation so we could try both. I am also a massive fan of duck and would normally opt for it whenever it’s on the menu, however I felt the inclusion of olives made the dish sound slightly ‘summery’. The game dish just felt more akin to the season, especially when it was revealed that the duo consisted of venison and partridge.
I began to doubt my choice when we spotted a couple of other tables receiving the duck which was expertly carved at the table and looked amazing. However, I needn’t have been concerned – the meal arrived and turned out to be truly astonishing.
On the plate was a small venison steak which had been chargrilled and tasted superb. It could have been a little more tender for my liking but that’s a minor gripe.
The partridge was a revelation. It was so moist and so full of flavour that you were left wanting more. Another fantastic element and a first for me was the pumpkin subric – which had a wonderfully buttery and rich flavour. It encased a parcel of wild mushrooms and spinach, which again were bursting with flavour. It really was incredible.
Bringing the whole dish together was the poivrade sauce – an intense, rich and meaty jus which bound the other flavours and provided another hit of pure flavour.
From near perfect venison to amazing partridge and vegetables this dish was certainly one to remember and personally one of the best I’ve ever tasted.
Teardrop of milk chocolate mousse flavoured with caramel, mango filling and sorbet
The first of the puddings was a fantastically rich mousse that benefitted from a sharp injection of flavour from the mango and caramel filling. A truly superb dish.
Warm orange soufflé with lingonberries
The souffle was something Lucy and I had been looking forward to from the moment we read it on the menu. It was incredibly tasty and a worthy end to our epic meal, however I personally couldn’t help thinking I’d had better at Corrigan’s a few months prior. Overall though, a souffle done right will always score well.