Updated: Mar 23, 2020
This Christmas Inside Outside London spent an extra special weekend away in Bray. The cosy little town, home to not one, but two, 3 Michelin star restaurants, all located less than 500 yards apart: The Waterside Inn by the Roux family and the famous The Fat Duck by Heston Blumenthal; and yes we had reservations at both of these phenomenal restaurants. A foodies dream of the ultimate gastronomic weekend.
The Waterside Inn:
The River Cottage Private Dining Room: 10/10
Our reservation was in the River Cottage Private Dining Room located next to the main restaurant. We were met at the entrance of the cottage by a smartly attired doorman who welcomed us and ushered us into what I could only describe as someone's home. I know the name of the dining room is the River Cottage, but I was not expecting to be dining in an actual cottage. The corridor of the cottage led to the most decadently, and ornately decorated dining room I had ever seen in my life, and IOLondon social dining club has dined in hundreds of private dining rooms. Red wallpaper and carpet graced the walls and floors of the dining hall, framed artwork on the walls, Christmas trees, a white peacock with a flowing white trail of feathers adorned the sides of the room. But the grandeur didn't end there, two candles housed in Versace glass holders, green crystal baubles and crystal mini Christmas trees, as well as the gold and white plates, which each held our printed Degustation menu for that evening, were all laid out before us. The candlelit dining table was a spectacular delight to behold, while the large doors with windows at the end of the room led to a terrace, which we were told could be used in the summer. Note to self to book another event here in the summer. Next to the dining room, there was also a large lounge room with sofas where we were created by our personal butler for the evening.
Our private river cottage with personal butler extravagantly decorated by candlelight for Christmas
The Wines: 8/10 (This is due to the extra special Mersault we had)
We were presented with a wine menu by our butler and he recommended wines that could pair with the Dégustation menu.
We selected the following bottles to go with the meal.
Blanc de Blancs Ruinart non-vintage champagne - 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs one of my favourite styles of champagne
Domaine Coche Dury Mersault 2012 - this was an extraordinary wine and a rare find on a wine menu, one I will not forget for a while. Simply divine with lots of complexity and length. With high markups on wines in restaurants these days this was actually a bargain at only 1.5 times retail price.
Gevrey Chambertin 2005 Burgundy - Great wine but lacked character especially for the price.
The Domaine Coche Dury Mersault 2012 was the star of the evening
The Menu: 5/10
I'm sad to say that the food itself was the most disappointing part of the evening. I have been to The Waterside Inn before and was expecting the traditional French cuisine, rich and full of flavour. Especially as it was winter and Christmas time, I was expected hearty filling dishes.
As this is a 3 Michelin star restaurant everything was cooked perfectly. I blame the selection of dishes we were served that evening. All very light and non-descript.
Our amuse mouche was as a consume with vegetables.
We then started the menu with a salmon carpaccio with seaweed, and sunflower seeds served with a salad of kohlrabi and radish with pumpkin emulsion. All very pleasant, but no better than any other salmon carpaccio at any decent restaurant.
Next up was the seabass served with anchovy butter and fennel with a sorrel sauce. Very delicate and subtle flavours all very delicious, but easily forgettable after finishing the dish.
This was followed by the sorbet champagne rosé palate cleanser. Pretty much what it says on the tin.
The stand out dish of the evening was the roast duck, served with tangerines and gravy. Cooked perfectly pink with a caramelised duck skin on top.
After the duck, a cheese course was served with the standard array of cheeses such as compté, blue cheese and brie. Again nothing exciting or memorable. It would have been preferable to have a cheese trolly where we were given the option to select our cheeses.
Dessert was an impressive selection of 7 individual desserts including a tarte tartin, crème brûleé and rum baba. This was also one of the highlights of the meal which we all enjoyed.
We were then offered teas and coffees to end.
So, in all, it was a very underwhelming, and unsatisfactory menu, which failed to impress with only the duck and desserts to rave about after we finished.
I would recommend that if you book the private dining room that you request details of the menu in advance so that you can modify it to your preferences. I know that The Waterside Inn has a lot more to offer and can create dishes with lots of flavour which I have experienced on previous visits, so on my next booking of the private dining room I will request to have input in the menu creation. But on this particular visit, the menu did not live up to the expectations of a 3 Michelin star French restaurant.
Very disappointing Dégustation menu on this visit. The duck and desserts were the only highlights on the entire menu.
Alain Roux Visit: 10/10
Every time I have been to The Waterside Inn Alain Roux has been in the kitchen and has always been willing to meet and greet his dinners. Tonight was no exception. He made a special visit to the private dining room to meet us and we were all super excited to have our photos taken with him.
Alain Roux always willing to meet his diners
Overall Rating: 7/10
I must say overall we had an enjoyable evening. The river cottage private dining room was one of the most beautiful dining rooms we have ever been in, the service, wines and visit from Alain Roux were all exceptional and worthy of The Waterside Inn's 3 Michelin star status. Shame about the food ...