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Waterside Inn

Ferry Road, Bray, Bray, England, SL6 2AT, United Kingdom

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The Waterside Inn’s setting is very attractive, though the sun stayed in today, which meant it was not shown at its best. Alain Roux is now in charge here, though the head chef is Fabrice Uhryn.  It has held three Michelin stars since 1985.

The wine list is extensive and expensive. Weinbach Pinot Blanc 2008 was one of the cheaper wines, at £52 (plus service of course) for a wine you can buy in the shops for £11, Didier Dagenau’s Silex 2007 was marked up relatively less at £175 for a wine that costs £72, but the high end of this shows no respite: Latour 1982 was eccentrically priced at £4397.50 (plus service) compared to a retail price of £1,133, so over four and a half times retail price even at this price level.

Bread is a choice of rolls with either plain or rye flour; this was made from scratch, enjoyable and with a firm crust (17/20). A courgette flower was filled with wild mushrooms and spring vegetables tossed in a warm olive oil with chopped truffle; the mushrooms were good quality and the vegetables cooked properly, though this was an enjoyable rather than an exciting dish (17/20).

A trio of scallops wrapped in breadcrumbs and sesame seeds with a cauliflower mousseline was supposed to be my next course. As I tried to cut into the first scallop with the knife provided, the blade simply bounced off. I switched to my main course knife and was barely able to cut in to the scallop flesh. Oddly, one of the three scallops was cooked fine, one was like rubber and one was in between. I sent this dish back and they decided to switch tack and offered the pan-fried lobster medallions with a white port sauce and ginger flavoured vegetable julienne. Ironically this worked out well, since the lobster was the dish of the meal. The flesh was tender and packed back into the shell for presentation, the sauce having a very nicely controlled but distinct hint of spice from the ginger; lobster is a tough thing to get right, and this was very good indeed (19/20). Challons duck was spit-roast and carved at the table, served with prune and Puy lentils and a “Grand Chartreuse” jus. The duck was cooked nicely enough and the dish was fine, but I have had much better duck elsewhere (17/20). We skipped cheese but this was now £26.50 per person.

My lemon dessert was refreshing and well-made, the lemon parfait having good balance and served on a crisp biscuit base and in this case with a very good lime sorbet (18/20). I also tasted some other desserts, the best of which was an excellent rhubarb soufflé. Coffee was good, and the petit fours were classy (easily 18/20). Service was generally very good today, and they were handled the scallop incident well.

The prices seem to me simply too high for the level of cooking here, which with the odd exception hovers between 17/20 and 18/20 level. Salads cost over £30, starters mostly around £50. Our bill came to £215 a head with a pretty modest dip into the wine list. Of course there is the pretty setting, but it seems to me that the premium for this is excessive.

Below are notes from a meal in April 2007.

This is a lovely setting for lunch on a summer’s day, overlooking the river in the pretty village of Bray. Sadly a pretty weeping willow that used to be outside the dining room has had to be cut down, but the river view is still extremely pretty. There is even a boat that you can hire for half an hour if you want to have your aperitif or coffee on the water itself. In good weather you can have drinks on the terrace and watch the ducks go by, or nestle in the summer house.  The dining room is cleverly set out, tables arranged in a crescent shape facing the river, with wood-panelled mirrors making the best of the light in the low-ceilinged room. Banquette seating and classic chairs are comfortable. The setting and the luxurious ingredients do not come cheap, and with a modest wine it is easy to spend over £150 a head here.  One starter was £42, while a beef main course was £52, for example. The menu is unashamedly classical in style, with little attempt to bring in any of the wilder elements of unusual flavours that afflicts a lot of dining rooms today. The wine list was all French, extensive as well as expensive e.g. house wine was £37.

At these prices you expect perfection, and my most recent meal here showed something less than this. Desserts are the greatest strength in Roux Brothers tradition, and head chef Russell Holborn has worked long enough with the Roux family to keep up the standards of technique in this department. For example a tiramisu had stunning depth of flavour, the coffee ice cream having silky texture and bringing out the coffee flavour remarkably well. 

The best elements of the meal were very fine indeed, with for example superb nibbles of wild salmon, foie gras mousse with a little rhubarb for acidity, a ball of fried crab with superb red pepper sauce (20/20 nibbles). My starter of langoustine souffle showed excellent technique, and the langoustines themselves were of high quality (18/20).  Sadly a medley of vegetables including a courgette flower with wild mushrooms was left for too long before serving, and was past its best.  Even when made fresh the vegetables were not sufficiently perfect to really shine e.g. peas were a little hard, and spinach leaves somewhat over-cooked, though carrots and beans were very good.  However this was really only 16/20.

Better was a fine fillet of Scotch beef with assorted diced vegetables and a red wine sauce made from the cooking juices. I would have preferred the sauce to have been reduced more, but this simple dish was certainly very enjoyable (18/20). It had the edge over a sole with broad bean mousse and a pleasant but unexciting sorrel and champagne sauce (17/20).    

Cheeses were extremely good, a rarity in the UK, and are kept in excellent condition. So many restaurants keep cheeses past their best rather than ruthlessly throw out any on cost grounds, but here the cheeses were in uniformly fine fettle e.g. a fine Cheddar and a very enjoyable local blue cheese as well as the usual French classics. 

Though desserts, nibbles and cheese were all top drawer, I found the starters and main courses today to be below 3 star standard, and in the case of the vegetables they served a dish that the kitchen should have picked up on and sent back to be remade; I don't expect to have to send back a dish at this level of restaurant. Service was excellent and the setting is beautiful, but it seems to me as if the cooking is merely coasting along like the ducks on the river.   

What follows are notes from a rather better meal in 2001. 

Amuse-bouche such as a tender piece of raw salmon on a little pastry base, a tapenade and a quail’s egg also on a pastry base were of the highest standard. I began with a fine tart of crab with langoustines, both of which were very delicate, served cold with just a herb emulsion for garnish (19/20). My wife had some summer roasted vegetables, which were lovely but not to the standard that one gets in a top restaurant in France (18/20). 

My main course beef was extremely good, with an excellent vegetable galette featuring several baby vegetables e.g. carrot, broad beans, asparagus and a fine red wine reduction of the cooking juices (19/20). My wife lobster was of the non-chewy variety, with a port and ginger sauce (18/20). The cheese was of an unusually high standard for the UK, and the cheese waiter knew both these cheeses and plenty about cheese in general. Reblochon was in fine condition, a Bresse Bleu was good, Munster was fine, and goats cheeses are excellent. The brown bread served with it had been cut into almost absurdly thin slices, and was none the better for it. 

Desserts are the high point at the Waterside, and they did not disappoint tonight. Roasted wild cherries were served with a Kirsch sorbet on a biscuit tuile, and were superb (20/20). The only problem is the price (of course female diners aren’t allowed to see prices, and I must admit I came over all faint, so maybe this archaic practice has some logic).  With a half bottle of white and a half bottle of red, one £20 and one £25, and a half bottle of Novembre dessert wine for £40, plus an orange juice and a glass of champagne (£14 together) just note the price. The drinks were £99 in all, not counting water, but the bill still came to £365 for two. Cheese alone was £15.50 each. Service was a little slipshod at times by these elevated standards e.g. we asked for some sparkling mineral water from the sommelier but he forgot, and we had to ask for the bill three times. Perhaps they were having trouble fitting it on to one sheet of paper. 

Further reviews: 29th Oct 2016

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  • Name unavailable

    We're on a personal mission to eat at all the UK starred restaurants and this was our first together as a couple. We went last summer for Saturday lunch and as it was our first trip to Bray, it was a bit of a mission finding the Waterside as it's tucked away down a small lane leading to the river. However, that's nobody's fault. It's a small village with small village roads. On getting there, the valet parking was very professional, doors opened and eceedingly polite. Caralyn thought it was a hoot when I mentioned to the Maitre'd that I'd just handed my keys to the valet and the Maitre'd pretended they didn't have valet parking and I'd handed my keys to a perfect stranger! As I'm not British, I'm a touch slow on getting the joke, but I did...eventually! The food....was exceptional (Caralyn still thinks this is the best we've had 6 months into our project). The setting is unbeatable. The staff were very attentive and it really was an exceptional experience. It's a bit more than a restaurant in my opinion. It's a place you go to relax and have a luxurious meal. A few reviews have mentioned a few issues here and there, but for us, the experience was first class.

  • Name unavailable

    My Husband and I took advantage of the experience menu with an overnight stay and continental breakfast. The service was exceptional. We checked in to the 'Yellow Nest' room - four poster bed with all the trimmings... but this is about FOOD! The experience menu consists of 6 courses. On arrival in the lounge we were served champagne and canapes - delicious. Then being shown to our table we were served a taster of crayfish bisque which was equally delicious. We were also surprised by the wine menu prices and settled on one suited to our pocket. Then the 6 courses started arriving. The menu was as it is detailed on their website. We thought the food was generous and exceptional. When the excellent coffee arrived with a tower of minature cakes we had to admit defeat. Towards the end of service Alain Roux emerged from the kitchen and spent time with every table. We thought the room and the food were top class - the icing on the cake was when our car was delivered back to the door and our sat nav was ready programmed for home. The package also includes your choice of signed Roux Brothers or Michel Roux book. Excellent value and a great introduction to 3* dining for us. The Dorchester is next.

  • David Pound

    I took my wife to The Waterside for a birthday meal. While the service was impeccable, the food was good, but only good. I had hoped for something very special given the price and the reputation but we were disappointed. It has to be said that the prices were crazy and we discussed the fact that having dessert had added approximately £120 to our bill

  • Tom C

    I happened to go last night and read your review just before going and unfortunately I can't help but agree with you. I enjoyed the experience, but felt The Square and The Berkeley just offer a superior quality of food for a much more reasonable price. The duck was very nice, but it was certainly nothing spectacular and not worth £105. I fail to see the leap from 2 to 3 Michelin star restaurants, as I felt Gordon Ramsay, aside from the service, did not reach the levels I would have hoped for

  • Chris Boarland

    I recently visited The Waterside for dinner. Having previously been to Ramsey's Royal Hospital Road venue, and having had a great meal, I was prepared for The Waterside to not quite meet that standard. However I was wrong and The Waterside surpassed my expectations and was an absolutely wonderful experience. This can only be enhanced by the magical location on the Thames, enjoying a glass of chilled Champagne on the terrace by the river in the late evening July sunshine is a truly romantic occasion. From the outset the staff were welcoming and helpful, Diego Masciaga is the epitome of the perfect restaurant manager and couldn't have been more accommodating. I chose a variation of the menu exceptionnel and would recommend that choice to anyone visiting The Waterside. From the canapes to the desserts the food was faultless. Highlights were the potato gnocci with asparagus, the fillet of wild salmon and for the main dish, roasted loin of lamb with aubergine confit. Least favourite was the signature dish of pan fried lobster medallions. Let the sommelier choose wines to accompany the dishes, that was another real plus for me and the waiting staff were attentive, informative and engaging. Prices are high and the decor/ambience is undoubtedly 'traditional'. But sometimes that's exactly right for that special occasion and experiencing fine french cuisine.

  • Julia

    I visited the Waterside Inn last Wednesday with my husband. We made the booking late last year and had high expectations. Although we had a pleasant evening and enjoyed the food, we both felt that both the service and the quality of some of the food fell short of a 3* restaurant. I expected the service to be of the highest standard, intuitive without being intrusive. I also expected the team to show passion about the food, instead we felt an air of complacency amongst some of the team. Examples include, waiters pacing up and down by our table; uncoordinated and slow serving of the Roasted Challandais Duck, as a result was cold when we came to eat it; flash photography allowed by other guests (something we were asked not to do when we ate at the Fat Duck in October 08), slight squabbles amongst a couple of the waiters, our pre starters were delivered while my husband was in the loo, our wine was continually being topped up when it was not required, we had to ask for the bill on two occasions, our food was introduced with no passion or interest, crumbs were not cleared from our table between courses, our napkins were not replaced and/ folded between visits to the loo. These examples may sound minor but when you are sat in what has been deemed an impressive 3* restaurant, you don’t expect mistakes however minor. We also could not help but compare the service to other restaurants we have visited. When we ate at the Fat Duck we had a very attentive service, yet somehow were not aware of it in the same way as at The Waterside. At times I felt rather tense with the waiter pacing back and forth by our table. In terms of food, it was a little up and down and dare I say old fashioned in presentation. Our pre starter and amuse bouche were both gorgeous. We selected the menu exceptional. The fois grois and shell fish Velouté were both interesting and delicious. We then opted for the sole and lobster. The sole was our favourite dish of the evening. Sadly the lobster was overcooked, cold and totally overpowered by the white port sauce and ginger flavoured vegetable julienne, which accompanied it. Next was the Challandais Duck which was decidedly average and a little on the bland side. Things lifted with desert – the most amazing cheese board and sumptuous chocolate deserts. Then we were delivered an interesting selection of mignardises on a paper dolly. Although we enjoyed our evening and we are thinking about returning to try the a la carte menu, I think I need to forget that this is a 3* restaurant and lower my expectations.

  • Papillon

    We were a group of eight and went to the Waterside Inn for lunch last July. High expectations turned into a shocking experience. In my view the food was good but clearly nothing to write home about. What let me down most were the service and the place itself. The eight of us were seated at a table where, in my previous dining experiences, no more than four people would have been seated. We were elbow against elbow and knee against knee. The table was simply too small and as a result it was cramped with plates and glasses. Visually this was not at all appealling. The waiters were friendly enough but at this level I expect much more than mere "friendliness". To me it was clear that some of them simply did not have the skills to work in a high-end gastronomic restaurant. There was no coordination whatsoever in the service so that dishes were served in random order to various guests. In fact, things were so disorganized service verged on downright "rough" at times. From the cheese trolley we were told we could "only pick four choices". I could go on much longer but suffice it to say that what should have been a relaxing and enjoyable experience turned into a stressful, average and over-priced dining experience.

  • Graeme Donalson

    The next step of our mini Hayler tour took us back to Bray to The Waterside Inn. Gluttony crept in as one of the party insisted on paying a pre dinner visit to the Hinds Head Hotel for a portion of triple cooked chips (very crunchy but not enough potato inside for me), excellent Scotch Quail Eggs (watch out for the yolk) and Devils on Horseback. A good start to the evening. On to the Waterside, first impression of the dining room was an eighties Chinese restaurant all a bit gaudy with a CCTV centre piece which looked like it came from Woolworths security department. We chose the Le Menu Exceptionnel for the table. One small annoyance on the wine list was that two out of the three red wines listed under house wines were scored out so this just about forces you from £37 into a much higher price bracket, the surly sommelier seemed disinterested in offering any advice on a substitute, on closer inspection there is one generic Burgundy for £43 tucked away in the 53 page, printed on half inch thick papyrus sheets, wine list. The pre starter arrived with synchronised efficiency (a theme throughout the evening) and consisted of miniature steak tartare (excellent), anchovy embedded pastry and a miniature ball of some sort of encased rice (I think), very good indeed. The Crab Bisque next, super deep taste of crab, others on the table chose the Pan-fried escalope of foie gras and highly recommended it. A delicious amuse bouche of chestnut veloute with “its own skewer” followed; this was really tasty and intense. Next the Pan-fried lobster medallion with a white port sauce, dramatic to look at and tasted as good. Turbot was the other choice and nods of its ok passed across the table. Here comes the star of the show the Duo of seasonal game with a Swiss chard vol-au-vent, parcel of wild mushrooms and spinach, poivrade sauce, the duo turned out to be partridge and venison. The venison cooked to perfection the dish looked superb and it was. Others bagged the Roasted Challandais duck glazed with spices which was expertly sliced at the table and was greeted with much approval. I chose the plum soufflé while the rest of the table diversified with cheese and the trio of chocolate treats. The chocolate treats won the contest here with the cheeses looking very good the Langres particularly good. Plenty of refills for coffee accompanied by the mignardises. A super evening with stunning service (“Odd Job” sommelier excepted) £181.08 per head.

  • Roger Minstentstassts

    I went to the Waterside with my wife and enjoyed the food, especially the breville de cheese and ham a new addition to the menu and a welcome one I can tell you!

  • robert burrell

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reviews after reading an item about you in Octane magazine. One thing I would take you to task over is a comment on the Waterside Inn where you said you were offered an "amuse guele". Apart from it being misspelt( it should be gueule), I would be amazed if a fine restaurant ever used this word as it is slang and roughly equates to our word "gob". The correct word, having been offered them before in similar restaurants is "bouche". I envy your record for eating at every three Michelin star restaurant in the world and look forward to following your work with great interest. Best wishes, Robert Burrell.

  • Alex Chambers

    The setting is lovely but I can't help but feel the dining room is stuck in an 80's timewarp, despite the relatively recent refurb. Rooms upstairs are charming and service is pretty much flawless, but you go to a 3* for the food, which in my opinion is rather erratic. Some sublime courses, such as the lobster with white port and ginger and pretty much all of the desserts (souffle notably excellent) were let down by some rather dull dishes. None were bad, but the classic Chalandais Duck was bland, a scallop dish forgettable and veal merely good. In my opinion Le Gavroche is actually cooking at a higher level than The Waterside, indeed, I'd go as far as to swapping their ratings if we're benchmarking by the UK 3* standard.

  • micro chow

    Fat Duck and Gordon Ramsay are too difficult for booking, so Waterside Inn is the only 3 star restaurant that you can easily booked for a meal in London. The service and food is excellent. I give it 9/10. I prefer to stay 1 night there, and have a lunch in Fat Duck (or dinner in Fat Duck, lunch in Waterside Inn), since the two restaurants are only 5 minutes walk. Concerning the surroundings, it is much much better than Fat Duck. Fat Duck is for gourmet, Waterside Inn is for lovers. the owners are cousins of le gavorche in london. their fathers founded these 2 restaurants. they passed the 2 restaurants to theirs sons. i believe le gavroche was as good as waterside inn. but now, le gavroche is unsatisfactory. food is bad and atmosphere too pretentious, though service is still good. so, the cooking tradition of roux brothers is only inherited by waterside inn.

  • Gareth Davies

    Finally got to eat here, picked the 6 course, Le Menu Exceptionnel. The food was divine and perfectly cooked. The grilled & roasted challandais duck with slices of spiced pineapple stood out as the best main dish but the assiette of chocolates was the highlight of the meal as you would expect from the Roux brothers. It was pricy when you add wine etc but worth a trip all the same.