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Lesley Stark, who is a Cordon Bleu Instructor 
went on a gastronomic pilgrimage to the Waterside Inn at Bray

If you are a serious foodie, there are certain places that you simply have to go to, never mind the cost. In Paris it could be Taillevent, or Le Grand Vefour; in New York it might be Chanterelle (but NY prices are lower than Europe). In London, the Roux Brothers Le Gavroche has a great reputation, but it is to their Thames side country retreat that the true gastro-pilgrims beat a path.

We pushed the boat out at  lunch with Le menu exceptionnel -  at £74.00 per person, VAT included but with a discretionary 12.5% service charge,  it's scarcely a bargain, but bargains are not exactly what we've come for. It's value we're after. In summer, drinks are taken on the terrace overlooking the tranquil, relaxing river Thames, watching the ducks, swans and occasional boats. The gods smiled, the temperature was warm, the weather sunny, not too hot - perfect! We sipped a Kir Royale and a Gin & Tonic while being offered a selection of six delicious canapés each. They included cheese, vegetable and meat fillings with bases fashioned from pastry, croûtes and crisp potato, garnished with a beautiful, velvety deep-red 'rose', carved from a beetroot.

Then to the table for the serious biz of the day: Tranche de baguette de foie gras à la julienne de légumes condimentée de chutney à la poire - Sliced foe gras 'baguette' with vegetable julienne bound with a pear chutney - creamy rich foie gras, fabulous, intensely flavoured chutney, served with toasted brioche and a sweet white wine - absolutely divine. Meanwhile my partner had Tourteau et queue de langoustine au naturel servis sur une crème onctueuse à la pêche, croquants de concombre Crabmeat and langoustine tail with a rich peach cream and crisp cucumber - this was surprisingly light and refreshing, yet flavourful.

Then we were served Tronçonnette de homard poêlée minute au Porto blanc which is a Pan fried lobster medallion with a white port sauce and ginger flavoured vegetable julienne - fabulous sauce with a great depth of flavour, perfectly complementing the lobster. Also Filet de saumon poché, nappé d'un onctueux de sauce Soubise sur consommé de coquillages aux fines épices: Poached fillet of salmon coated in a smooth soubise sauce, Served in a delicately spiced consommé.

After these two pairs of what are commonly called "starters", our palates were refreshed with a Sorbet aux pétales de rose

Then came the entrée: Aiguillettes de caneton challandrais rôti au parfum de citron et de thym Roasted Challandrais duck with a lemon and thyme jus, potato and garlic mousseline - a perfectly cooked crown of duck, expertly carved at the table, with a fabulously flavoured skin, served with a powerful, refreshingly tart, bitter-sweet poached and partially caramelised lemon skin garnish; the sauce was delicious - this was cooking of sheer perfection!

The great thing about superb cooking is, that one can somehow find room for more, when normally one would plead defeat. So it was that we submitted to the L'assiette des trois deserts which were: Chocolate Fondant - delicious, mini Rum Baba - deliciously moist and flavourful, individual Pistachio Crème Brulée - to die for finished with a delicate 'Fruits of the Forest' tartlet - Café filtre ou espresso (Mocha or Colombia) et mignardises Finally out came a wonderful selection of petits fours; those that were not consumed were delicately parcelled to take home.

I'm not sure how I remembered that we sat happily over the Graham's 1980 Port (£16), and the Delamain 1970 Brandy (£20), but somehow my notes about the wine got lost. But the sommelier did a good job - I hope he's on commission!

My overall impression was of excellence in - Ambiance, Atmosphere, Service, Location, Food and Wine Total for a very memorable meal indeed. The bill came to about £290.00, so what we were happy. Come to think of it, who the hell drove home?

Lesley Stark August 2001

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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