Nestled in picturesque Bray, an ancient exurb on the distant Western end of Greater London, the Waterside Inn is a culinary icon. Albert Roux runs the place, taking over for his dad Michel Roux who had the reins from 1977-2010. The family is basically gastronomical legend; the restaurant has held 3 stars for 31 years, and it was the first restaurant outside of France to hold its 3-star rating for a quarter-century. That was in 2010... :)
BRAY, UK (NEAR LONDON)
PRICE PAID: $280PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)
FINAL SCORE: 8.0/10
After a quiet, windy walk down a cobbled street from pre-dinner drinks at the Hinds Head (the Fat Duck's bar), we walked into the main entrance of the Waterside Inn. It appears to be targeting the famed British "cozy" aesthetic, and man are they nailing it. I felt like I needed to take off my shoes. We walked through this anteroom into the main dining room, where sadly I couldn't snap a photo because the space was too tightly packed and awkward to have that make sense.
In the great and massive tome I will someday write about bread and butter, this place is solidly middle of the pack. But nothing special. A hockey puck of salted, local butter and some handmade baguettes are extremely good but also nothing terribly special. 7/10.
First bites: setting up the themes for the evening of extremely precise and refined knifework and a huge focus on the aesthetics of color, juxtaposition, and careful crafting, we received a share-plate of heavy, creamy foie gras on toast, raisins on salmon, and anchovy. Very salty, it got my attention with the gorgeous colors and flavors, but kind of a heavy start with the large portion and liberal use of cream sauces. 7/10.
Served shockingly cold, this butternut squash soup with cracker has a thick, almost paste-like texture. Beautiful, precisely-cut vegetables and mushrooms. Some interesting peanut butter flavors going on as well. 7/10.
Man, would you just look at all of those individual components the cold line had to build?! Lobster, caviar, several types of gelatin, carefully-dolloped sauces... While visually gorgeous, the Lobster lacks umph- it was clammy and thin. Caviar, lobster, and gelatin do not match up well, and the beet flavors end up winning out. Maybe that was intentional but it's unclear. 6/10.
Interestingly, the moment we move away from the fancy fireworks of the bright colors and knifework, the flavors start to speak for themselves more strongly. This foie gras and potato soup is incredible- it feels almost like the first time you have French onion soup on a cold Winter's day. The tarragon flavors are nice; shame there isn't more of it. 9/10, great dish.
A crazy-creative combination of breaded monkfish with chorizo and coq Au vin... Almost pizza flavored. The combination of flavors and textures from the three proteins- monkfish, chorizo, and chicken- would never go together in any cooking textbook, yet here we are. This is the kind of creativity that keeps this place famous. 9/10.
A super-classic French dish- duck with pear. Everything goes well together, but the overall effect is quite salty. 7/10.
A lovely palate-cleanser- basil and passion fruit sorbet, with extremely bright tropical flavors enhanced by the gentle mint. 8/10.
With lovely flourishes of raspberry sauce, (though no dessert is quite as flourish-y as Alinea's) this made for a kingly dessert. 8/10.
Made using Mirabelle plums, noted for their soft, tender flesh, and distinctly perfumed flavors, this was in every way, shape, and form, a perfect French dessert. 10/10.
What would any good French meal worth its salt be without an enormous, fragrant cheese cart? I love the selections here (the Stinking Bishop is a must-have), and grabbed a sampling of their soft cheeses. They were, without exception, excellent. 9/10.
A delicious last few bites served on a beautiful tray- great way to end the evening! 8/10.