All in Bray! The most gastronomic place in the UK

Luxury Travel Tips

Recently, talking about the best (in my opinion) London hotels, I mentioned Bray (on the Thames) and, having mentioned, I promised to return to this topic soon. And, perhaps, why not do it now? So, 40 minutes drive from London, and you are in the most delicious place in Britain. Bray, a corner sung (on a slightly different occasion) by Jerome K. Jerome and, along with it, by many of my friends who have been there. And now here’s me. Berkshire pearl of taste. This is what this place is…


Bray upon Thames, 1849

A few facts about Brea. In 2005, the village received the Britain in Bloom horticultural award. The local cricket club is the oldest in England (founded in 1798). Bray is usually visited by everyone who goes on a cruise on the Thames. There are many nooks and crannies pleasant for walking and – attention! – several outstanding restaurants at once. Let’s just talk about them. Or rather, about the two main ones, those to which the Michelin guide did not hesitate to assign three stars. And let’s start with The Fat Duck!

In 2005, 600 top chefs, restaurateurs and restaurant critics gave the world their opinion on which restaurant should be considered the best (read – the most delicious first of all) in the world. This restaurant turned out to be Fat Duck. The star of this restaurant, Chef Heston Blumenthal, is a cult figure.

Chef Heston Blumenthal
The Great Heston Blumenthal

Having opened The Fat Duck in 1995 as a small eatery for local bohemians (read for village revelers), he soon saw that this would not work. And now Mr. Blumenthal embarked on a desperate experiment: he decided to do something … completely unusual. Based on his favorite two natural science disciplines – physics and chemistry. And also psychology.

Salmon Licorice Gel
Salmon in licorice (licorice) gel

From seemingly completely traditional ingredients, he, through painstaking and subtle intervention in them at the molecular level, generates completely new, previously unseen dishes, extracts from them the most unexpected and incredible flavor combinations. Such, which, it would seem, by no means could be expected from the corresponding products …

Snail Porridge
Legendary oatmeal with snails

If this is your first time with The Fat Duck, get ready to be amazed. For a starter, for example, they may well bring green tea foam frozen in liquid nitrogen plus lime mousse (nitro-green tea and lime mousse). Do not be afraid if, after taking this intricate composition, you suddenly feel some numbness in your mouth (as if you are about to have a tooth removed and have been injected with a powerful freeze). So intended. Before you can enjoy the full range of Blumenthal flavors, your taste buds must be properly prepared – namely, cleaned! Appetizers follow (red cabbage gazpacho, quail jelly in cancer cream) and now the legendary “oatmeal, sir” is in the arena … No, no, no vulgarity, don’t even think about it. After all, this oatmeal … with snails. Quite a postmodernist irony… A powerful seventh chord of snail oatmeal resolves into a tonic triad of duck liver (with almond sauce) – with cherries and chamomile.

The sound of the sea
“Sound of the Sea” – this is the name of this specialty

Then turtle soup (also not easy, of course), and then … I can’t even tell you in detail what happened to me. I fell into another dimension from all these taste impressions… Some incredible sardines (warm and salty) right with sorbet (cold and sour), which should have been washed down with hot sake. Well, you understand… The only other thing I couldn’t help remembering was the bacon and omelet ice cream… And then chewing tobacco-flavoured chocolate and violet tartlets. That’s enough. Just believe that in reality it is much tastier than it seems in the description of the ingredients …

Bacon omelette ice cream nitro
Bacon omelette ice cream nitro

It is worth adding that The Fat Duck is a place famous not only in Britain, but all over the world. Therefore, you need to book tables very, very early.

Next, I advise you this – stay overnight at the hotel The Waterside Inn. The hotel is great (purely English small, tastefully decorated rooms). And the next day, eat by all means in the restaurant of the same name. This is in some way the opposite of Blumenthal’s vykipons – it will work like a medicine, bring you back to our world.

Baked angus rib in Chartreuse and wine sauce.  Photo By disney_den from flickr.com
Baked angus rib in Chartreuse and wine sauce. Photo By disney_den from flickr.com

The Waterside Inn restaurant – specializes in a traditional approach to food. True, the cuisine is French. The local gastronomic god is named Michel Roux. He and his brother Albert are, for the British, a kind of culinary brothers Grim. Ever since 1967, they have been telling the British and foreigners such fascinating tales that it is impossible to retell. This must be tried. I was told a funny story about Michel Roux. I don’t know if it’s a joke or a true story, decide for yourself. In 1996, President Yeltsin, having visited one of the restaurants of the Roux brothers, decided to invite Michel to his inauguration, so that he would prepare something very tasty for the banquet on such an occasion. And now the English gastro-guru comes and creates a stunningly masterpiece dish, one of his signature dishes: roasted Chalon duck with spices, pickled Chinese lemons, horseradish dumplings and Cabernet Sauvignon sauce. When Yeltsin is informed about what will be served, he suddenly says in surprise: “Let’s have dumplings with horseradish separately for a start! Under vodka. And we’ll see. Understand”.

The Waterside Inn view from the Thames.  by chill from Flickr.com
The Waterside Inn view from the Thames. by chill from Flickr.com

Imagine you are on the banks of the Thames, and for a start you are invited right here, admiring the Thames sunset, to drink an aperitif and get acquainted with the menu. Or maybe even take a boat ride… With champagne and delicious snacks… And only then you pass through a warm hall with a fireplace and find yourself in a restaurant. I took the foie gras with homemade gingerbread flavored with black plums and fresh cranberries. The combination is very strong, invigorating. Promising no less interesting continuation. Actually, The Waterside Inn is sophistication and tradition, crossed in one whole.

Tuna fillet and tuna and scallops marinated in fresh olive oil and Japanese citrus juice "yuzu".  The Waterside Inn, Bray, UK
Tuna fillet and scallops marinated in fresh olive oil and Japanese yuzu citrus juice. The Waterside Inn. Photo: By disney_den from Flickr.com

For example, pike quenelles are complemented with langoustine necks, smoked haddock with poached eggs and dill soufflé. Of course, the priority is the classics. We should also mention The Waterside Inn wine cellar. It contains 750 French wines.

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