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Nearby Bray offers up a Michelin star-packed foodie’s paradise.
Just down the road from the Queen, Maidenhead is a chi-chi commuter town just west of London and right next door to Windsor. As commuter towns go, this one’s more than a little upmarket, thanks to its location by the Thames (a palatial riverside pile here will set you back a cool £1.2 million), and its proximity to some of the best restaurants in the country.
Maidenhead is surrounded by the kind of eateries Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon squabbled their way through in The Trip – gourmet grub served up in quaint little market towns populated by wealthy London ex-pats. But what grub! With more Michelin stars than you can shake a stick at, get ready to loosen your belt a notch as we take you on a gastronomic tour. Oh, and don’t forget your credit card; this one’s going to be pricey…
Staying somewhere central like the HI Maidenhead means you’ll be 15 minutes on the train from Reading, 25 minutes on the train from London, and right slap bang in the middle of this curiously delicious part of the country. From Maidenhead, head just two miles south for Bray, or Gourmet-on-Thames, as it’s now known in foodie circles.
On Bray High Street lies an unimposing little place called The Fat Duck. The brainchild of chef/genius/madman Heston Blumenthal, it opened in 1995 and has gone on to become one of only four restaurants in the UK to boast three-count-em-three Michelin stars (and two of them are in Bray). Restaurant magazine awarded it Best Restaurant in the World status in 2005, it’s been voted Best Restaurant in the UK in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, retaining a maximum 10 out of 10 in the Good Food Guide. So, you get the picture.
The Fat Duck sets out to play with food, and play with your mind in the process. The term ‘molecular gastronomy’ gets bandied about, and although Heston doesn’t like the term, it sums up what The Fat Duck does pretty well. Experimenting with food, and with diner’s senses, as he borrows dinner party tips from the decadent Ancient Romans, Heston sets out to make food a glorious, and delicious, spectacle once more. Signature dishes that have emerged from his kitchen laboratory include snail porridge, pommery grain mustard ice cream, salmon poached in liquorice gel with vanilla mayonnaise, and sardine on toast sorbet. The truly mindboggling taster menu will set you back £180 per person.
While you’re here, you can pop next door for a pint (and some significantly cheaper eats), to Heston’s more relaxed Hinds Head pub. This 15th century inn once played host to Prince Phillip’s stag party, trivia fans, and now it is home to some of the best gastropub grub in the country. Serving up nibbles like devils on horseback for £1.95 and Scotch eggs for £2.95, it’s a great way to try a taste of Blumenthal without having to sell you car and children first. It’ll come as no surprise to learn that it was named Michelin’s Pub of the Year in 2011.
If you’ve got room for more while you’re in Bray, you’ll also find the restaurant that started all of the fuss in the first place. The Waterside Inn was established in 1972 by the renowned Roux brothers, Michel and Albert, following the success of their legendary Le Gavroche eatery in Mayfair. Now run by Michel’s son Alain, in 2010 the restaurant became the only establishment outside of France to have retained its three Michelin star status for over 25 years.
With its picturesque Thames-side location, and the finest Gallic cuisine this side of the Channel, fine dining simply doesn’t get any better. Their tasting menu is £147.50 per head, while their three-course lunch menu is a snip at £58 per person, Wednesday to Saturday.
And for a great value, convenient accommodation option in the maidenhead area, consider the Holiday Inn Maidenhead hotel.
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