When you’re in the Thames Valley you’re never far away from a good meal, but visitors to the region may not know that the Michelin guide thinks so too – and the Thames Valley boasts an astonishing ten eateries beloved by the august publication’s inspectors.
Let Exclusively Thames Valley be your guide on a gastronomic journey around the region’s star-studded establishments.
The Waterside Inn, Bray – Nestling on the banks of the Thames, in the charming 16th century village of Bray, this delightful ‘restaurant with rooms’ has been serving inspirational French cuisine since 1972. It is one of only four three-star restaurants in the UK. Run by the legendary Roux family, the highly praised menu has been described as “mouthful after mouthful of pure quality.” The private dining room offers small groups the chance to experience the exceptional cuisine and world-class service in comfort and style.
The Fat Duck Bray – There must be something in the air in Bray, as both of the three-star restaurants outside London are in the tiny Berkshire village. Famed as the home of “molecular gastronomy”, this is where Heston Blumenthal and his crew of culinary magicians have brought the world snail porridge and bacon-and-egg ice-cream. Those lucky enough to dine here experience cutting-edge cuisine that dazzles the senses and delights the mind as well as the tastebuds.
The Hand & Flowers, Marlow – Chef Tom Kerridge’s dream was to bring Michelin-quality food to a country pub, and boy did he succeed! As the Michelin editor put it: “Tom’s cooking has risen to new heights. His dishes are sophisticated yet familiar, and are a perfect match for the relaxed surroundings of his charming pub.” Combining innovation and tradition with cooking of exceptional precision and quality, an afternoon spent here is well worth the long waiting list for a table.
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxford – Described as “a twist of imaginative genius”, Raymond Blanc’s dishes use the freshest, best-quality ingredients. In the surroundings of a country house hotel that takes the breath away, the two-acre kitchen garden produces 90 types of vegetables and 70 varieties of herbs. The hotel’s wine cellar is home to around 1,000 different wines from around the world, with around 60% of French provenance. Take your seat at one of the best restaurants in Oxfordshire, and anticipate a culinary experience that you will treasure forever.
L’Ortolan, Reading – The elegant listed building that houses L’Ortolan has been home to a handful of world-class Michelin starred chefs since it evolved from rectory to restaurant some 37 years ago. The rich culinary history is still entwined with the L’Ortolan experience as traditional values and classic flavour combinations mix with contemporary menus and a relaxed, friendly vibe. The popular midweek menus and lunchtime offers are great value for an anytime treat. Sommeliers are on hand to recommend exquisite wine pairings to heighten the enjoyment of your dining experience.
Sir Charles Napier Inn, Chinnor – This is an Inn that just brims over with character, and one that just happens to serve some of the best food in the county, as well as having the best grounds. The perfect halfway house between urban-floorboard gastropub and charming country ale house.
The Woodspeen Restaurant, Newbury – Opened in October 2014, The Woodspeen restaurant is set in the beautiful west Berkshire countryside near Newbury. They serve seasonal food, sourced locally wherever possible, and in some cases grown by them, right here in the gardens. With friendly service, exceptional food, stylish bar and a light, airy restaurant, a warm welcome awaits you at The Woodspeen.
The Royal Oak, Maidenhead – Behind the smart black and white frontage lies a warm and stylish 17th century pub. Once inside the beamed ceilings, wooden floors and friendly welcome soon confirm you’re in the right place. The Royal Oak is a Michelin-star pub serving great British food cooked to perfection. The extensive wine list boasts some impressive titles and offers something to suit all palates and purses – but rest assured; they haven’t forgotten how to pull a good pint!
The Crown, Maidenhead – Even though it shares a name with traditional Crown at Bray, this Michelin-star winner brings the Thames Valley a touch of la belle France rather than country pub. The personality of the owners shine through, with an intensely personal choice of menu choices. “Whatever makes me laugh and whatever makes me happy is what you’ll find on the menu,” says chef Dean, whose previous employers have included the Waterside Inn at Bray (see above) and Les Pres de Eugenie in France.
The Hinds Head, Bray – Another addition to Bray’s roster of Michelin winners, this 15th-century pub is located just five minutes from Maidenhead. The menu at The Hinds Head offers a selection of traditional British cuisine and, in keeping with the history of the building, Heston Blumenthal has been working closely with the Tudor kitchen at Hampton Court Palace in a bid to re-introduce historic British dishes like Hash of Snails, Oxtail and Kidney Pudding made with real suet pastry and Wassailing.
The Wild Rabbit, Kingham – Built of classic Cotswold stone, the Wild Rabbit began its life as Conygree Farm (the name being an Anglo-Saxon term for a rabbit enclosure.) Surrounded by gorgeous Oxfordshire countryside, the pub calls on local suppliers to provide only the freshest produce, which it turns into Michelin-winning dishes. And if you fancy a doze after your meal, the beautifully furnished guest rooms are the perfect place to make a weekend break of it.