LONG before England shed its unsavoury and well-deserved image as a gastronomic backwater, a handful of high-quality restaurants stood out like beacons in the culinary gloom. Chief among them was The Waterside Inn, which offers old-school, perfectly-executed French cooking in an unbeatable setting beside the Thames River, just outside London in the tiny village of Bray.
The restaurant, started in 1972 by owner and culinary legend Michel Roux (who together with his brother Albert founded the equally famous Le Gavroche in London's Mayfair district in 1967), has held three Michelin stars since 1985. Michel's son Alain is now in residence in the kitchen and puts his own modernist stamp on the cuisine, while many of papa's signature classics have remained on the menu for much of the past three decades.
Duck confit set at the base of a jellied pyramid and topped with a poached quail's egg (top); caviar and a chocolate mousse flavoured with caramel, mango and passion fruit sorbet
When he is not busy helping to spread the Waterside Inn name across the globe, Michel Roux senior still supervises operations from a corner of the kitchen. Today, he begins a five-day stint at the Gordon Grill, and diners can look forward to a culinary experience par excellence.
During a recent meal at The Waterside Inn, BT sampled several of the dishes that will be featured on the menu in Singapore. A divine opener of duck confit, set at the base of a jellied pyramid and topped with a poached quail's egg and a dollop of oscietra caviar, was devised by Alain Roux and qualifies as a prime example of the restaurant's seemingly routine ability to create edible art.
This was followed by a perfect summer dish - juicy morsels of Cornish crab with langoustine tails, served on a mango salad mint salsa. Then came a Michel Roux classic - pan-fried lobster medallion, simply presented with a white port sauce and ginger-flavoured vegetable julienne. It's been on the menu at The Waterside Inn for over 20 years and thankfully, there are no plans to remove it anytime soon.
The meat course comprised grilled rabbit fillets, served on a celeriac fondant with glazed chestnuts and Armagnac sauce, while dessert came in the form of a chocolate mousse dome flavoured with caramel, mango and passion fruit sorbet.
'Our food is based on French classical cuisine, but it's much lighter and it has got the family twist,' says Alain Roux. A visit to the Gordon Grill will provide more than an inkling of what he means. After that, anyone thinking of making a pilgrimage to the restaurant itself should plan on staying overnight in a nearby riverside cottage owned by the inn - it's the ideal complement to a memorable culinary experience.
The Waterside Inn is at Ferry Road, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AT.