This airy waterside brasserie provides hearty food alongside a extensive winelist
Review by Sophie Aghdami
If cooking seems like an oar deal next time, make sure you pop along and enjoy a hearty classic meal at the Riverside Brasserie. Port and starboard, or Pimm’s and a cheeseboard? With the summer boating season positively in full swing it seemed apt to visit the rather majestic Bray Marina to test-drive the Riverside Brasserie – apparently rather well known in the boating community.
A very close friend lives on a boat and after many trips aboard London Adventure, I’m very aware that, despite the more modern than imagined facilities, they are somewhat restrictive. Albeit we’ve cooked well (excluding the time we may have almost set the boat on fire by putting a pizza box in the oven) it’s not quite the same as having a full kitchen. With that in mind coming across a place like Riverside Brasserie is naturally a delight (and perhaps somewhat a relief) to the boating community.
Bray Marina is huge – with berths for up to 400 boats – and, after a long drive down the path, we arrive at Riverside Brasserie, which as its name suggests sits on the edge of the Thames. There is a large terrace at the front of the restaurant, which looks as if it would be absolutely stunning in the sunshine (it was raining when I visited) and bedecked with tables and chairs where it’s possible to have full restaurant service during summer. Private events can also be booked there and that’s definitely something I can imagine doing myself at some point as it’s a really amazing spot.
One whole side of the restaurant is pure glass windows to make the most of the views and naturel light. The inside of the restaurant is small and perfectly formed in an open plan set up including the kitchen. On mostly round tables the clientele range from (what look like) regulars to a large group here for a special occasion.
We chose a table with a great view of the terrace and beyond as well in a spot to keep an excited eye on the action in the open plan kitchen. My slight obsession of being hooked to watching the action in this style kitchen is like a teenager is with watching Big Brother. I’m not entirely sure what I expect might happen but blame Gordon Ramsay for my hope for some sort extraordinary event to occur (for the record, the brigade worked, impressively, almost silently and very professionally).
Service is wonderful here – professional but unobtrusive (as we like it!) and as soon as we arrive the ambience is warm and friendly with a gentle buzz of chatter from guests and chefs at work. Water, bread and olives arrive very quickly and we’re left to peruse the food and wine menus.
On to the food…
We were here for dinner, but River Brasserie also serves breakfast, lunch and light afternoon tea. The dinner menu consists of seven starters and seven mains, most of which I would categorise as classic (can I say safe?) dishes. There are also eight sides to choose from.
For starter I chose the chicken liver parfait, fig chutney and toasted brioche, which came as a very generous portion and tasted lovely. I would have eaten the whole thing but only managed half of it as my stomach reminded me there was more to come. The other starter was smoked mackerel pate, toasted bread and fresh lemon: that too came plentiful and tasted good. My dining partner in crime ate the whole thing but did mention it was a shame that there were piths still in the lemon – a minor point but a valid one.
The main course was pan-fried duck breast, wilted greens, baby onions and red wine jus. The meat was delicious and a real treat but what I loved most was the vegetables bathing in that unctuous and rich sauce. Calves liver, cured bacon, mash and caramelised onions was good – a treat as my dining partner hadn’t had it for so long and it’s a favourite. We were really looking forward to our triple cooked chips – perhaps the fact that we were in such close proximity to The Fat Duck raised the expectation slightly – but were sadly disappointed due to the potato soldiers being undercooked and not the ultra crispy clouds of goodness we’d hoped.
The food so far had been very rich but we had to try pudding and opted for passion fruit panna cotta: a fresh and citrusy end to the meal.
It should be pointed out that there is a cracking wine list and we enjoyed an excellent glass each of the reds – the Malbec and Pinot Noir were superb. I’m not sure what the drink drive regulations are on a boat but as most of them seem to be moored up I’m sure the boaters are well watered in this marina especially with a bottle of good house red starting at under £20. Down the hatch as they say.
Overall with a few of my favourite restaurants just around the corner from there, it’s tricky to say whether it’s worth another specific visit, but if boating along the Thames I would ensure a stop off for a hearty meal (and glass of that gorgeous Malbec!) in lovely surroundings. As a destination for boaters I think Riverside Brasserie is definitely worth a visit and I know lots of them that dine there regularly, filling themselves up to the brim before moving on down the river. Perhaps it’s a good meal and few bottles of the good red stuff there that explain the slightly slaloming boats with big grinned captains, singing further downstream.
Enquiries: Riverside Brasserie, Bray Marina, Monkey Island Lane, Bray, Berkshire, SL6 2EB/ 01628 780 553/ www.riversidebrasserie.com