Why this English village is perfect for a luxury hotel break
If your dream getaway is shaped around excellent food, Bray should be right at the top of your wish list. This 16th-century village has six Michelin stars spread across just 300 yards – and two more if you cast your net just slightly further. Here’s our guide to the top culinary experiences Bray has to offer (and how to while away the hours between them).
WORK UP AN APPETITE
Get your bearings by exploring this historic Berkshire village on foot. Set beside the Thames, Bray is full of pretty medieval buildings and Tudor-revival cottages, with their distinctive white walls and black timbers. Drop into St. Michael’s Church to see intriguing memorial plaques which date from the 14th century, etched with images of noble knights and their families.
If you’re in the mood for a longer walk, pick up the Thames Path from Bray Lock. The route towards Maidenhead takes you past large riverside houses known as ‘Millionaires Row’ and under historic bridges.
FLAVOURS OF FRANCE
Bray’s reputation for gastronomic greatness began in 1972 when legendary chefs Michel and Albert Roux acquired the Waterside Inn. They turned the traditional pub into a must-visit location for classic French cooking, gaining their first Michelin star in 1974. Another soon followed and it picked up its landmark third star in 1986 – making it the only restaurant in the UK to have held three stars for over 30 years.
Today, people continue to flock to the Waterside Inn for exceptional French cuisine, with the kitchen now under the leadership of Michel’s son, master patissiere Alain Roux. With a relaxed atmosphere and beautiful setting on the river, lunch or dinner here is an essential ingredient of any boutique break to Bray. Booking opens three months in advance.
A ROYAL DAY OUT
Walk in the footsteps of kings and queens at Windsor Castle, which is just a short drive from Bray. A favoured home to English royals since the 11th century, the castle recently hit international headlines as the setting for Prince Harry and Meghan Markles’ wedding. Take a romantic stroll of your own through Windsor Great Park, with its ancient forests, manicured gardens and views of the towers and turrets in the distance.
CLASSIC BRITISH CUISINE
In Bray, an evening at a classic English pub needn’t mean dining on pickled eggs and pork scratchings. Cosy up in the Royal Oak for seasonal British produce that’s as good with a pint of real ale as something from the wine list.
Or make for the Hind’s Head, which has been welcoming hungry and weary travellers since the 1400s. Run by Heston Blumenthal, the chef behind the famed Fat Duck (more on this below), the inn celebrates its roots with dishes drawn from historical recipe books – alongside more contemporary creations.
Both pubs hold a Michelin star, so book ahead for popular weekend evenings.
AROUND THE RIVERBEND
Boating is a way of life on the River Thames – so why not spend a few hours out on the water? Sail the river’s twists and turns from Bray. Or canoe or kayak out from marinas such as Windsor and Henley. If you’re visiting in July, dress to impress and sip champagne as you watch rowing teams compete at Henley Royal Regatta.
A SENSORY ADVENTURE
Sharing three-star billing with the Waterside Inn is Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. Known for his wildly innovative, molecular approach to cooking, Heston has pioneered everything from sweet and savoury ice cream to the comparatively humble triple-cooked chip.
With past dishes including drinks that manage to be hot and cold at the same time, and ‘Mock-turtle soup’ inspired by Alice in Wonderland, expect a meal at his famous restaurant to be anything but ordinary. Tickets are released on the first Wednesday of the month, for the month four months ahead (e.g Tickets released in June 2018 are for reservations in October 2018).
YOUR BRAY LUXURY HOTEL
Continue the indulgence at Monkey Island, a newly renovated boutique hotel with a fascinating past. This private island on the Thames was bought by the Duke of Marlborough in the 18th century, who built an elaborate fishing lodge here. A hotel since 1840 and popular with royalty, writers and stage stars into the 1900s, many features of the Duke’s original Pavilion and Temple buildings remain today.