Bray village may be tiny, but when it comes to food, this sleepy Berkshire village is a titan! Boasting seven Michelin stars in total – including two of Britain’s five three-Michelin-star restaurants – it’s made for people who take their food seriously. And Plum Cottage is nestled between The Fat Duck and The Hind’s Head!
Don’t expect anything ordinary at three-Michelin star The Fat Duck, but a culinary “itinerary”, as Heston Blumenthal’s menu proclaims, that will take you into a gastronomic journey tracing a British childhood day out. Around fifteen courses reflect Blumenthal’s nostalgia for his younger years, among them his now famous ‘The Sound of the Sea’. Diners are presented with seafood served on a glass box filled with sand, and a seashell containing an iPod and headphones. The idea is to eat while listening to the sound of gently crashing waves, transporting diners back to a childhood day at the beach. Guests are asked in advance about their own childhood memories and the kitchen creates personalised dishes accordingly.
The legendary Waterside Inn has been serving Michelin starred French cuisine since 1974 and has held three stars since 1985. Chef-patron and pastry maestro Alain Roux, who was handed the reins by his father Michel in 2002, produces the most delicate veloutes, rich jus and technically perfect desserts. The restaurant perches right on the river and boasts sublime views – you could almost dip your toes in the water while you sip your aperitif. Service is impeccable and Le Menu Exceptionnel is an excellent way to sample the best of the kitchen.
The Hind’s Head, Blumenthal’s picturesque 15th century former coaching inn, adds another one Michelin star to his crown. Like the Fat Duck, it benefits from a recent makeover, and with low beams, wood panelling and fireplaces, paired with velvet thrones and eccentric taxidermy, it creates a partly surreal atmosphere.
The food is more laid back than at the Fat Duck – there is something for everyone on the à la carte including shepherd’s pie made with lamb belly, and apple and blackberry crumble. But other plates are innovative and bear the unmistakable Blumenthal signature, like lapsang souchong tea-smoked salmon, and quaking pudding (a modern take on a medieval English baked custard).
If you’ve forgotten to make a reservation, or just prefer to play it by ear, The Hind’s Head have a Lounge & Bar upstairs available for walk-ins. They serve smaller dishes including their Scotch egg and other classic dishes.
The Lounge & Bar is open from Wednesday - Sunday
Mention Plum Cottages, as The Hind’s Head have very kindly agreed to give our guests a 10% discount.
No longer in Heston’s ownership but part of the Bray family of eateries is The Crown, a more relaxed 16thC pub with a huge marquee covered garden. Here you can start your meal with a pint at the bar or pull up a chair in front of the fire. There are no Michelin stars here, just traditional pub fare cooked in an exceptional way.
While Heston and the Roux family tend to take the limelight at Bray, Giancarlo Caldesi and his wife Katie have quietly established a reputation for excellent Italian food at Caldesi in Campagna which the couple opened in 2007. (They also run the Caffe Caldesi bar and restaurant in London’s Marylebone). The menu is heaving with authentic Italian ingredients but the kitchen uses local, too, wherever possible.
It’s worth the drive to Marlow to sample some of Tom Kerridge’s equally delicious food. The Hand and Flowers is the only two Michelin Starred pub in the UK and serves delicious, rich and award winning food in welcoming and comfortable surroundings.
Tom Kerridge’s other eatery, also in Marlow, and now open Wednesday to Sunday with bookings taken on the day, for the day, is The Coach, serving one Michelin starred food under the leadership of chef Tom de Keyser, in a relaxed and friendly pub environment. The Coach is well worth a visit!
For a light snack lunch or supper which can be eaten in or taken away, we would highly recommend Tom Kerridge’s third establishment in Marlow, The Butcher’s Tap and Grill, serving delicious snacks and having an amazing butcher’s selection which can be bought for home cooking or grilled for you, this Deli with a professional Kitchen attached is hard to beat!
If you insist on doing other things in the area besides eating, there’s plenty of choice!
Although there is some traffic on the road a little stroll through the village of Bray is well worth a try. You can stop in at the little bakery which sells delicious treats from Cornwall and work your way down to the riverfront at The Waterside Inn! Further afield you could jump in the car to try these wonderful locations.
The 184-mile trail next to the Thames passes through the riverside graveyard of All Saints’ Church in Marlow and promises delightful scenery whether you head upriver towards Henley or down to Maidenhead. The 18th-century Hambleden Mill and its accompanying lock are a joy, while within seconds of leaving Marlow you can look back and admire the church spire, bridge and yachts moored on the north bank.
Immediately north of Marlow the countryside becomes hilly as you enter the Chilterns, a 46-mile escarpment running diagonally from Oxfordshire to Bedfordshire. At Marlow you don’t need a car to enter this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as there are two circular walks beginning right in the town and beckoning you into this landscape of rolling hills and beech forest.
Explore 4800 acres of sweeping parkland, award-winning gardens, ancient woodland and forest trails. There is something for everyone within Windsor Great Park, at any time of year and while the queen still rides her own horses through the park there’s always the chance of a royal encounter!
There are some fabulous days out in the area, and these are some of the things that we love doing.
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and offers an extraordinarily rich and varied day out. The Queen spends most of her private weekends at the Castle, which is also used regularly for ceremonial and State occasions.
This beautiful theatre has gained a reputation for the quality of its productions and is currently one of Britain's leading theatres. Its repertoire is wide, ranging from the classics and traditional pantomime to first productions of new work some of which subsequently transfer to the West End.
Designed by Sir Charles Barry, architect of the Houses of Parliament and Cliveden, this is considered to be one of the finest Jacobethan homes still in existence. Interest in Highclere Castle has soared in recent years, after it was used as the main filming location for the award-winning period drama Downton Abbey.
Ascot Racecourse is synonymous with quality, excellence and a truly memorable day out. The highlight of the year is Royal Ascot in June with five days of tradition, pageantry and style. Outside of Royal Ascot, spectacular racing takes place throughout the year with each raceday offering a unique theme and atmosphere.
Dorney Court is one of England's finest stately homes. It is a Grade 1 listed building, renowned for its architectural importance and historical significance, and any visit is a fascinating and unique experience.
The Savill Garden is one of Britain's greatest ornamental gardens. It never fails to charm visitors who come to explore its 35 acres of contemporary and classically designed gardens and exotic woodland.
The village of Hambledon is well worth a visit for it’s chocolate box charm and unspoilt character. Often used for the filming of quintessentially English drama such as Midsomer Murders, a tour of the oldest English vineyard established in 1952 would make a great day trip.
Is an equally unspoilt and charming country village and for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fanatics, the neighbouring parish of Ibstone houses the Cobstone Windmill, visible high on the hill and the location of Caractacus Potts’ home and wonderful inventions in the film!
Basildon Park is an impressive Georgian mansion, surrounded by glorious parkland and furnished elegantly with 18th century architectural fixtures and fittings. It is another National Trust property.
The countryside between Marlow and Windsor is amazingly pretty, taking in country houses, quaint old locks and historic bridges.
From July to September the boat company, Salter’s Steamers schedules a regular service from Marlow to Windsor on Mondays. You’ll float past the historic wharf at Spade Oak, the wooded grounds of Cliveden, the cute Ray Mill Island, an extraordinary railway bridge in Maidenhead designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the majestic pavilions of the Monkey Island Estate.
For river enthusiasts it’s possible to rent a variety of boats for local river excursions on the Thames between Windsor and Maidenhead.
Have a look at the following two companies to book a memorable day out:
Bray Lake Watersports boasts a 50 acre stretch of water dedicated to the use of watersports and is also home to one of the longest running windsurfing centres in the country. Windsurfing, sailing, paddle boarding and children’s activities are all available and the centre is only 2 miles from Plum Cottage.
Only five miles down the Thames from Marlow is Cliveden. Cliveden is a National Trust park framing an 19th-century Italianate mansion designed by Charles Barry the architect of the Houses of Parliament and later owned by Nancy Astor, our first female MP.
Relax in the splendour of Cliveden's stunning gardens and explore the peaceful woodlands and Thames riverbank. Discover the delightfully colourful gardens with miles of walks and breathtaking views as well as a giant maze that will entertain all ages.
The house is now a luxury hotel, but you can pop in for 30-minute tours to hear about illustrious residents or visitors like Nancy Astor, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin.
One of England’s most cherished 20th century painters, Stanley Spencer was born in the village of Cookham in 1891, studied nearby in Maidenhead and died in Cliveden. After he passed away in 1959 a gallery to his career was set up in the very chapel where he had worshipped as a child. The Stanley Spencer Gallery has a reserve of more than 100 paintings, which it displays in season exhibitions. Check the website as the gallery organises regular talks and a walking tour along paths that Spencer walked to visit his local patrons.
Only founded in 2000, Marlow’s annual regatta takes place in June, two weeks before the more famous festival at Henley a couple of miles up the Thames. The president of the event is Steve Redgrave. Rowing events take place on the Saturday, with Marlow’s handsome bridge in the background. The regatta is a ticketed fundraising event, with racing in three divisions beginning at 08:00, 11:00 and 15:00. And as the regatta is a chance for people to dress up, there’s a strict dress code from 11:00 to 18:00 on the Saturday, although this is relaxed in the evening when there’s live music.