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“A gorgeous aspect overlooking the river… perfect for a sunny Sunday or bank holiday lunch” creates a picture-book English scene at this Thames-valley fixture, just over the bridge from lovely Sonning. Known for its “outstanding duck, which roasts in an open fire” this “old-fashioned and traditional restaurant” is, say fans, “always a delight” and backed up by a heavyweight wine list too. Caveats? – “while the food is above average, it’s not a show-stopper”, and the occasional cynic feels that “the setting is so idyllic it is understandable that they squeeze you for every penny”.
This “archetypal English restaurant” in a “very romantic setting” has been run “to the highest standards” by two generations of the Emmanuel family for almost 50 years. Distinguished by its “roaring log fires” (used to roast the signature dish of duck), it sits on the Thames “with sweeping lawns down to the river”, just over the bridge from the desirable village of Sonning, home to the Clooneys and Theresa May. There’s a “phenomenal and extensive wine list”, and “the food is pretty good too” – although it tends to be rather overshadowed by this very traditional operation’s other virtues.
“A stunning setting, overlooking beautifully manicured gardens and with the River Thames at the bottom of it (some guests arrive by boat)” sets a gorgeous tone at this well-known, long-established Thames-sider, whose old-school style carries through into “a carpeted and curtained dining room with gentle acoustics, very comfortable chairs and generously sized tables, starched linen tablecloths and napkins, and formal (but friendly) service to match”. “Wonderful duck roasting in front of the fire in the small entrance lounge” is the famous highlight of the “classic Anglo/French fare”, whose performance is – at the not inconsiderable price – somewhere between “patchy” and mostly good.
“Old fashioned but still worth a visit” – this unreformed ’70s survivor occupies a “wonderful location” on the Thames, and its dining room is “maintained to a high standard”. When it comes to the old-school victuals, “first-class ingredients are prepared with no fuss, and there’s an extraordinary wine list, with prices below auction prices for first growths of a few years ago.”
Now a restaurant with rooms, it has been run by the Emmanuel family since 1972, when it was bought by restaurateurs Ronnie and Carole Emmanuel. The French Horn is now run by their son and daughter, Michael and Elaine. Michael trained in Lyon under Paul Bocuse and in Mougins under Roger Verge.
He and Elaine then opened a restaurant in London which was awarded with a prestigious Michelin star.
Michael and Elaine’s great-grandfather was an oysterman in Whitstable. His son, Bernard Walsh, moved to London and opened Wheelers, the famous fish restaurant, which later expanded to a number of seafood restaurants across the capital.
Bernard’s daughter Carole carried on the family food tradition by training in Paris and then at La Pyramide in Vienne. Her husband, Ronnie Emmanuel, took over Wheelers, while Carole bought The French Horn. The family have also owned oyster beds in Colchester and lobster fisheries in Scotland; and they bring their understanding of seafood to The French Horn’s menu
The family’s passions for fresh ingredients and French cooking can be felt in every dish that comes from The French Horn’s kitchens. This combined with Michael’s skills at developing a splendid wine cellar make dining at The French Horn a real pleasure.
|Wine per bottle||£36.50|
Our Head Chef – Josiane Diaga
Josiane Diaga has cooked in many of the best Michelin-starred restaurants in London (including The Waldorf) and in France (The Hotel Negresco in Nice); and prior to joining us was Head Chef at a prestigious restaurant in America.
Josiane has the French passion for using the best seasonal produce. She always cooks with the diner in mind, never losing sight of their enjoyment; and she truly understands how to get the best from her ingredients, sourcing delicacies throughout the year.
Sonning-on-Thames, RG4 6TN
|Monday||12 pm‑2 pm, 7 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Tuesday||12 pm‑2 pm, 7 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Wednesday||12 pm‑2 pm, 7 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Thursday||12 pm‑2 pm, 7 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Friday||12 pm‑2 pm, 7 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Saturday||12 pm‑2 pm, 7 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Sunday||12 pm‑2 pm, 7 pm‑9 pm|