French Restaurants in Reading
1. The Vanilla Pod French restaurant in Marlow 31 West St - SL7
Michael Mcdonald’s well-established favourite occupies an intimate room that’s part of a house that was, in days gone by, owned by TS Eliot. Fans continue to say its performance is “consistently excellent in all areas and amazing value”. As well as the à la carte menu, there is also now a five-course tasting option – at £60 per head for seven courses, it’s not punishingly priced by the standards of such offerings and fans say “it’s absolutely brilliant. You've got to go for it!”.
2. The French Horn French restaurant in Sonning-on-Thames
“The setting on the Thames at Sonning Eye is just fantastic, but better still, the quality of the food that comes out of the kitchen is always first class”, according to fans of this long-established and well-known Thames-valley institution, which has been owned by the Emmanuel family since 1972. “If you like formal, this is the place to go”, and while fans acknowledge that “it’s a little pricey”, they feel the investment is “well worth it for special occasions”. As well as its signature duck, spit-roasted over an open fire, it’s “very impressive wine list” is another feature (“we call it ‘The Bible’”).
3. London Street Brasserie British, Modern restaurant in Reading Riverside Oracle, 2 - 4 London Street - RG1
2022 Review: “Reliable cooking with a buzzy atmosphere” makes this 20-year-old city-centre outfit a useful option; it also gives vegans a decent choice of dishes.
4. L’Ortolan French restaurant in Shinfield Church Ln - RG2
A “consistent, high-level performer” – this Grade-II listed Victorian rectory near Reading became a restaurant in 1978 (as the ‘Milton Sandford’) and has held a Michelin star for much of the intervening time… until February 2022 that is. Despite the Tyre Men getting cold feet on the place, the feedback in our annual diners’ poll has remained constant, if not perhaps being as plentiful as it was. “New young chef James Greatorex is innovative, offering very tasty dishes, using seasonal ingredients and a particularly good-value lunch menu”. For some tastes though “the dining room could do with a makeover… it’s starting to show its age a bit”.
5. The Crooked Billet British, Modern restaurant in Stoke Row Newlands Ln - RG9
“Food is the star” at this country pub, owned since 1989 by former musician and self-taught cook Paul Clerehugh (ex-Sweet et al) – although the “outstanding roster of live music” runs a close second and “a handful of people still go there just for a drink outside”. The “heavily carnivorous menu” features “well-cooked seasonal French and English food”, “served in vast portions”.
6. The Crown at Burchetts Green French restaurant in Maidenhead Burchetts Green - SL6
In June 202, Dom Chapman took on this well-known Thames-valley pub (he also owns The Beehive in White Waltham, see also), which had been run by the Bonwick family for the previous nine years. It opened too late for feedback in our annual diners’ poll, but an early report from fooderati insider, Andy Hayler, suggested that Champan will be continuing the high quality of The Beehive and also the Bonwicks’ former regime here: “service… was excellent. Overall, this was a very enjoyable evening, The Crown offering a very appealing menu and generally well-made food. … this is already shaping up to be a charming restaurant, and based on the chef’s track record I expect the food to progress further from this solid start”.
7. The Hand & Flowers French restaurant in Marlow 126 West Street - SL7
“The food is good, but it just feels like he overcharges because he can…” – that’s a middleground opinion on TV-star Tom Kerridge’s Thames Valley phenomenon: a fairly ordinary-feeling old inn on the edge of the town, which catapulted him to fame in 2012 after Michelin (slightly bizarrely) awarded the place not just one but two of its stars (and – partly as a result – it remains in the top-10 most mentioned venues in our annual diners’ poll outside the capital). Supporting the lack-of-value theme, the Hand & Flowers created national tabloid headlines in August 2022 for its highly priced grills (The Sun thundered: ‘TV chef Tom Kerridge defends charging £87 for a steak — by comparing it to a Bentley’). Views have been divided on the virtues of the cooking for years and when you even out the ‘ayes’ and ‘nayes’ it earned slightly better ratings again this year for food that fans say is “brilliant” (“the original Tom Kerridge and the best!”). For a significant majority, though, “it doesn’t seem much different from average pub food” and is “horribly overhyped” and “overpriced beyond anything ever previously experienced”. “Two Michelin stars??? It’s a boozer for heavens’ sake!”.
8. Waterside Inn French restaurant in Bray Ferry Rd - SL6
“Perfection… and in a perfect waterside location” – Alain Roux’s famous Thames-side bastion of haute cuisine (founded by his late father, Michel, in 1972) is “stunning in every sense” and above all for “a long summertime lunch”. Sit on the terrace or hop in the electric launch for your aperitif, before progressing to the comfy if old-fashioned Thames-side dining room, whose romance is enhanced by the “amazing view”. (It is one of the few in the UK to have publicly hosted her late majesty, Queen Elizabeth II). “Sophisticated, classical and luxurious French cuisine” is delivered by “incredibly attentive staff” who “make you feel like it’s their privilege to have you there (as opposed to some other places, where you’re made to feel the privilege is all yours)” – all part of an experience often described as “flawless”. “It is, of course, insanely expensive, so it very much helps if someone else is paying”. But, on practically all accounts, it’s worth the hit to your mortgage: “I just want to eat here again before I die!”
9. Roux at Skindles French restaurant in Taplow Taplow Riverside, Mill Lane - SL6
“Roux family favourites in a superb setting by river – and at reasonable prices”: no, we’re not talking about the exalted Waterside Inn, but its casual spin-off a couple of miles along the Thames, created by Alain and his late father Michel Roux senior in 2017, on the site of a famous old hotel, recreating a neighbourhood family brasserie in France. The result is “very impressive” – and relatively speaking wallet-friendly.
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