French Restaurants in Berkshire
1. The French Horn French restaurant in Sonning-on-Thames
“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”.
2. Rennaisant French restaurant in Bagnor High Street - RG20
Opened on the site of The Blackbird (RIP) in September 2021, a new fine dining restaurant from the same chef, Dom Robinson, who will continue to cook the classic French cuisine that made the previous incarnation so popular; during lockdown, Robinson ran a pop-up outdoor dining restaurant called Pizza Paloma here, which may continue in some form as well.
3. Waterside Inn French restaurant in Bray Ferry Rd - SL6
“From the moment you arrive, and someone comes to take your car away, you don’t have to think” at Alain Roux’s legendary destination (est 1972), which remains one of the most commented-on restaurants in the UK (and one of the few that has regularly been graced by Her Majesty over the years). It enjoys an “idyllic”, supremely “romantic” location on the Thames, with the option of drinks on the terrace in fine weather, or a quick tootle in the restaurant’s private launch before you eat. WIth large windows facing the water, the dining room itself is very comfortable, and most reporters adore its “old-fashioned” style (although it’s undeniably a little bit of a “time warp”). The “impeccable”, slightly “formal” service is in keeping with the setting, although – while it’s still extremely highly rated – has perhaps lost a hint of its sparkle since the retirement last year of long-term maitre d’, Diego Masciaga. “Classic” Gallic gastronomy comes “with a subtle modern twist” and on practically all accounts is “exceptional from start to finish”. But it also comes at “crazy prices” naturellement, and – in the relatively few cases that reports fall short of rapture – the gripe is typically that the “eye-watering bill and very old-school approach make it hard to understand the fuss” (but then, complaints like this have been knocking about for the last 30 years…)
4. The Crown French restaurant in Maidenhead Burchetts Green - SL6
Simon Bonwick’s acclaimed 20-seater pub is a family-run venture where often all front of house are from the clan: a feature whose “impact is clear from the moment you enter, with the warm and friendly greeting, followed through in terms of attentive service and an atmosphere more like a cosy home than a restaurant”. The cuisine takes a classic gastronomic approach, with “a short and punchy menu providing four or five options each for starter, main and dessert”. Results are splendid, and even those who feel it’s “a touch on the pricey side (with mains around £30)” feel “it’s money better spent than other poor meals for half the cost”.
5. L’Ortolan French restaurant in Shinfield Church Ln - RG2
“This beautiful house on the outskirts of Reading is still a favourite for a special meal” – an impressive old vicarage that many reporters are lucky enough to visit regularly. “Chef Tom Clarke has made this restaurant his own” and there’s a feeling of “relaxed attention to detail at all levels, with warm and friendly staff, plus beautifully judged cooking”. The “wonderful tasting menu” features in many reports, as does the “fantastic chef’s table”: “when you see the kitchen, it’s like a well-oiled machine”.
6. Gilbey’s British, Modern restaurant in Eton 82 - 83 High Street - SL4
The cuisine is “somewhere between modern British and French in looks and taste”, and reliably – if not perhaps dazzlingly – executed at this comfortable stalwart, on the high street near the bridge. As befits a venue owned by the gin dynasty, the wine list is worth a nose – “if possible sleep off the after-effects in one of the super bedrooms above” (which opened a couple of years ago).
7. London Street Brasserie British, Modern restaurant in Reading Riverside Oracle, 2 - 4 London Street - RG1
The “best thing in central Reading” (not to dismiss the city’s charms naturally) – this “unexpected gem” enjoys a “wonderful location” in an eighteenth century tollhouse, and the food is “interesting” and “well-cooked” to boot.
8. The Pot Kiln Game restaurant in Frilsham Yattendon Estate - RG18
Reopened in September 2019 after a period of closure – complete with guest rooms, new kitchen, restaurant extension and game cookery school – this well-known pub won renown for its game cooking under former proprietor Michael Robinson. Nowadays run, with much of the same team, by his ex-wife, Katie Robinson, we would hazard a guess that its new incarnation will continue the good points it had of old, including its well-kept beer and beautiful large garden in summer.
9. The Dog & Badger French restaurant in Medmenham Henley Road - SL7
This Thames-side restaurant-with-rooms in the village of Medmenham was supposed to be the next home of Henry Harris, of Racine fame (RIP), however the chef quit his post as chef-patron before the launch in July 2016 over 'artistic differences'. As well as a bar and dining room with 450-bin wine list, the venue has six luxurious suites, set inside a neighbouring Grade-II listed cottage (formerly an alehouse), opened at the end of May 2016.
10. Roux at Skindles French restaurant in Taplow Taplow Riverside, Mill Lane - SL6
A brasserie-style restaurant from Michel and Alain Roux, within a new waterside residential complex in Taplow (on the former site of Skindles hotel). The venture will be overseen by Alain Roux, chef-patron at nearby Bray's “absolutely impeccable” Waterside Inn.
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