Monday, April 28, 2008

Riverside Brasserie Review

This particular review is getting on for 7 months old now. I found the bare bones of it lingering unfinished in a notepad file imaginatively called 'blog', so decided to apply a smudge of polish, and hopefully a drop of publicity to one of my favourite restaurants.

Heston Blumenthal is famous for his innovative and experimental approach to food. His restaurant, the Fat Duck (, in Bray has three Michelin Stars and features a kitchen laboratory kitted out with a fully functional mass spectrometer, particle accelerator, and batcave. Being something of the man with the pan in Bray, he also owns two more modest establishments: the Hinds Head pub ( and the Riverside Brasserie (

Mrs Jiffler and I are in the process of walking the length of the thames path, bit by bit, year by year, and the Riverside Brasserie just so happens to be en route. Well sort of. Its on the side of the Thames opposite the path, so without a boat we made an interesting detour of several miles, via the village of Bray. At least this allowed us to poke our noses in the window of the Fat Duck (full of wankers in pinstripes having lunch), sniff the strange licorice smell lingering outside, and have a swift half in the Hinds Head.

Arriving late at the Riverside wasn't a problem for front of house, who made a fuss of us and asked us about the walk. Our trainers and t-shirts didn't raise an eyebrow, and our hosts brought out a jug of iced tap water (didn't have to ask) and a selection of fantastic breads revive us a little.

Its a funny sort of place, still a functioning marina, so you get the odd boater pulling up for a coffee. Dining is informal, but some of the other punters had a bit of a 'Howards Way' kind of vibe. Not in the rhyming slang sense, but in the 80s TV series sense. Its refreshingly unpretentious though.

A bottle of decent merlot for £15? Now we're talking. I took on a coarse pork terrine with a bright zinging homemade piccallily on the side, while Mrs Jiffler went for a rich lobe of foie gras with cherries and a little fringe of salad. Both where marvellous, although I had to help Mrs Jiffler out with the foie gras as it was a generous portion.

Mrs Jiffler predictably went for seabass, which came tip-of-the-knife flakey with buttery mash also receiving a double thumbs-up. My rib eye came perfectly rare with a cog of roasted marrow sitting on top. Triple cooked chips were... bloody hot. After a moment to cool I realised what all the fuss was about. Triple cooked chips are truly the only way to cook chips. A bowl of peas shared between us put a smile on Mrs Jiffler's face. She is easy to peas.

Both of us took the cheese course, primarily because of a 'His and Hers' cheese selection, with the his selection being a bit more pungent. Still though - a cracking selection including Barkham Blue (hers) and Beenleigh Blue (his) served with home made biscuits and chutneys.

Coffee and a bit of sunshine on the outside decking, and a warm feeling of contentment to push us on to the end of our walk in Windsor (past Eton where they were having sports day) came to about £85 (including service).

With hindsight, I was surprised not to see the Riverside come out with a star in the latest round of Michelin. So many pub-type establishments seem to be (deservedly) getting them now, but the riverside missed out. The food seemed comparable in terms of quality of both ingredients, cooking, and value for money, as another one starrer Mrs Jiffler and I visited in San Sebastian, so what gives Mr Michelin Man?

I fancy giving the Fat Duck a try, but their tasting menu was £125 a head. Maybe I should wait until the credit crunch and see if the price comes down a bit.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rwandan Coffee

I heard from the grapevine that a few UK supermarkets have started stocking Rwandan Maraba coffee - I urge coffee lovers to give this product a try. As well as being a smooth fruity brew, it also supports the Rwandese economy at a 'fair trade' level. Since Rwanda doesn't have much in the way of competitive export crops, this premium product goes some way towards bringing in much needed income to the people who really need it, and who will invest it wisely.

Back to normal service soon. I've been digging in my computer archives and have found a few notes and blogs that I didn't get round to publishing. Review of Heston Blumenthal's brasserie and some stuff about chickens coming soon....