Monday, February 07, 2011

From Snowdrop Tea to Michelin Stars – 5-6 February 2011

Winter seems much shorter in the UK, as first it's the lead up to Christmas, and only a month after Christmas, the snowdrops are appearing, and give the hint of spring not far away.

February is snowdrop time again, and in contrast to the cold weather last weekend, we enjoyed a walk in the Chilterns on Saturday, which started in Watlington, and featured Swyncombe Church on the walk. The churchyard is smothered in snowdrops, and for the first three weekends in February, the local folk host a Snowdrop Tea in the churchyard. This 11th century Norman church was dedicated to 7thC St Botolph, whose casket rested in Swyncombe on it's journey to the Abbeys in Ely, Peterborough and Westminster. It was fascinating, as we have visited each of these grand Abbeys, to know the connection to this out of the way church hidden in a valley, down a drive-way off a side-road, off a minor road. However, at the time it was on a major “highway”, the Ridgeway, a long-distance trail that snakes across this part of England.

Our end point of Watlington is worth exploring as well. The town is full of 15th and 16th century buildings. The High Street has a lovely cafe, tempting cookware shops and an excellent delicatessen - impossible not to sample!

On Sunday we decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary at Waterside, a three Michelin star restaurant on the banks of the Thames in Bray, near Windsor.

Bray is another appealing village, which supports two three star restaurants. The head chef told us Waterside is fully booked every day for lunch and dinner, obviously the recession has not impacted the seriously good restaurants.

We and our car were taken care of when we stopped outside. I think we were passed from hand to hand through at least five staff members, from car to table. Each was courteous, attentive and wished us a good dining experience.

It goes without saying that this is an expensive experience, but worth it for a special occasion. What really made this special, was a tour of the kitchen. Alain Rous, the Chef Patron came to shake hands personally with each diner, and as we had read on the Web that guests were welcome to inspect the kitchens, we asked him if this would be possible. He stopped his hand-shaking tour at that point, and personally showed us round, and explained each part of the kitchen complex. It was fascinating to see items we had eaten in the preparation stage.

The kitchen has 24 chefs and supporting staff for the 75 covers (average) , the restaurant must have at least 20 waiting staff, so no wonder it all goes so smoothly, and we were made so welcome.

On leaving, the Restaurant manager said goodbye to us at the door, and when he learnt we had come to celebrate our anniversary, presented us with a copy of their dessert recipe book. This is an anniversary to be treasured, and hopefully remembered when back in NZ recreating delicious deserts!

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