Gastropubs in Berkshire

Posted on February 16, 2014

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I haven’t exactly been welcomed back to England by the weather. The flooding has been incredible – some of my friends have had to move out of their homes, and hundreds, if not thousands have been affected. Even the Royals have pitched in to help shuffle sandbags.

But on the bright side, I’ve found that the eight years I have been away have been kind….to food. So despite the rain and occasional power cuts, I’m feeling good about being back in the English countryside.

Sitting by a roaring fire after a delicious roast at the Crooked Billet in Henley-on-Thames with friends, I wanted to share this great find (Thanks Heidi!). I had one of those meals that is perfect on a cold winters day, and an absolute bargain at £27 for their copious three course lunch. The Crooked Billet is a real pub: tables packed into small rooms with wooden beams and drafty windows, wood an bricks are everywhere. At the end of a narrow lane you have to know where you are going so book ahead and plug the address into the sat nav. Staff were incredibly nice, jovial even, and not just because I have become accosted to grumpy Parisian waiters. The menu had a good range of options, the home-made chicken liver parfait served with brioche, onion marmalade and pickled rhubarb a favourite for starters. Friends who had the roast beef got tender beef and crispy Yorkshire puddings, served with an impressive selection of sides including kale, courgettes, spinach and cauliflower cheese. My seabass with prawns was served on a bed of baked new potatoes, chorizo and salad. Desserts were also home made and portions generous. So generous that the waiter gave us an extra dessert because he felt we needed to try his favourite – the tarte au citron which was indeed fantastic but the milk chocolate cheesecake still trumped for me. Even the wine was reasonable at £28 for a smooth Cotes du Rhone. Th meal was polished off with tea and home made fudge. Enough raving, just go there and try for yourself.

The same friend took me to another gastro pub a few months ago, which was where the seed was sown for me to move back to the UK.  She knows me well. The Pot Kiln in Frilsham is a little more clean cut. They are known for using game and local produce, all of which is cooked to perfection and they seem happy to accommodate dietary requirements. I really enjoyed my meal here. Warm, cosy and in the countryside – you’ll need that sat nav again. 

More local to me, I keep meaning to try the Fat Duck in Bray but haven’t quite got the advance planning that is needed. Almost next door is The Hinds Head, also owned by Heston Blumenthal, with Kevin Love as head chef. It has a Michelin star but still keeps it’s pub roots and seres up a great Sunday roast.

Lastly, for now, I want to mention the Royal Oak in Littlefield Green, which I visited last autumn for an excellent birthday meal. It’s in the top 50 gastropubs in the UK, also with a Michelin star, I feel it’s a more restaurant-like than a gastro pub, which also shows in the prices. 

More country walks and pub meals are on the books in coming weeks so watch this space for more…

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Posted in: Destinations, Europe, UK