Spending a day by the river watching pleasure cruises float by over a glass of Champagne – could there be anything more quintessentially English?
Well yes, there could, spending a day on the beautiful banks of the River Thames in the Royal Borough of Windsor.
There are few prettier places to enjoy a good old bit of patriotism than Eton, Windsor. And if you by chance happen to be staying at Gilbey’s of Eton, then you are in for a treat.
As we rolled into the historic boundaries of Buckinghamshire on the first Saturday of June, the sun beating down, I could almost taste Pimms and cucumber sandwiches in the air.
Gilbey’s Townhouse Hotel and Restaurant is rather unassuming, perched on Eton High Street, literally a stones throw from the river bank which is colourfully lined with beautiful beer gardens, cocktail bars, ice cream parlours and boutiques.
The location is unbelievably good, within walking distance of all main attractions, you couldn’t be better placed for a wander around Windsor Castle or the famous college.
The hotel houses a handful of tranquil rooms (rather remarkable given the central location) with plush decor and all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a large chain, but with the personality of an independent.
Our room was particularly quaint, I loved the sash windows, eclectic decor and attention to detail – White Company toiletries, cafetiere coffee, bathrobes and huge fluffy towels.
VisitEngland have just awarded them 5 Stars and a Gold Award for all of their accommodation which comprises of the original Studio Suite and the three new guest bedrooms in The Townhouse.
Given the weather outside, we wasted no time in dropping our bags off and heading out to enjoy the sunshine, and the gin…
There are plenty of bars to enjoy a tipple or two, the riverside locations are of course particular crowd pleasers and we bagged a jammy table right in the thick of things at Browns where we duely ordered a hefty Aperol Spritz and a very stiff gin and tonic.
There is plenty to see in Windsor so we were happy soaking up the sun and enjoying the view for a couple of hours before heading back to Gilbey’s for a quick change ahead of our dinner reservation.
The food is unbelievably good in this rather bashful restaurant. The decor is warm and inviting but by no means plush, very much bistro in style, with a couple of tables out side on the street giving the place a rather European ambience.
The food style is best described as ‘Modern British’ – although with a French Head Chef in charge (Amaury de Oliveira) there is a decidedly French twist!
I chose to start with beetroot carpaccio, with candied walnuts & goat’s curd,
balsamic pearls, pickled golden beetroot, and parsnip crisps. It was a really tasty twist on a classic flavour combination, well presented and delicious. My guest chose mussels with a tasty white wine and garlic broth, another classic dish perfectly cooked.
Other starters on offer included a smoked haddock, leek & organic cheddar fishcake, Jerusalem artichoke & pecorino cheese panna cotta and glazed ham hock terrine, port & orange cumberland sauce – all very tempting.
As a newly converted vegetarian, Iassumed my choices would be limited, however, on this occasion there was plenty on offer and in a stroke of genius I opted for the crispy filo, asparagus, ricotta & spring onion roll served with char-grilled lettuce, melted beauvale blue cheese, oven-dried plum tomatoes.
I can see vegetarians rolling their eyes at the mention of a filo parcel – but this dish held no comparison to the tosh you find in the freezer section of your local supermarket or a naff restaurant after thought, it was mindblowingly good! I mean – absolutely exquisite and I enjoyed every mouthful, my guest also remarked how tasty it was. I wouldn’t even look at the menu on a return visit – I would just order this dish again.
Across the table my pal was tucking into Atlantic cod with a chorizo crumb served with roasted & puréed cauliflower, lemon, Provolone Piccante cheese & spring onion arancini which was also presented with real finesse. I didn’t try this dish but I have it on good authority it was also knockout.
This kitchen team clearly know their onions and are kicking out dishes worthy of any discerning diner. I normally swerve dessert but on this occasion I was feeling it so I plumped for creme brulee which was decadence personified – I also got stuck into a sticky toffee pudding my pal couldn’t finish…this job is not helping my battle against the bulge!
The service throughout dinner was warm, knowledgeable and unintrusive and included no lengthy explanations of dishes – I’m so over that, besides which, it wasn’t needed, the food spoke for itself and that’s how I like it.
Gilbey’s was a gastronomic delight and I’d go back every day of the week – cab fare might be pricey like. If you are in this neck of the woods, Gilbey’s should certainly be on your radar for lunch or dinner. Tell them I sent you.