Riverside delights in Bourne End
Riverlight in Bourne End is a restaurant I’ve been trying to make it into for quite some time. Partly because I’m a big fan of its owner James, the brains behinds the very cool Coopers café in the Marlow backstreets and a guy who is throwing his energies into something new and funky and getting great results.
Reason 2 is the location – right on Bourne End marina, with a balcony running the length of the building, looking out on the lazy launchers and boaters who cruise past or pull up for a spot of lunch.
The restaurant is relatively new – around a year old – replacing the brasserie On The Thames. Riverlight started out pushing a fine dining experience but it’s had a metamorphosis since its early months into something little more laidback and approachable. On the basis of my visit, it’s now hit the G-spot (that’s gastronomic – come on *sigh*, mind out the gutters) with the food elegant enough for a special meal (birthday, gathering, business), but also plenty on the menu that doesn’t require a French dictionary or a polytech in Pretention Studies. Think venison shoulder cottage pie or seafood risotto.
I rather like the drive down the surburban road, a few minutes off the high street. You think ‘this can’t possibly be right’, then bonza! you come across this little marina. It’s kind of like eating baked beans only to find a diamond lurking within. (Please nobody tell me they’ve been proposed to like that!)
Up the steep stairs you go – pretty tricky on older legs, my dad would never have made it up – and then you’re in this lovely light modern restaurant. Not many really contemporary and cool interiors in the region really, so if you’re like me and enjoy a bit of quirk you’ll appreciate the bright yellow coffee machine, the funky lighting and art everywhere. But it’s also very tasteful, with soft upholstered grey chairs, lots of glass and light. I loved it.
I was actually lunching with (drumrolllllllllllll) Sarah Prior, soon to be better known as Ms Muddy Berkshire (from early Feb since you’re asking) Yes really, here you can see her in the corner here!
Sarah actually has masses of foodie experience, both reviewing and cooking, rather putting your piggy Bucks/Oxon correspondent to shame. I was slightly chastened by her willingness to ask how the butter was ‘frothy’ (um, my description, not hers) while I just scoffed it down. But what I did glean, between bites, was that it was home made, fresh as as daisy, and was the ideal Muddy preamble into mains. I know, the insights are incredible.
Eating a steak is fast becoming my midweek marker for a meal – it’s surprisingly easy to produce a meh meal if the meat isn’t great quality or the chef has taken his eye off the grill to read up on his gossip in Woman magazine. Good news though, the Riverlight passed with flying colours – perfectly Medium Rare, the beef tender, no skimping on the salad, and some of the best triple cooked chips I’ve eaten. And, y’know, I’ve eaten a lot of them.
Dessert was delicious, if only I could remember what it was. Sorrrrrrry, I’m still forgetting to write down everything after four years. But see below, it was well pretty!
Overall then, it’s a big thumbs up. It was quiet on the day I ate, but I don’t think it will be for long, with spring on the approach. I can only think it’s a fantastic addition to Bourne End – the joy of the riverside location, and the views across the water to the countryside behind is that come April it will be all long lunches and dinners, gorgeous walks and Sunday lunches and mid afternoon G&Ts.
But I’d also recommend it sooner than that – for a wintery January (if you’re off the diet) or February onwards (when you’re embracing life again) because it’s small enough to create an atmosphere easily, even if it’s not packed, and it offers something very different in an area not over-endowed with choice.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: romantic couples, girly lunches and dinners, business get togethers, doggy drop ins (they welcome dogs but on the balcony) for a leisurely Sunday brunch.
Not for: Those with very young kids might find the chair-lugging up the stairs and the lack of space insider for a pushchair, or outside on the balcony a challenge. Despite the car park, older folk with problem knees might find it tricky to get up the stairs to the restaurant.
£££: Mid range for high quality. Starters £6-7.50; mains £16-19; 3 course Sunday lunch £28; 3 course set lunch £24.50.