16 Best Restaurants in The Thames Valley, England

Falkland Arms

$ Fodor's choice

It's worth detouring a bit for this supremely appealing pub on the village green at Great Tew, about 8 miles northwest of Woodstock. The small restaurant offers a traditional but creative menu, which includes dishes like pea and shallot ravioli or a panko breaded mushroom burger. The bar stocks fruit wines and local ales and offers a small cocktail list; there's a fine selection of mugs and jugs hanging from the beams too. Book ahead on weekends. If you can't bear to leave, a spiral stone staircase leads to five guest rooms.

Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

$$$$ Fodor's choice

One of the original gastronomy-focused hotels, Le Manoir was opened in 1984 by chef Raymond Blanc, whose culinary talents have earned the hotel's restaurant two Michelin stars—now held for an incredible 39 years and running. The fixed-price menus start at a steep £245 and offer a culinary tour of innovative French creations concocted by Blanc and his team; the six-course set-price lunch (£220) is marginally easier on the wallet. There is a separate vegetarian menu as well. With more than 1,000 wines in stock, mostly French, you'll find the perfect glass to accompany your meal. You need to book up to three months ahead in summer. Elegant guest rooms are available, but at upwards of £1200 in summer for even a standard double, you could just as well get a taxi back to almost anywhere south of Scotland. The pretty town of Great Milton is 7 miles southeast of Oxford.

The Fat Duck

$$$$ Fodor's choice

One of the top restaurants in the country, and ranked by many food writers among the best in the world, this extraordinary place packs in fans of hypercreative, hyperexpensive cuisine, who enjoy it for the theater as much as for the food. Culinary alchemist Heston Blumenthal is famed for the so-called molecular gastronomy he creates in his laboratory-like kitchen, and his name has become synonymous with weird and funky taste combinations. Famously, his signature dishes include bacon-and-egg ice cream and snail porridge. All senses are stimulated here in wildly creative ways, not just the taste buds. It's the very definition of not for everyone, but those with a taste for adventure (and deep pockets) find it a magical experience. The three-Michelin star Fat Duck is located in a discreet building in the small village of Bray; look for the duck-inspired implements hanging outside. Reservations are issued monthly for a period of four months in advance, and the booking process is strict; call or see the website for details.

High St., Bray, SL6 2AQ, England
Known For
  • creative and immersive dining experience
  • strict booking process and long waiting list for reservations
  • famed strange dishes like bacon-and-egg ice cream
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon., Reservations essential

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Two Brewers

$$ Fodor's choice

Locals congregate in a pair of low-ceiling rooms at this tiny 17th-century establishment by the gates of Windsor Great Park. Those under 18 aren't allowed inside the pub (although they can be served at a few outdoor tables), but adults will find a suitable collection of wine, espresso, and local beer, plus an excellent menu with dishes like roasted cod with butter sauce and samphire or steak frites with brandy and peppercorn. On Sunday the pub serves a traditional, hearty lunchtime roast.



While visitors don't need much persuading to venture out of the town center to the trendy nearby enclave of Jericho, Branca's charming interior, vibrant atmosphere, and solid menu of Italian classics provides yet more allure for the neighborhood. À la carte options inside the rustic, airy corner restaurant include everything from stone-baked pizza to risotto along with a wide selection of meat and fish dishes. Look out for the lunchtime and supper specials and be sure to check out the next-door deli.

Brasserie Blanc


Raymond Blanc's sophisticated brasserie in the Jericho neighborhood is the more affordable chain restaurant cousin of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Great Milton. The changing menu always lists a good selection of steaks and innovative adaptations of bourgeois French fare, sometimes with Mediterranean or Asian influences. Try the confit duck or the rainbow beetroot salad. In a happy concession to more Anglo-Saxon tastes, they also do a fantastic traditional British roast on Sunday.


This reliably good brasserie serves decent French-influenced cooking in a contemporary setting. Start with an order of excellent calamari, fried in bread crumbs with a subtle infusion of garlic, before moving on to a main of fish parmentier (pie with a potato topping) or a classic steak in peppercorn sauce served with french fries. Desserts are rich and tempting, although the simple French cheeseboard, taken with the last of the excellent bottle of red you had with dinner, can make for an unexpectedly fine finish. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.

Crooked Billet


It's worth negotiating the maze of lanes leading to this cozy, 17th-century, country pub 6 miles west of Henley-on-Thames. Choices could include John Dory with anchovy beignet and duck leg and lardons cooked in red wine. British cheeses and filling desserts round out the meal. There's a garden for open-air dining and live music on many evenings. Fixed-price lunches are a good deal. The restaurant is popular, so book ahead.



The clue's in the name here—this popular local restaurant specializes in fresh, upscale seafood. Dishes are prepared with a European touch and frequently come with butter, cream, and other sauces, such as sardines served with lemon and parsley butter. Hot and cold shellfish platters are popular, as are the mussels in white wine and oysters in red wine shallot vinegar. The interior has a casual nautical theme with wooden floors and tables, porthole windows, and red sails overhead.



With its glass-and-steel framework, this former florist's shop just north of the town center makes a charming conservatory dining room, full of plants and twinkling with lights in the evening. The menu concentrates on the best of Oxfordshire produce and changes daily, but you can expect to find the likes of delicate seafood linguine, farm-fresh roasted vegetables, and pizzettas. There's an affordable lunch and early supper menu, too.

Gilbey's Eton


Just over the bridge from Windsor, this restaurant at the center of Eton's Antiques Row serves a changing menu of imaginative fare, from potted ham hock and rhubarb with sweet onion and mustard seed to crayfish and dill hot-smoked trout fish cakes. Well-priced wines, both French and from the restaurant's own English vineyard, are a specialty, as are the savories—meat, fish, and vegetarian pâtés. Scrumptious cakes are served with afternoon tea on weekends. The two-course set menu—served at lunch and dinners most days of the week—is a good deal. The conservatory, with its colorful scattering of cushions, is a pleasant place to sit, as is the courtyard garden.

Hinds Head


Fat Duck's esteemed chef Heston Blumenthal owns this Michelin-starred pub across the road, where he sells less extreme dishes at more reasonable prices. A brilliant modern take on traditional English cuisine, the menu may include roast chicken and smoked almonds, or stone bass with mussel and saffron broth. The atmosphere and dress code are relaxed, and the look of the place is historic, with exposed beams, polished wood-panel walls, and brick fireplaces. There's also a menu for kids. It gets busy, so book ahead if you can.

The Three Tuns


Walk past the cozy bar in this traditional 17th-century pub to eat in the snug dining room with the clutch of locals who come nightly for the traditional British comfort food. Plates such as beer-battered fish-and-chips or local butcher's sausages and mashed potatoes are easy crowd-pleasers. They also do a popular traditional roast on Sunday at lunchtime.

Vanilla Pod


Discreet and intimate, this restaurant is a showcase for the French-inspired cuisine of chef Michael Macdonald, who, as the restaurant's name implies, holds vanilla in high esteem. The fixed-price menu borrows the flavor of a French bistro and shakes it up a bit, so you might have filet mignon with polenta or something more adventurous, such as fennel escabeche with mackerel and vanilla. The three-course lunch menu is a fantastic bargain at £25, and the seven-course menu gourmand for £60 is a tour de force.

Waffle House


Indoors or out, you can enjoy a great budget meal at the 16th-century Kingsbury Watermill, near the Verulamium Museum. The organic flour for the sweet-and-savory Belgian waffles comes from Redbournbury Watermill, north of the city. In the main dining room, you can see the wheel churn the water of the River Ver. It's also open for early dinners until 7 pm Thursday through Saturday.

St. Michael's St., St. Albans, AL3 4SJ, England
Known For
  • delicious waffles, sweet or savory
  • organic ingredients
  • lovely watermill setting
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: No dinner Sun.–Thurs.

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks


Some claim this is England's oldest pub, but it should come as no surprise that the title is hotly contested. Still, this octagonal building certainly looks suitably aged and makes a cozy stop for a pint and good home-cooked food. The building was moved to this location in the 16th century, but the foundations date back 800 years before that. Be prepared for crowds.

16 Abbey Mill La., St. Albans, AL3 4HE, England
Known For
  • extremely old and atmospheric pub
  • good pub food
  • lots of summer crowds
Restaurants Details
Rate Includes: No dinner Sun.