What it's like to stay (and eat) at Monkey Island Estate in Bray
PUBLISHED: 15:50 16 September 2019 | UPDATED: 11:49 17 September 2019
Looking for a little laidback luxury here in Berkshire? Sarah Rodi visited the Monkey Island Estate in Bray, which has been restored to its former glory
If you're looking for a piece of paradise in Berkshire, I think I've found it. Hotly anticipated by locals and Londoners alike, YTL Hotels recently opened the Monkey Island Estate in Bray-on-Thames and it's such a beautiful, tranquil place, it took my breath away.
The island, steeped in history dating back 800 years, has been the haunt of monks, monarchs, aristocrats and writers alike. Lee Kelly, the General Manager, shared some of the details with us, highlighting facts such as the property being commissioned as a fishing retreat in 1723 by the third Duke of Marlborough, before he gave us a tour of the seven-acre site.
Crossing the pretty footbridge over the Thames onto the island, the striking white Pavilion and Temple buildings rise before you, surrounded by gorgeous - and immaculate - English country gardens.
First, Lee showed us round the bedrooms and suites in the grand Temple building. With 41 in total, the elegant rooms are all contemporary, with an English country house feel, and each one offers stunning views of either the river or the grounds.
For those looking for a bit of pampering, there's a unique Floating Spa - the first of its kind - moored on the river bank, which focuses on celebrating the power of water.
Opposite the Temple, in the palatial Pavillion building, there's a choice of glorious spaces to while away a morning, afternoon or evening. The Whisky Snug, found up a secret winding staircase, offers an intimate space to enjoy a tipple and soak in the views.
I also loved the Grade I-listed Monkey Room, with 17th century frescos on the ceiling, which makes a nice, secluded spot for a coffee or pre-dinner drink.
But we headed through the garden terrace and Monkey Bar (offering a great cocktail menu, by the way) and into the Monkey Island Brasserie. We loved it in here from the minute we walked in; the vibrant green walls, the panoramic views, the open kitchen... it's buzzing yet elegant and casual yet sophisticated.
We took up a table by the window overlooking the river, and settled down to peruse the impressive menu. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, with produce freshly sourced from the surrounding countryside, the menu specialises in modern takes on British classics, and we picked some of the signature dishes to try.
We began with the deliciously light smoked Loch Duart salmon with a creamy goat's curd infused with herbs, shallots, capers and tasty pickled cucumber. Divine!
Next came the 35-day dry-aged beef tartare served with a gentleman's relish, smoked egg yolk, Berkswell cheese and nasturtium. This got my taste buds tingling.
We loved the wood-smoked pepper risotto with wild mushrooms and sprout leaves, and decided we needed to find out the recipe to make this one at home.
I think my favourite course was the Cornish catch of the day with foraged sea herbs, purple sprouting broccoli and anchovy mayonnaise, butter crumble and Berkswell cheese. It not only tasted fresh with a burst of different flavours, it also looked spectacular on the plate.
To finish, we couldn't resist the decadent sticky toffee pudding and it was every bit as good as it looked when it arrived.
With Monkey Island residing in the only village in the world that lays claim to three Michelin-starred restaurants, the Brasserie here has high standards to live up to. And we think it more than stands its ground.
- 16 islands along the River Thames in Berkshire - As the River Thames flows through Berkshire, it is studded with beautiful islands, some of which you can explore