Riverside Restaurant

at The Compleat Angler

Marlow Bridge Ln, Marlow

Buckinghamshire SL7 1RG, United Kingdom

Phone:+44 344 879 9128


The food:

Pan-fried Scottish scallops, smoked onion purée, compressed apple

Jerusalem artichoke arancini, parmesan custard mustard frills

Filet of cod purée, parsley “tartare”, batter scaps

Filet of beef, umami crunch, creamed Dijon potatoes, caramel shallots

Classic lemon tart, stem ginger, mascarpone sorbet

The wines:

NV Moutard Champagne Grande Cuvée


2104 Saint Clair Pinot Gris Rosé Marlborough


2013 Domaine Jean Goulley & Fils Chablis


Anyone who loves fly-fishing and trout as much as I do must also have a soft spot for Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler. First written in 1653 (there were many subsequent editions, to which Walton added to for another quarter of a century; when the last one rolled out, the initial thirteen chapters had swollen to twenty-one), is one of the most serious, complete books on fishing ever published. The Compleat Angler is also a hotel belonging to the Macdonald chain of UK hotels and restaurants, and located, appropriately enough, on the shores of the beautiful upper Thames in the very pretty town of Marlow in Buckinghamshire.

A view of the River Thames

The pretty hotel houses a pub and two restaurants. I enjoyed breakfast, English tea and dinner at the hotel’s aptly named Riverside restaurant. In fact, the idyllic riverside location is the best thing about the Compleat Angler, a truly beautiful, romantic hotel that is well worth a visit. Unfortunately, my weekend proved rather rainy (not unheard of in the English countryside, I dare say), so the pretty outdoor terrace that allows one to sit even closer to the water’s edge was unavailable.

Jerusalem artichoke arancini, parmesan custard mustard frills

The food at the Riverside is expertly prepared and interesting. Chef Michael Lloyd does British food well (for example, Scottish beef, fresh wild fish, outdoor-reared pork, free-range chicken, and Aberdeen-smoked salmon, the last of these really outstanding), and uses quality, sustainably sourced ingredients. Lloyd’s resumé includes stints alongside the executive chef at Cannizaro House hotel in Wimbledon, as chef de partie at the Vineyard at Stockcross (a super fine dining and outstanding wine destination, owned by Sir Peter Michael) and Heckfield Place in Hampshire.

I enjoyed several really lovely dishes, such as the pan-fried arancini and the scallops. The former were light and airy, if not especially redolent of artichoke flavor, while the scallops were fresh, juicy and intensely perfumed.. Both the beef filet and lemon tart were highly satisfying if not especially memorable.

Filet of cod purée, parsley “tartare”, batter scaps

The wine list is short and compact, and though there is nothing especially wrong with it, I found little on it to tickle my fancy. A larger selection of some better-known producers as well as older vintages would greatly enhance the dining experience at what really is a very pretty dining destination. On this night the NV Moutard Champagne Grande Cuvée proved a tasty if uncomplicated starter, with bright lemony and floral aromas and flavors nicely framed by bracing acidity. Moutard is not usually on my “bubbly radar” but I signal that the house has recently released a new line-up of wines, “Les Climats de Champagne” with single vineyard names designating three new bubblies (Richardot, Les Troncs and Les Perrières) made from old vine Pinot Noir.

The 2104 Saint Clair Pinot Gris Rosé was a joy with the appetizers. Bright, floral, and uncomplicated, with strawberry, cream and floral aromas and flavors, it paired well with the appetizers, with ripe acidity nicely complementing the fried arancini and adding a floral nuance to the briny scallops. From a Chablis producer I am not especially acquainted with, the 2013 Domaine Jean Gouilley & Fils Chablis was a pleasant surprise. These wines, often sold under the Simone Tremblay label (she was the wife of Jean and mother of current owner Philippe), are made from organically certified grapes. Unoaked notes of lemon and flint partnered admirably with the cod fillet. Not especially hungry and actually quite tired on this night, I chose to eat my fillet of beef without red wine.

If you are staying at The Compleat Angler or passing by, tea and breakfast (both are served in the Riverside location) are especially worthwhile and the two best moments to enjoy the Riverside’s magical setting. Alternatively call ahead and ask about corkage, so as to enjoy dinner with some bottles from your own cellar.

-- Ian D’Agata