The Waterside Inn has been around since 1972, held three Michelin stars for half that time and is now considered something of a national institution – delivering a luxury experience with consummate expertise and ‘genuine charm’, thanks to legions of demur staff who ‘look like film stars’. The enchanting riverbank setting is as English as a ‘Miss Marple film set’, although the sumptuously furnished, cosseting dining room provides a backdrop for Alain Roux’s subtly inventive take on classic French haute cuisine. A dish of pike quenelles with langoustine tails is precision cooking of the highest order, while cocotte of oxtail and beef cheek braised in Beaujolais with button onions, mushrooms and smoked bacon is all deep flavours and glossy saucing. Desserts crown it all with, say, an incredible ‘teardrop’ of milk chocolate mousse filled with caramel, mango and passion fruit. The wine list delves deep into lexicon of French oenology and prices are frightening – even so, it’s worth smashing the piggy bank because this is ‘le restaurant exceptionnel’.