The year before we moved to Slough, and my husband and I were still undecided on where to settle down, we had a little mini-break in Windsor – this was in 2013. And we stayed in a gorgeous hotel in town, right by the shops. Tyler had just turned one, and it was the first time he slept in a travel cot and he loved it. This mini-break gave us the confidence to go on a UK roadtrip with Tyler later that year. And more importantly it made us decide on Berkshire as a place for Tyler to grow up in, leading to us choosing Slough (as it was way more affordable than Windsor!).
So, 7 years later when that same hotel, the Macdonald Hotel, contacted me to try out their new menu at their restaurant Caley’s Brasserie, I HAD to say yes. This was the hotel that you could say changed my life – it started our adventures in Slough! So, with my nails painted and my lippy on, I left the kids with Ganesh on Thursday evening, and went off on my own. Nerve-wracking it was, I felt so strange without my two little sidekicks!
Caley’s Brasserie is inside the Macdonald Hotel, which is next to TK Maxx, opposite Windsor Castle. It is open to the public, it’s not just for hotel guests as I had wrongly thought all these years. Through the entrance you walk through a long corridor, with lots of faux floral trees, and there is a modern looking bar and around the corner a more traditional dining area.
On the evening of the launch party, tables were set up to show the dishes there were offering on the new menu, and taster plates for attendees to sample. When I arrived at the party, the General Manager Philip Lewis came to say hello, and when I introduced myself as Sabrina from The Mummy Stylist, he said, “Doesn’t that have something that comes after that – Slough it’s not so bad!” See, word is spreading! Anyhoo, he told me about their Royal Afternoon Tea offering, which is at a very reasonable price of £20. I obviously sampled the cakes, which were yummy.
The Royal Afternoon tea offers Twining’s speciality tea, freshly baked scones, a selection of finger sandwiches and the cutest desserts, including macaroons and matcha green tea tarts.
He also told me how he found their new head chef Daniel Woodhouse, and how seeing as he had experience of working in Michelin starred restaurants, he might as well let him have full rein of revamping their menu, bringing a touch of fine dining to Windsor.
Here’s some official blurb: “Guests can indulge on an assortment of dishes, including pan fried wild cod, with a casserole of white beans, chorizo and samphire, Molasses-glazed duck breast with caramalised endives and a bitter orange sauce and a Jaffa Cake inspired dessert, with whipped chocolate custard, crumble and Earl Grey tea cream. Other favourites on offer include Scottish scallops, prime-cut steaks and lemon meringue pie. Daniel has over 20 years’ experience as a chef, spending time at a range of fine dining and Michelin Star establishments. Having recently joined the team at Caley’s, he brings a wealth of knowledge and skill to the restaurant.”
And that leads me to my next photo – here is the head chef himself. Daniel spoke to me about how he chose the ingredients for each dish, what flavours go well with certain meats. It was all very Masterchef, and the food looked it too. This certainly is fine dining!
These are some ribs which as you can see are presented beautifully. There was also homemade focaccia bread (that I did try, it was so good), and cups of soup.
Below is the Molasses glazed duck breast with caremelised endive, orange and sauce bigarade. So Masterchef, right?!
I must admit, I went straight for dessert. This is frozen passionfruit chiboust, caramel chocolate mouse, chocolate soil and passion sauce. You know what, I loved tasting food that could be out of Masterchef! And it was so deliciously yum. This is definitely a place to dine at for a special treat, where you get dressed up all posh for a day :D.
Next I tried a homemade chocolate truffle, that tasted like, um, chocolate truffle. I think this plate demonstrates what they can create for a special occasion – cute isn’t it!
If you are a cheese fan, they do cheese boards with a variety of fancy cheeses, grapes, chutneys and sauces, plus the port that goes well with it as the man told me. I went for the simple Cheddar on a cracker.
I was saved from wandering around on my own by a lovely foodie Instagrammer called Annie (@love_foodandwine) and she was actually a right laugh, and I’m happy to say she’s a new friend. We had a great time tasting all the food and she gave me foodie adjectives to use, rather than my ‘it tastes nice’ descriptions!
Interesting fact – did you know the hotel make their own honey?! They have a beehive on top of the building, that official beekeepers look after – which I am glad about, I wouldn’t like ‘looking after bees’ to be in my job description if I worked at the hotel hah!
Now, I don’t drink beer, but my friend and I chatted to the man on the beer table anyway. He told us that they are the only local brewery – yes, Windsor has their own brewery, the Windsor & Eton Brewery. It’s somewhere along the river, past the railway arches. So if you want to try locally brewed ale, you can do at Caley’s Brasserie. The brewery themselves also do tours.
What I found special about Caley’s Brasserie, apart from the fine dining experience, was the fact that it’s housed in a former department store – Caley’s Department Store – which was actually a branch of John Lewis. It was named after Maria Caley, a Windsor-born dress and hat maker who was awarded the honour of a Royal Warrant in 1818 by Queen Charlotte, after providing her creations to the Royal family. This is a 1950s photo of the inside, from the John Lewis Memory Store website.
The store closed on the 16th July 2006, after struggling for many years to keep up with the bigger branches of John Lewis. The layout of Caley’s department store was very higgledy-piggledy. Being listed it was hard to change the layout, and in the end there were 24 levels! The Macdonald Hotel took over the building since then and have done a magnificent job with the interiors, keeping the traditional charm and bring luxurious interiors. The dining area looks like this.
We were given a tour of some of the hotel rooms, and yes the layout is like a maze but it is charming. There’s a real history to the building, and you can see the character in the windows, and one of the suites still has an original fireplace (not in use for safety reasons, but lovely that it has been kept).
Velvet sofa – yes please! Beautiful, luxurious interiors, and really well maintained.
If you would like to visit the Caley’s Brasserie for a touch of fine dining or to have some afternoon tea, this is the address:
23 High Street,
Windsor SL4 1LH
Disclosure: I was gifted samples of the menu free of charge in return for this blog post. These are all my honest thoughts and opinions as usual.