Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Hinds Head

I was going to rant about Bob Crow and the nightmarish tube strike, but this is a food blog so I’ll voice about it elsewhere. Anyway Mr Crow was partially responsible for this review, instead of bus-ing to Waterloo Station to catch a train bound for Ascot to meet a client, I decided that travelling by four wheels was a much better option. Through the help of KC and his sat nav we reached Bray by way of Ascot. Bray can only be reached by means of a vehicle so you can put your Travelcard away.

Not that I like to brag about things, but this is my second visit to Bray. From the onset Bray is characteristic of an idyllic English village. The High Street is a busy thoroughfare for vehicles dashing to and from the M4; heartfelt sympathies for the villagers living here. If you’re after scenes of a local butcher or baker and maybe even an Ye Olde Sweet Shop, be disappointed as there’re none. Just a quaint token church, plenty of village green, a couple of pubs and two Three Michelin starred restaurants make up this tiny Berkshire place.

It was one of the two pubs that we came here for lunch. Heston Blumenthal’s Hinds Head could be considered as an alter ego to his Fat Duck. The Hinds Head is described as a local village pub serving excellent food. Just as well, the insufferable tag of gastropub has become abused of late. This is one visit to a pub that I wished Kake came along, she could then ok the quality of the real ales pulled here. Like all good pubs; The Hinds Head admonishes big screen sports, fruit machines, body odours and jukeboxes. It’s all terribly sensible but makes a lot of sense if one is coming here for a Heston fix.

Anyway, the place is divided into two zones, pub proper (serving less expensive bar food) and a restaurant. We showed up without a reservation (I didn’t know what time when my meeting in Ascot was going to end). The young chap who greeted us looked up and down his diary and muttered rather pessimistically that he might have a table available in the restaurant. We were finally ushered to rather fine spot by the front window. The bloody room was positively half empty, why do the management et al insist on going through the pointless procedure of deterring diners away when they haven’t booked! I hate that, I really hate that…waste of breath methinks. That said, the dining room was plain jane, in fact it wasn’t too dissimilar to a Harvester branch. I can’t help but think that the other diners in the room came here with gastronomic aspirations or found that a Fat Duck meal might prove too much for the expense account. All the diners lunching today were either suited (including KC) or elegantly attired, I was the only one sporting a beloved Hendrix tee. The service was excellent, the two friendly girls who waited on the sixteen or so diners (including us) were well informed on everything from the food to booze. One of the girls showed a degree of incredulity when we opted out of the wine list; she was exclaiming buts, with sweetness and politeness I might add. I was going to tell her about a little matter that suggests that I’m a dry alky until KC kicked my Doc Martens (and yes I was admitted with them). We stuck with a bottle of mineral water from Somerset for the rest of the meal. It tasted crap.

The Menu
Surely nobody ever thought it was going to be cheap here. If you want budget Heston, Little Chef has done us all a favour.

The Food
. Let’s keep things simple and do away with my grammatically challenged hyperboles. I’ll just stick to not good, good, very good and more than very good.

The You Know What
Bread was not good (tad stale). Butter was very good.

Scotch Quail Egg £2.50

The sausage meat was beautifully porky according to KC. I said very good.

Pea and Ham Soup £6.35
KC’s starter; he said fresh, sweet and bloody marvellous. I said very good.

Free Range Hay Cooked Ham, Asparagus, Pheasant Eggs and Hollandaise Sauce £8.95

My starter, KC said 'I want'. I said I couldn’t tell a difference between the pheasant's and a good hen’s egg as well as the dish was more than very good.

Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie with Mustard Sauce £14.90

KC’s mains; the most expensive pie that he has ever eaten and also the best. I said very good.

Aberdeenshire Beef with Bone Marrow Sauce- Rump Steak £19.10

My mains, cooked medium. KC said that was a happy cow on the plate. Those white bits are not garlic but pieces of marrow. I said, although not as buttery and melting (I know it’s rump!) as I would expect but it was still very good.

Triple Cooked Chips
This came with my steak. It’s a Heston’s signature. We both agreed they were more than very good.

Lardy Cake and Whisky Ice Cream £5.95

Shared pudding, by this time we were stuffed. This coronary thrombosis inducing dish consists of raisin bread stuffed with lard and then fried in both butter and more lard. Served with a dark treacly sauce and alcoholic ice cream (groan). We both declared the pudding more plus more than very good.

Expensive yes, but lunch today at The Hinds Head was one of the most memorable and pleasurable meals I’ve had this year. Celebrate your birthdays, anniversaries as well as Cristiano Ronaldo leaving Man U here, you’ll love it. Highly recommended.

Addenum- I was also going to mention no matter how deceptively simple some of the dishes might sound, Heston and his chef Clive Dixon will always go out of their way to make them taste that extra special. They leave an indelible but utterly beneficial mark on the dishes. Two words; Food Heroes.

High St
Bray SL6 2AB

This is my review of The Fat Duck. It was posted on May 2006, since de-listed from London Eating.
The usual cliché applies, life is too short, and one’s gotta experience a 3 star establishment no matter how limited one’s budget is. Went for lunch yesterday, despite the a la carte menu appearing more tempting, like everyone else going for the first time the tasting menu is the raison d’etre.

After 4 hours, I was left neither bloated nor hungry, in fact because of all the lingering after tastes I didn’t have any appetite for dinner. The star dishes were: Jelly Of Quail, Langoustine Cream, Parfait Of Foie Gras; Roast Foie Gras, Almond Fluid Gel, Cherry And Chamomile and as Michael Winner would put it, the Poached Breast Of Anjou Pigeon Pancetta, Pastilla Of Its Leg, Pistachio, Cocoa And Quatre Épices was ‘triple historic’. Totally disappointing was the remarkably bland Salmon Poached with Liquorice, Asparagus, Pink Grapefruit, “Manni” Olive Oil. The much reported Snail Porridge, Jabugo Ham, Shaved Fennel didn’t exactly raise any goose pimples and the Douglas Fir Puree reminded me of a lavatory cleaner.

Service was exemplary and friendly, except for the rather incomprehensible description of the dishes from the stunning female waiting staff. Ambience was relaxed and not at all icy like most other 3 star joints.

All in all, it’s worth it, shall be going back for the a la carte.

By bellaphon on 19 May 2006


thora said...

Well written (glad I had this review for breakfast - not my eating time of the day) and I like the way you manage to squeeze in some football talk.

Food.By Mark. said...

Breakfast time is my eating time of the day (When isn't there an eating time of the day?) However, the kitchen in my flat certainly doesn't have triple cooked chips and Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie. It's not so much of a problem to get to Bray without a car though, train to Maidenhead and then it's a 10 minute taxi to Bray. Fantastic review as well.

meemalee said...

You know I think I prefer it when you use more adjectives :)

Su-Lin said...

I like your 4 level rating system - prevents you from just choosing the middle option!

Very keen to try this for a birthday or other celebratory day! Thanks for the review.

meemalee said...

Whoa - I just looked at the menu - £6.25 for a bowl of soup!

I like the sound of Warwickshire Whizzers though.

Su-Lin, don't encourage Les. I'm not sure I can take too many "more than very good"s

Helen said...

I had a mini heston scotch egg at a sherry event thingy and it was just like that - perfectly gooey in the middle. I thought about it for weeks afterwards and I still have a little think about it now! I LOVE the idea of steak with bone marrow sauce too. Bone marrow sauce! DROOL. I must make the trip out to this place. I must.

Lisa said...

Yum, delicious review. Have had the pleasure of eating at the Fat Duck a few times (and loved it), and really want to try the Hinds Head. I have to have that pie, looks like it was worth every penny!

Dad said...

I have lurked for long enough!! This post was too good and too funny not to come out of the shadows.

Have been reading about your eating exploits from the beginning Mr Bellaphon (having followed your Flickr pic's for longer), and I've got one word for you:

Bloody terrific!

Have decided to celebrate wife's birthday at Harwood Arms, following your very good recommendation.

Carry on .....

Kake said...

Fear not — I've already visited the Hinds Head, and the beer was fine. Also tried a couple of the quail Scotch eggs while I was there, and I agree, they're very good.

(The ensuing meal at the Fat Duck, however, was my most disappointing meal of 2008. Ask me about this in person some time.)

bellaphon said...

Thora- I hate Man U as much as you do with Bayern Munich but I hate to admit that both our teams are under achieving. Wenger is ‘god’ but even gods can’t carry on forever.

Mark- Thank you. The ironic thing is I don't even have a bus pass, I walk instead. And I forgot to mention lugging 15kg of hi-fi related tings around is too much for an old sod like me.

meemalee- There's something Harry Potterish sounding about the Whizzers, damn, should have ordered them as well. The Hot & Sour Soup at Kai Mayfair is 11 squid, I reckon then the Blumenthalled soup is pretty respectable. I think I like this adjectiving of nouns…’another jumbled review that is
bellaphonically flawed!’

Su-Lin- You're welcome.Can I tag along? I promise I won't cinch your phips.

Helen- Ickyphobia? The marrow sauce was indeed brilliant, with hindsight I think now that it did outshine the meat.

Lisa- Lucky you, been there and done that at the Duck. We were lucky enough to have had the man himself coming over to our table to say hello. These days I feel sorry for the pilgrims going there, what with Heston in absentia, the sinking feeling of being half fulfilled spells despondency.

Dad- I'm chuffed and thus honoured. Thank you so much. Hope Mrs Dad and yourself enjoy yourselves. (let the kitchen know about her birthday, they might even knock up a lardy special with chitterlings!)

Kake- Bitter Queen, ever so reliable! Hats off and cheers!

Kavey said...

I went to the HH Christmas before last with a group of fellow food lovers from the BBC Food Chat board.

Had an excellent meal. I had, I think, potted shrimp (beautiful), then that marvellous steak with bone marrow sauce (nyum) and then a banana eton mess with grated lime zest which was unbelievably good.

Expensive yes but good value too given how much I enjoyed it!

bellaphon said...

Kavey- Glad I enjoyed HH as much as you did too. You should organise some kind of bake-off for the best Eton Mess. I would certainly cheat with the inclusion of the best meringues in town that's from Bea's of Bloomsbury.

Anonymous said...

ohhh,...i just finished watching big chef little chef on my catchyuppy TV, and did wonder about trying this place out...

....I strangely really want to go to Heston's little chef - maybe it's something I can do when I "retire" in 2 weeks time!

steve said...
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steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

My G/F and I took my parents here over Christmas and all had nothing but praise for every dish. I thought I would be a bit naff and start with the prawn cocktail
knowing that it would have to be a little out of the ordinary coming from HB and I was not disappointed. the most fantastic sauce, lovely prawns and at the bottom of the glass was some delectable crab. I followed with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding along with my parents who announced that it was some of the best beef they had ever eaten in any establishment. I liked it too. I was the only on to entertain desert (everyone else was full) so was I really but I just can't help myself and indulged in a really quite marvelous apple crumble and custard, although my father said that it wasn't as good as mine. What a nice bloke. We shall go again.

steve said...

That Little Chef ain't bad either, although I did go soon after it had opened; I believe that the quality has dropped a little now.

bellaphon said...

Steve- I was surprised to read AA Gill found the place lacking. Three times I've been and each time it never failed to make me cheery. Do give The Harwood Arms a go in Fulham, it's as good if not a little better than HB's.

Popham is too far away for me, I'm a lazy sod.

plasterer bristol said...

This sounds lovely, and nice and easy to make. Thanks for sharing this?


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