The Hinds Head in Bray may look like an ordinary British pub from the outside…
And with the low ceilings, rustic wooden beams, and church pew chairs, this 15th Century pub looks exactly like your favourite local inside too. The kind of place where you can settle in for a scotch egg, a Sunday roast and a pint; comfortable, casual and with tasty food.
But all is not what it seems… The Hinds Head is so much more than a local pub, it’s the Michelin-starred gastro-pub owned by culinary magician, Heston Blumenthal. Heston’s world-renowned restaurant, The Fat Duck, is just steps away and the top chef used to pop there for a pint after his Sunday service. The historic pub held such a special place in his heart that when it was put up for sale in 2004, he was quick to add it to his growing portfolio of restaurants.
There is so much to love about the rustic charm of The Hinds Head, and the pub-like dining room belies the Michelin-starred genius that is behind a straightforward menu. Even the delicious bread with its perfectly fluffy centre and spot-on chewy crust arrives in a charming cotton bag.
My dining companion chose pea and ham soup for her starter; I think you can always tell a good pea and ham soup from the vibrance of the colour and the intensity of the green. My taster confirmed the high quality of the soup and the absolute freshness of the peas. In an ideal world, the pea would come straight popped from the pod but actually by using frozen peas, Heston can preserve the freshness and the flavour of the vegetable. Within the soup were big juicy chunks of ham and despite the generosity of the meat, the dish wasn’t overly salty. And that sourdough bread made the perfect sponge for mopping up the delicious drops at the bottom of the bowl.
At The Hinds Head, Heston draws on the history of the pub by creating his own interpretation of centuries old recipes; he certainly elevates the humble pea and ham soup, a staple dating back to the Middle Ages.
I couldn’t resist choosing my favourite dish as a starter but in Heston’s pub, nothing is as simple as smoked salmon and toast. The salmon is actually smoked with tea and it has a deliciously oaky flavour. On a bed of soda bread, lavishly spread with sour cream butter and topped with cucumber, it was not only an ideal combination but beautifully presented too. We both decided to forego the Scotch Egg but it has become a famous classic on the menu at The Hinds Head.
At The Hinds Head you can really go for a meal of full on comfort food, there’s oxtail and kidney pudding, chicken and leek pie, and triple-cooked chips but there’s plenty of lighter options too. As it was a warm day and I had lots of big meals coming up I opted for the scallops. Usually a starter course, the kitchen kindly adapted the dish to a main course by adding more of the warm juicy pan-fried scallops drizzled with langoustine oil. Accompanied by a ‘Waldorf salad’ including cubes of apple, braised celery, sweet walnuts and ever so slightly bitter chicory, it was the perfect light summer dish.
My companion chose a hearty whole fillet of plaice with girolles and shrimps. The dish had a delicious citrus burst from the lemon sorrel and she loved the slightly unusual accompaniment of cucumber.
She paired her dish with a baby spinach salad covered in ‘Lord of the Hundreds Cheese’ and a heady truffle dressing. She loved the side so much that she would have happily had a big bowl for main course.
Even if you had a very indulgent lunch, dessert choices can be fairly light and we opted for this fantastic deconstructed ‘treacle tart’ ice cream. I know not everyone is a fan of the deconstructed dessert but it was so beautifully done. A delicate biscuit base with the sweet flavours of the ice cream balanced by a tart lemon cream and yoghurt.
Also very wonderful was this beautiful cheese cake, a perfect white orb on a biscuit crumble and when you broke into it, raspberry oozed through the creamy centre. A topping of biscuit ice cream was sophisticated while at the same time bringing back memories of child hood favourites. That’s an important aspect of Heston’s cuisine, dishes often evoke happy days in the past – family picnics, roast dinners at home and ice cream on the beach. It’s all about nostalgia and engaging all the senses to gain the full enjoyment of his food.
The presentation of the dish was a work of art and we particularly loved the little gold raspberry perched delicately on the plate and the shard of biscuit cutting through the ice cream.
After a delicious Americano and some chocolate truffles we emerged into the light of day and Bray High Street. Bray is a really lovely little village and not only houses The Hinds Head and The Fat Duck but is also home to Heston’s other pub The Crown and Michel Roux’s three-Michelin star restaurant, The Waterside Inn. I’m not sure what has made this village such a culinary mecca, but it’s certainly worth making the pilgrimage with a journey time of around 45 minutes from central London.
I loved my little jaunt out of London to Bray, its such a beautiful, picturesque village and lunch at The Hind’s Head is perfect way to spend a day. The food at Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred pub is really quite exceptional, actually it’s quite lucky that I don’t live in Bray…I think I’d be popping out of my clothes!
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The Hind Head
My lunch at The Hinds Head was complimentary