These days, every restaurant in London is competing to be the most inventive, the most elaborate, the most daring.
In a time where you can dine on flavoured smoke and eat imaginary desserts (Stop it now), sometimes those that do it best, are those who focus on exceptional cooking and great dishes.
Who needs a restaurant that you have to find by solving a treasure hunt, when you have a beautiful 15th Century public house in Bray that the sat nav can find with ease. I give you, The Hinds Head by Heston Blumenthal.
As a neighbour and indeed sister of Heston’s other Michelin Bray haunt the Fat Duck, the restaurant continues the country theme.
It is beautifully window lit with dark wood, depth creating red furniture and 15th century wooden beams that I had to duck under to get through, (Yes, yes I am pretty tall, but this was the case with everyone).
They also boast a private dining room complete with roof support beams and candle chandeliers. (You know I can’t resist a chandelier).
We were recommended to start with a particularly nice Sparkling Camel Valley White Pinot Noir, Cornwall 2008. Quite zesty with peach notes and an award winner.
Then, we went on to the Chateau Montaiguillon, Montagne St Emilion 2011 Bordeaux. This was just punchy enough to stand up to two giant pieces of red meat… We’ll get to that.
Before we arrived, It had been suggested, no, insisted that I order a few things. Two of these were as a pre starter. Devils on Horseback, (always a hit with me) and…… THAT. SCOTCH. EGG.
Now, I love a scotch egg. It is my guilty pleasure and it is a relative certainty that if it appears on the menu, it will appear on my order. This one however has blown the vast majority of its competitors clear out of the water in what I can only describe as the supreme Scotch egg. Why? Well, firstly it is a soft quails egg, which instantly ups the luxury factor. Secondly is the Panko crumbs which are less heavy and create a perfect crunch…. They are Sensational.
The mustard mayonnaise dip is also great.
We haven’t even reached the starters people… stretch and read on.
We opted for the starters of, the Pea and ham soup and the Potted prawns with crusty bread.
These were both pretty hearty and I liked the fact that it was remaining true to British cooking with traditional dishes with more luxurious ingredients.
They also have a Hash of snails starter, based on an 1884 recipe where the snails are boiled with capers, pistachios, eggs and herbs over a fire. Availability is based on the snails availability.
For mains, we had one 10oz Rib eye of Hereford Prime steak, which was cooked very well and had a great depth of flavour that you get from a really good rib eye.
We also had what I consider to be the Tour de force of the menu, the delicious Bone in sirloin of veal, cabbage and onion, sauce ‘Reform’. The veal is cooked first, in a water bath and then is finished on the grill.
It is also worth mentioning that they are famed for their triple cooked chips. Twice will never be enough again.
Another thing that the Hinds Head is famous for, are their desserts. Despite wrestling a giant sized veal main, it would be unacceptable to steer clear of dessert here.
We opted for the Cherry bakewell with yoghurt ice cream. This was like cherry bakewells had grown up, got a succesful job and were admired among their peers.
Fab as it was, it was overshadowed by my (well advised) choice of “Wassailing” Caramelised Butter Loaf with Apple & Pomona. The “apple” is actually shaped and coloured mousse that appears as a very life-like apple. The caramelised butter loaf is like a crispy coated cider infused sponge pudding of your dreams.
If you go and do not order this, then don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Yes its traditional British fare, but this is by no means home cooking… This old English flavour with luxurious ingredients and cooking techniques and frankly, as my vacuum seal water bath is still a far off purchase, it looks like I will have to go back for that veal again.
Hinds Head – High St, Bray, West Berkshire SL6 2AB