Ah the slightly naughty delights of midweek dining.
Last night I dined at The Hinds Head, Heston Blumenthal’s delightful pub in Bray. On board the rush hour express I awaited my feast. The surrounding commuters, glued to their dull smart phones, looked forward to ready-made meals. I radiated a quiet smugness knowing that I was off to a Michelin starred pub for my bites.
A peculiar commute from London brought me into an idyllic Berkshire with the early evening sun twinkling down manicured country lanes. Part of the joy of going to the Hinds Head is catapulting oneself out of the city and into greener surroundings. The pub is a 15th century building converted to a pub early in the last century. Heston Blumenthal originally bought it as a car park for his next door 3 star restaurant, but quickly realised the potential of good British grub. Though the interior is styled as a pub, the ambience is that of an unstuffy restaurant. The lower dining room had a slight feel of Granny’s Sunday lunch to begin with, though it quickly built into a bouncy atmosphere. London restaurants lack space and brightness. Not here. The wide windows allow soft sunlight into the room, eradicating the need for vulgar mood lighting.
Right ho and onto a cocktail. Traveling leaves lips smacking and throats parched. Heston’s grapefruit tea is wonderful, a cocktail including two of my favourites – gin and Earl Grey tea. Wonderfully refreshing. Bathed in stunning natural light we grazed on pork crackers and scratchings. I started with a salad of Beetroot, Goat Curd with Cider, Poached Pear, and Pumpkin Seeds. Concise and delicate, the poached pear was a particular treat.
A gnarled steak always appeals as a main but I suppressed my caveman instincts and looked to the sea for inspiration. I found it in a subtle slow grilled mackerel with a pickled lemon salad. The soft under belly of the fish hummed and the acidic lemon offset any oleaginous tones. My companions went for rather more hefty victuals, including a potted shrimp with an incredible cucumber jelly and a very indulgent shepherd’s pie. The side of Heston’s triple cooked chips were so crunchy that the table sounded like a prop forward walking on a gravel trap. I finished up with a Banana eton mess which tasted rather like an exploded banoffee pie.
The final little treat comes with the coffee, in the form of a chocolate ganache in an edible case. Delicious. In fact the whole meal was delicious, the ambience so welcoming, and the pub held together by the conscientious staff. The only sadness was the need to take the train home rather than indulge in a few night caps from their extensive whisky list. I would love to return on another sunny evening, however I will have to find a little B&B so I can try a couple drams of single malt…..